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Soptich v. Stryker Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 12, 2019

ERIC P. SOPTICH, Plaintiff,
STRYKER CORPORATION a Michigan corporation, and HOWMEDICA OSTEONICS CORPORATION, d/b/a STRYKER SPINE, a New Jersey corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of STRYKER CORPORATION, Defendants.


          The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge

         The Honorable Richard A. Jones This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Amend. Dkt. # 25. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initially brought this action against Stryker Corporation (“Stryker”) in April 2019. Dkt. # 1-1. Stryker later removed this action to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction and moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. Dkt. ## 1, 8. On June 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint, adding Howmedica Osteonics Corporation (“Defendant” or “HOC”) as a defendant.[1] Dkt. # 11. On July 5, 2019, HOC moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. Dkt. # 19. The Honorable Judge Brian A. Tsuchida issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending HOC's motion be granted in part and denied in part. Dkt. # 24. HOC filed Objections to Judge Tsuchida's Report and Recommendation which are currently pending before the Court. Dkt. # 27.

         Plaintiff now seeks permission to amend his complaint to join three additional defendants, Dr. Jens Chapman, Dr. Fernando Alonso, and Swedish Health Services d/b/a Swedish Medical Center (collectively, the “Additional Defendants”). Dkt. # 25. Because joinder of the Additional Defendants will destroy the Court's diversity jurisdiction, Plaintiff also seeks an order remanding this action to state court.


         If after removal, a plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the action to state court. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). Under § 1447, whether to permit joinder of a party that will destroy diversity jurisdiction remains in the sound discretion of the court and will be reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. See Newcombe v. Adolf Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686, 691 (9th Cir. 1998).


         A. Joinder Under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e)

         Courts generally consider the following factors when deciding whether to allow amendment to add non-diverse defendants: (1) whether the new defendants should be joined under Rule 19(a) as “needed for just adjudication”; (2) whether the statute of limitations would preclude an original action against the new defendants in state court; (3) whether there has been unexplained delay in requesting joinder; (4) whether joinder is sought solely to defeat federal jurisdiction; (5) whether the claims against the new defendant appear valid; and (6) whether denial of joinder will prejudice the plaintiff. See Palestini v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 193 F.R.D. 654, 658 (S.D. Cal. 2000).

         i. Just Adjudication and Rule 19(a)

         Plaintiff contends that the Additional Defendants are necessary under Rule 19 because failure to join them would result in separate and redundant actions. Dkt. # 25 at 7. A necessary party is one “having an interest in the controversy, and who ought to be made [a] part[y], in order that the court may act on that rule which requires it to decide and finally determine the entire controversy... by adjusting all the rights involved in it.” CP Nat'l. Corp. v. Bonneville Power Admin., 928 F.2d 905, 912 (9th Cir. 1991).

         HOC contends that the Additional Defendants are not necessary under the Supreme Court's decision in Temple v. Synthes Corp., Ltd., 498 U.S. 5, 7 (1990). Dkt. # 29 at 7. In Temple, a medical device products liability suit, the Court determined that the plaintiff's physician and the hospital were not “necessary” parties under Rule 19(a). Temple, at 5-6. However, because the standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e) is less restrictive than Rule 19's standard, Temple does not preclude a finding that joinder of the medical providers and Swedish is necessary for just adjudication consistent with the purposes of section 1447(e). “Although courts consider whether a party would meet [Rule] 19's standard for a necessary party, amendment under § 1447(e) is a less restrictive standard than for joinder under [Rule] 19.” IBC Aviation Servs., Inc. v. Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, S.A. de C.V., 125 F.Supp.2d 1008, 1011-12 (N.D. Cal. 2000).

         Plaintiff also argues that he will be precluded from obtaining complete relief if HOC ultimately decides to assign blame to the Additional Defendants. Dkt. # 25 at 7. HOC claims that Plaintiff's concerns are meritless and that it has “no basis for asserting any wrongdoing” by Swedish or Drs. Chapman or Alonso. Dkt. # 29 at 5. The Court appreciates that HOC, at this time, has no intent to pursue claims against the Additional Defendants. However, this action is relatively new - discovery is not complete - and the Court cannot assume that HOC's position will not change. It would be manifestly unfair to allow HOC to point to the physicians' or the hospital's negligence to reduce its potential liability but prevent Plaintiff from asserting medical negligence claims in ...

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