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Sims v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 29, 2014

DEBORAH A. SIMS, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Robert F. Zoll, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
ELECTROLUX HOME PRODUCTS, INC.; ELECTROLUX NORTH AMERICA, INC.; ELECTROLUX WARRANTY CORP.; SOUTHWIRE CO.; and ABC ENTITIES 1-5, Defendants.

ERIC C. NORDBY, ESQ., MICHAEL SCOTT PORTER, ESQ., PORTER NORDBY HOWE, LLP, Counsel for Plaintiff, Syracuse, NY.

LISA M. ROBINSON, ESQ., GOLDBERG SEGALLA LLP, Counsel for Electrolux Defendants, Syracuse, NY.

EDWARD J. SMITH, III, ESQ., SMITH, SOVIK, KENDRICK & SUGNET, P.C., Counsel for Defendant Southwire Syracuse, NY.

DANIEL P. FLETCHER, ESQ., COSTELLO, COONEY & FEARON, PLLC, Counsel for Defendants ABC Entities 1-5, Syracuse, NY.

DECISION & ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this products liability action filed by Deborah A. Sims, individually and as executor of the estate of decedent, Robert F. Zoll ("Plaintiff") against the three above named Electrolux entities ("Electrolux"); Southwire Company ("Southwire"); and ABC Entities 1-5 ("ABC") (collectively, "Defendants"), is Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and/or to join a defendant pursuant to Rule 20 of the Fed. R. Civ. P., and to remand this action to the Supreme Court, State of New York, County of Onondaga pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447. (Dkt. No. 13.)

For the reasons set forth below, the motion to amend is granted in part and denied in part, the motion to join is granted, and the motion to remand is granted.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Complaint and Proposed Amended Complaint

Generally, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts ten causes of action stemming from the May 31, 2011 death of her father, Robert F. Zoll, as a result of a house fire in Onondaga County, New York, that originated from his refrigerator. ( See generally Dkt. No. 1-1 [Pl.'s Compl.].)

More specifically, Plaintiff's Complaint defines Defendants Electrolux and Southwire as "foreign business entities, " that are ostensibly diverse from Plaintiff. ( Id., ¶¶ 8-18.) The Complaint further identifies Defendants ABC as "fictitious, " and explains that "their identities are presently unknown to Plaintiff and/or her counsel, and they are named as defendants to designate unknown entities that negligently, carelessly and recklessly causes or contributed to the death of Plaintiff's Decedent." ( Id., ¶ 19.)

In factual support of Plaintiff's claims, the Complaint states that Plaintiff's Decedent purchased his refrigerator from Shaheen's Appliance-Sales & Service in Baldwinsville, New York. ( Id., ¶ 20.)

Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint (1) substitutes "Christopher F. Sheehan d/b/a Sheehan's Appliances" in place of ABC Entity No. 1 in the caption; (2) adds three additional paragraphs defining the newly identified entity as a business owned by Christopher F. Sheehan, that operates in Baldwinsville, New York, and sells, among other things, refrigerators; and (3) modifies a paragraph alleging that Plaintiff's decedent purchased a refrigerator from defendant, Sheehan's Appliances, on March 24, 2004. ( See Dkt. No. 13-16, at 1-3 [Pl.'s Proposed Am. Compl.].)

B. Procedural Background

On April 26, 2013, Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendants in New York Supreme Court for the County of Onondaga. Electrolux received service of the Complaint on May 6, 2013 and thereafter filed a Notice of Removal in this Court, with consent of Southwire, on May 31, 2013. ( See Dkt. No. 1.) On June 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed the current motion to amend the Complaint to reflect that "Christopher F. Sheehan d/b/a Sheehan's Appliances" ("Sheehan's Appliances") is the seller of Plaintiff's refrigerator and to add that entity as a defendant. In the alternative, Plaintiff seeks to join Sheehan's Appliances as a defendant. Plaintiff also seeks an order remanding this action to State Court because either amendment or joinder will destroy this Court's diversity jurisdiction.

C. Parties' Arguments on Plaintiff's Motion

1. Plaintiff's Motion

Generally, in her memorandum of law, Plaintiff asserts the following arguments: (1) Plaintiff should be allowed to amend her complaint because the proposed amendment presents no undue delay or prejudice and is not futile; (2) the Court should permit joinder because (a) Plaintiff alleges questions of law and fact common to all defendants including Sheehan's Appliances and the claims arise out of the same occurrence and (b) permitting joinder will comport with principles of fundamental fairness because (i) the delay following removal has been very short, (ii) joinder will not result in prejudice to Electrolux and Southwire, (iii) there will be multiple litigations whether or not Plaintiff's motion for joinder is denied, and (iv) Plaintiff has a good faith basis to seek joinder. ( See generally Dkt. No. 13-18, at 2-9 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].)

2. Defendants' Responses

a. Sheehan's Appliances

Generally, in its memorandum of law in response to Plaintiff's motion, Sheehan's Appliances asserts that it does not oppose Plaintiff's motion to remand this action to State Court or to name Sheehan's Appliances as a defendant, generally. However, Sheehan's Appliances asserts that Plaintiff should not be allowed to assert a wrongful death claim against it because (1) the statute of limitations on that claim has expired and (2) Plaintiff was aware that Sheehan's Appliances was the seller of the refrigerator before the statute of limitations expired but failed to name Sheehan's as a defendant until after the current motion was filed. ( See generally Dkt. No. 22-5, at 1-3 [Sheehan's Appliances' Response Mem. of Law].)

b. Electrolux

Generally, in its memorandum of law in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, Electrolux asserts that Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her Complaint should be denied because it was not made in good faith for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff asserted in her Complaint that Sheehan's Appliances was the seller of the refrigerator and (2) Plaintiff had been in communication with Sheehan's Appliances, its agents and representatives prior to filing the Complaint. ( See generally Dkt. No. 23-7, at 2-4 [Electrolux's Response Mem. of Law].)

c. Southwire

Generally, in its memorandum of law in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, Southwire asserts the following arguments: (1) Plaintiff's motion to amend her Complaint should be denied because her description of ABC Defendants is facially defective as a matter of law; (2) Plaintiff's motion for joinder should be denied because (a) it will destroy this Court's diversity jurisdiction and (b) permitting joinder will not comport with principles of fundamental fairness because (i) although the delay following removal has been short, it was totally unnecessary (ii) Defendants are prejudiced by Plaintiff's attempts to remand after a rightful removal to federal court, after which Defendants have prepared for the litigation of this case in federal court, (iii) while there will be multiple litigations whether or not Plaintiff's motion is denied, Electrolux is not in a position to reduce the number of litigations since it chose to remove this action to federal court, and this Court could solve the issue of multiplicity of litigations by consolidating this matter with the related case, Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. a/s/o Robert F. Zoll v. Electrolux Home Prods., Inc., No. 5:13-CV-706, and (iv) Plaintiff's motion is submitted disingenuously and the improper motives underlying the motion are sufficient to defeat it; (3) principles of judicial economy dictate that this Court should exercise its ...


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