United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Huel Watkins and Susan Watkins (collectively
“Watkins”), filed a motion for substitution and,
in the alternative, a motion for joinder, in a personal
injury action arising from a February 20, 2016 motor vehicle
accident. ECF No. 14; ECF No. 17. Defendants AutoZone Stores,
Inc., AutoZone Stores, LLC, AutoZone Development LLC,
AutoZone #1241, AutoZone Texas LLC, AutoZoners, LLC, and
AutoZone, Inc. (collectively “AutoZone”), opposed
the motions. ECF No. 16; ECF No. 22; ECF No. 32.
Judge Whalin issued findings of fact and conclusions of law
recommending that Watkins’ motion for substitution be
denied and motion for joinder be granted. R. & R., ECF
No. 33. AutoZone filed written objections to Judge
Whalin’s conclusions and recommendation regarding the
motion for joinder. ECF No. 34.
court will adopt Judge Whalin’s report and
recommendation in full. For the reasons stated below, the
court will deny the motion for substitution and grant the
motion for joinder.
proper standard for reviewing objections to a magistrate
judge’s report and recommendation is de novo.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B-C). A district court judge
“may accept, reject, or modify the recommended
disposition, receive further evidence; or return the matter
to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 72(b)(3).
Judge Whalin’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of
Law, and Recommendation
filed suit in Jefferson County, Kentucky, Circuit Court on
January 18, 2017 against Brandon Hansford and AutoZone for
personal injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident. R.
& R. 2, ECF No. 33. Watkins alleges that Hansford
negligently crashed his vehicle into Watkins’
motorcycle while acting within the course and scope of his
employment with AutoZone. Id.
February 2, 2017, AutoZone removed the action to this court
based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Id. In its Notice of Removal, AutoZone stated that
because Brandon Hansford was deceased, and had been since the
time the action commenced, there was complete diversity
amongst the parties. ECF No. 1, p. 2. The next day,
Watkins’ attorney hired local counsel, Maria A.
Fernandez, to open an Estate on behalf of Brandon Hansford.
R. & R. 2, ECF No. 33. The Jefferson County Probate Court
opened the Estate and appointed Fernandez as the
Administrator, indicating that the Estate has no known assets
and was opened solely for litigation purposes. Id.
Watkins filed a motion to substitute Hansford’s Estate
for defendant Brandon Hansford under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 25. ECF No. 14. He then filed an alternative motion
to join Hansford’s Estate as a defendant under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 20. ECF No. 17.
Whalin first considered Watkins’ motion for
substitution. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25 states that
“[i]f a party dies and the claim is not extinguished,
the court may order substitution of the proper party.”
Judge Whalin concluded that this Rule is not applicable here
because “Hansford was not a proper party to the action,
having died six months before Watkins filed the complaint in
Jefferson Circuit Court.” R. & R. 3, ECF No. 33.
AutoZone does not object to this conclusion or the
recommendation that this motion be denied. Therefore, both
the conclusion and recommendation will be adopted by this
Whalin then considered Watkins’ motion for joinder.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 states that persons may be
joined as defendants in an action if:
right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally,
or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the
same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions or
question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise
in the action. However, “[i]f after removal the
plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder
would destroy subject matter jurisdiction,” 28 U.S.C.
§1447(e) gives the district court the discretion to
either “deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the
action to the State court.” Judge Whalin concluded that
joinder of Hansford’s Estate is permissible under Rule
20 because Watkins asserts a “right to relief against
Hansford’s Estate and AutoZone aris[ing] from the same
occurrence-the motor vehicle accident on February 20,
2016.” R. & R. 4, ECF No. 33. Furthermore,
“common questions of fact exist between AutoZone and