The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Keenan, United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
These four actions, along with hundreds of others in which plaintiffs allege to have developed osteonecrosis of the jaw ("ONJ") from ingesting defendant Merck & Co., Inc.'s ("Merck") prescription osteoporosis drug, Fosamax, have been consolidated before this Court for pretrial coordination. Each of the four actions was filed in state court, removed to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, and transferred to this multidistrict litigation ("MDL") docket. Currently pending are motions to remand these actions back to their state courts of origin on the ground that diversity jurisdiction is lacking.
For the reasons that follow, three of the motions to remand are granted and one is denied.
On December 26, 2007, the Court set a briefing schedule for remand motions in cases that have been removed from state court and transferred to this MDL. See Case Management Order No. 14. Remand motions have been filed in the following four cases:
a. The New Jersey action: Debra Flores, 1:07-cv-2442 (JFK)
On January 25, 2007, Virginia resident Debra Flores brought suit in Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, against Merck, a New Jersey corporation, and two non-Virginia defendants. The case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on February 6, 2007, and transferred to this MDL on March 27, 2007.
In her motion to remand, Flores contends that 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) prohibits removal because Merck is a citizen of New Jersey, the state in which the action was brought. Section 1441(b) permits removal on the basis of diversity jurisdiction only if none of the parties "properly joined and served as defendants" is a citizen of the forum state. Merck asserts that removal was proper under § 1441(b) because, at the time that this case was removed, Merck had been joined in the action but had not yet been served.
b. The California action: Carrie Smith, et al., 1:07-cv-9564 (JFK)
On July 13, 2007, plaintiff Carrie Smith, a resident of California, and seventeen non-California plaintiffs jointly filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles. The complaint alleges various state law causes of action against Merck and McKesson Corporation ("McKesson"), a corporation having its principal place of business in California. On July 18, 2007, defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, despite the conceded non-diversity of plaintiff Smith and defendant McKesson. The case was ordered transferred to this MDL on October 16, 2007.
Plaintiffs move to remand the case because complete diversity of citizenship is lacking. Plaintiffs also seek an award of the costs and attorney's fees that they have incurred as a result of the removal, pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Merck opposes remand on two theories. First, Merck asserts that the non-diverse defendant McKesson was fraudulently joined in the action, so that its presence should be disregarded for the purpose of determining whether diversity jurisdiction exists. Second, Merck claims that the non-diverse plaintiff Smith was misjoined with the non-California plaintiffs and that the Court should sever her claims and retain jurisdiction over the remainder of the case.
c. The Florida action: Nancy Anderson, 1:07-cv-9485 (JFK)
On May 4, 2007, Florida resident Nancy Anderson filed this action in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, State of Florida, Pasco County, Civil Division. Her complaint asserts various causes of actions against Merck and medical malpractice claims against three individual Florida dentists and their employer, Brite Dental Corporation ("Brite Dental"), a Florida corporation. The case was removed to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida on June 4, 2007 and ordered transferred to this MDL on October 17, 2007.
Anderson moves to remand because (1) her complaint alleges that damages exceed $15,000, not $75,000, therefore the amount in controversy requirement is not met; and (2) complete diversity is lacking. She also requests costs and attorney's fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Merck asserts that removal was proper because the amount in controversy, in fact, likely exceeds $75,000, and the Florida dentists and their Florida employer are fraudulently joined.
d. The Illinois action: Dianne Walla, 1:07-cv-3792(JFK)
On March 28, 2007, Illinois resident Dianne Walla filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Law Division, against Merck and two Illinois pharmacies, Walgreen Company ("Walgreen's") and K Mart Corporation of Illinois ("K Mart"). On April 4, 2007, Merck removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The case subsequently was transferred to these MDL proceedings. Walla moves to remand based on the non-diversity of citizenship between herself and the pharmacy defendants. Merck claims that that the pharmacy defendants are fraudulently joined.
Under the removal statute, defendants may remove an action from state court if it originally could have been brought in federal court. 28 U.S.C. 1441(a). When removal is based on diversity jurisdiction, defendants must show that there is complete diversity of citizenship between plaintiffs and defendants and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
28 U.S.C. § 1332. "In light of the congressional intent to restrict federal court jurisdiction, as well as the importance of preserving the independence of state governments, federal courts construe the removal statute narrowly, resolving any doubts against removability." Somlyo v. J. Lu-Rob Enter., Inc., 932 F.2d 1043, 1045-46 (2d Cir. 1991).*fn1
Two caveats to the removability of diversity cases are implicated by these remand motions. First, even if the requirements of diversity jurisdiction are met, the statute does not allow removal if any of the parties "properly joined and served" as defendants are citizens of the forum state. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). Second, even if complete diversity is destroyed by the presence of a ...