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Simmons v. Skechers USA, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 9, 2015

MICHELLE SIMMONS, et al., Plaintiffs,
SKECHERS USA, INC., et al., Defendants.


CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motions to stay and to sever the claims of several plaintiffs, and plaintiffs' motion to remand this action to the Missouri state court from which it was removed. The issues are fully briefed.

I. Background

Plaintiffs initiated this action in a Missouri state court to recover damages for injuries they allegedly sustained as a result of their use of the defendants' Skechers Shape-ups® shoes. In the complaint, the plaintiffs assert state law-based strict liability claims of product defect and inadequate warning, breach of warranty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, unjust enrichment, and unfair and deceptive trade practices.

The defendants removed the action to this Court, invoking jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Defendants Skechers U.S.A., Inc. and Skechers U.S.A., Inc. II are incorporated in Delaware and have their principal places of business in California. Defendants state in their notice of removal that "Skechers Fitness Group" is a division of Skechers U.S.A., Inc. II and is not a separate legal entity. Of the sixty-five plaintiffs, two are citizens of California and the rest are citizens of states other than California and Delaware. Although complete diversity does not appear on the face of the complaint, defendants argue that for jurisdictional purposes, the Court should consider only the properly-joined claims of the Missouri plaintiffs. Defendants maintain that the claims of the remaining plaintiffs should not be considered because neither they nor their claims have any connection to Missouri and, therefore, they cannot establish personal jurisdiction over the defendants in Missouri. Alternatively, defendants assert that the non-Missouri plaintiffs were either fraudulently joined or fraudulently misjoined. Plaintiffs counter that joinder is proper and move to remand.

II. Motion to Stay

Defendants move to stay proceedings until the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation rules on their motion to transfer this case to the MDL proceeding, In re Skechers Toning Shoe Products Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2308. However, "[a] putative transferor court need not automatically postpone rulings on pending motions, or in any way generally suspend proceedings, merely on grounds that an MDL transfer motion has been filed." Spears v. Fresenius Med. Care N. Am., Inc., 4:13-CV-855-CEJ, 2013 WL 2643302, at *1 (E.D. Mo. June 12, 2013) (citations omitted). "This is especially true where, as here, the pending motion is one for remand and goes to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction." Id. Waiting for a decision by the Panel before ruling on the motion to remand "would not promote the efficient administration of justice." Id. Accordingly, defendants' motion to stay will be denied.

III. Motion to Remand

"A defendant may remove a state law claim to federal court only if the action originally could have been filed there." In re Prempro Products Liab. Litig., 591 F.3d 613, 619 (8th Cir. 2010) [hereinafter Prempro ] (citing Phipps v. FDIC, 417 F.3d 1006, 1010 (8th Cir. 2005)). The defendant bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Altimore v. Mount Mercy Coll., 420 F.3d 763, 768 (8th Cir. 2005). A case must be remanded if, at any time, it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). "All doubts about federal jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand to state court." Prempro, 591 F.3d at 620 (citing Wilkinson v. Shackelford, 478 F.3d 957, 963 (8th Cir. 2007)).

Removal in this case was premised on diversity jurisdiction, which requires an amount in controversy greater than $75, 000 and complete diversity of citizenship among the litigants. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). "Complete diversity of citizenship exists where no defendant holds citizenship in the same state where any plaintiff holds citizenship." OnePoint Solutions, LLC v. Borchert, 486 F.3d 342, 346 (8th Cir. 2007). There is no dispute that the amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction is met in this case. The dispute here centers on which plaintiffs should be considered for purposes of assessing diversity of citizenship.

A. Permissive Joinder

Defendants assert that joinder of the sixty-five plaintiffs' claims is improper because plaintiffs' injuries occurred in different states and under unique factual circumstances. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(1) "allows multiple plaintiffs to join in a single action if (i) they assert claims with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences;' and (ii) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.'" Prempro, 591 F.3d at 622 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(1)). Missouri's permissive joinder rule is substantively identical. Mo. Sup.Ct. R. 52.05(a); see State ex rel. Allen v. Barker, 581 S.W.2d 818, 826 (Mo. 1979) (en banc). Consequently, under both the rules applicable when the complaint was filed in state court and the rules applicable in federal district court today the same test applies to determine if joinder is permitted. Defendants concede, moreover, that the second prong of the test is satisfied because plaintiffs' complaint raises common questions of law or fact regarding, inter alia, the design, manufacture, and marketing of Shape-ups®. Thus, the Court need only answer whether plaintiffs' claims arise from the same transaction or occurrence, or series thereof.

"In construing Rule 20, the Eighth Circuit has provided a very broad definition for the term transaction.'" Prempro, 591 F.3d at 622. "It may comprehend a series of many occurrences, depending not so much upon the immediateness of their connection as upon their logical relationship." Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1333 (8th Cir. 1974). Accordingly, Rule 20(a) "permit[s] all reasonably related claims for relief by or against different parties to be tried in a single proceeding, " without requiring "[a]bsolute identity of all events." Prempro, 591 F.3d at 622.

Plaintiffs' claims meet Rule 20(a)'s standard. Because plaintiffs' allegations relate to defendants' design, manufacture, and marketing of Shape-ups®- occurrences common to all plaintiffs-the Court concludes that their claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence or series thereof. That remains true even if plaintiffs were injured in different states and their injuries range in severity and type, as their ...

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