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Golden Gate National Senior Care, LLC v. Slaven

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 26, 2018

GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL SENIOR CARE, LLC; GGNSC STANFORD, LLC, d/b/a GOLDEN LIVINGCENTER - STANFORD; GGNSC ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, LLC; GGNSC HOLDINGS, LLC; GGNSC EQUITY HOLDINGS, LLC; GGNSC EQUITY HOLDINGS II, LLC; GOLDEN GATE ANCILLARY, LLC; GGNSC CLINICAL SERVICES, LLC; and GPH STANFORD, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRENDA SLAVEN and ELAINE CARTER, co-administratrixes of the estate of Sarah Stambaugh, Deceased Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the motion to dismiss (DE 11) filed by the estate of Sarah Stambaugh. With the motion, the estate asks the Court to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint, which seeks to compel the estate to arbitrate claims it filed in state court. For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.

         I. Background

         Sarah Stambaugh was a resident of Golden Living Center, a long-term care facility in Stanford, Kentucky, from March 29, 2016 to February 4, 2017. On March 13, 2017, she filed an action in Lincoln Circuit Court against Golden Living, various affiliated companies, and two individuals who are administrators of the facility. In that state court action, she asserted claims of negligence and violation of her rights as a resident of a long-term care facility.

         On March 31, 2017, Golden Living and the affiliated companies (together, “Golden Living”) filed this action in federal court asking for an order compelling Stambaugh to arbitrate the claims she had asserted in Lincoln Circuit Court. On April 7, 2017, Stambaugh's counsel filed a “Notice of Death” with this Court stating that Stambaugh died on March 19, 2017. The notice further stated that “estate proceedings will begin shortly, and a motion to substitute and revive the action will be filed when appropriate.”

         About four months after filing the Notice of Death, on August 3, 3017, Stambaugh's counsel moved to substitute Stambaugh's estate as the plaintiff in the state court action. A few days later, on August 8, 2017, Golden Living amended its petition in this Court to name the estate as the defendant instead of Stambaugh. The estate now argues this action should be dismissed for several reasons.

         II. Analysis

         The Court will first address, as it must, the estate's argument that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over this action. Golden Living asserts that this Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. That statute provides that district courts shall have original jurisdiction over all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000 and is between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332(a)(1).

         There is no dispute that the estate is a Kentucky citizen and none of the plaintiffs is. The estate argues, however, that the question is not whether diversity jurisdiction exists in the action filed in this Court. Citing Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49 (2009), the estate argues that, in determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists in this action, the Court should consider whether diversity jurisdiction exists in the underlying state-court action. (DE 11-1, Mem. at 4.)

         This Court, however, continues to agree with the Eighth Circuit's determination in Northport Health Servs. of Arkansas, LLC v. Rutherford, 605 F.3d 483 (8th Cir. 2010) that in Vaden, the Supreme Court “carefully limited its statement of the issues and holding to federal question jurisdiction.” Northport, 605 F.3d at 490. See Brookdale Senior Living Inc. v. Stacy, 27 F.Supp.3d 776 (E.D. Ky. 2014). The Eighth Circuit instructed that “diversity of citizenship is determined in these cases by the citizenship of the parties named in the proceedings before the district court, plus any indispensable parties who must be joined pursuant to Rule 19.” Id. at 491. Accordingly, in determining whether diversity jurisdiction exists in this case, the Court will look to the parties named in the complaint and any indispensable parties under Rule 19.

         That leads to the estate's next argument: that the two individual administrators named in the state court action are indispensable to this action under Rule 19(b). There is no dispute that the administrators are Kentucky citizens and, thus, their joinder would destroy this Court's diversity jurisdiction.

         “Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes a three-step analysis for determining whether a case should proceed in the absence of a particular party.” PaineWebber, Inc. v. Cohen, 276 F.3d 197, 200 (6th Cir. 2001). The first step is to determine whether a party not joined is necessary under Rule 19(a). Id. Second, if the party is necessary, the court must next determine whether joinder is feasible, considering whether the party is subject to personal jurisdiction and if joinder will destroy the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. Third, if joinder will destroy subject-matter jurisdiction - for instance, through joinder of a non-diverse party - the court must examine “whether in equity and good conscience the action should proceed” without the nonjoined party, i.e., whether the party is “indispensable.” Id. If an indispensable party cannot be feasibly joined, the action must be dismissed. However, if the party is not indispensable, the action may proceed in that party's absence. See GGNSC Vanceburg, LLC, v. Hanley, Civil Action No. 13-106-HRW, 2014 WL 1333204, at *3 (E.D.Ky. Mar.28, 2014).

         For purposes of this opinion, the Court will assume that the administrators are necessary parties. Turning to step two - feasibility of joinder - joining them in this action will destroy this Court's diversity jurisdiction. Thus, this Court must determine whether they are indispensable, meaning that the action should be dismissed rather than proceed without them. Rule 19(b) provides four factors to consider when determining whether a non-joined party is indispensable:

(1) the extent to which a judgment rendered in the person's absence might prejudice that person or the existing parties;
(2) the extent to which any prejudice could be lessened or ...

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