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Johnson v. Autozoners

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

February 17, 2017

J. J. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
AUTOZONERS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND, (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STAY AS MOOT, (3) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE, AND (4) REMANDING THE MATTER TO STATE COURT

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Pending are Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. #18), Plaintiff's Motion to Stay (Doc. #19), and Defendant's Motion to Strike (Doc. #22). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is granted, Plaintiff's Motion to Stay is denied as moot, and Defendant's Motion to Strike is denied. This matter is remanded to the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri

         I. BACKGROUND

         In October 2016, Plaintiff J. J. Johnson filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri against Defendant Autozoners, LLC (“Autozoners”), T.C. Hulett (“Hulett”), Larry Zimmerman (“Zimmerman”), Greg Richardson (“Richardson”), and Rick Smith (“Smith”) alleging violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). Doc. #1-1, at 2-14. Defendants Autozoners and Zimmerman timely removed the matter to this Court.[1] Doc. #1.

         The parties do not dispute Plaintiff is a citizen of Missouri, and Autozoners is a citizen of Nevada and Tennessee. Doc. #1, at 2; Doc. #1-1, at 3. Plaintiff alleged Zimmerman could be “found” in Springfield, Missouri. Doc. #1-1, at 4-5. Although Defendants did not specifically state Zimmerman's citizenship in the Notice of Removal, they argue “Plaintiff has fraudulently joined Mr. Zimmerman…for the sole purpose of defeating diversity…” Doc. #1, at 4. Thus, it appears Zimmerman is a citizen of Missouri. Defendant represents, and Plaintiff does not dispute, Hulett, Richardson, and Smith are not citizens of Missouri. Doc. #1, at 2.

         Plaintiff filed a motion to remand, arguing Zimmerman was not fraudulently joined. Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion, arguing Plaintiff has not pled a colorable basis to find liability against Zimmerman.[2] Defendant also sought to strike portions of Plaintiff's motion to remand and exhibits attached to that motion. Plaintiff opposes that motion. Those motions - as well as Plaintiff's motion to stay the deadline for his response to a pending motion to dismiss - are ripe for consideration.

         II. MOTION TO STRIKE

         Before turning to Plaintiff's motion to remand, the Court must consider Defendants' motion to strike portions of Plaintiff's motion to remand and exhibits thereto.

         A. Standard

         “The court may strike from a pleading…any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Rule 12(f) is limited to striking pleadings. Id., see also Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Shepard, Case No. 4:12CV1728, 2015 WL 1976342 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 30, 2015). Pleadings include a complaint, answer, answer to counterclaim, answer to cross-claim, third-party complaint, answer to third-party complaint, and if ordered by the court, a reply to an answer. Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a)(1)-(7). Despite the broad discretion given to district courts, “striking a party's pleadings is an extreme measure.” Stanbury Law Firm v. I.R.S., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). Motions under Rule 12(f) are “viewed with disfavor and are infrequently granted.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         B. Discussion

         Pursuant to Rule 12(f), Defendants move to strike certain paragraphs in Plaintiff's motion to remand and exhibits attached to Plaintiff's motion. Doc. #22. Defendants do not seek to strike a pleading; rather, they seek to strike part of a motion and exhibits to a motion. Rule 12(f) only permits the striking of pleadings. Thus, the Court must deny Defendants' motion. Additionally, when resolving a fraudulent joinder issue, the Court is permitted to consider materials outside the pleadings. See Dumas v. Patel, 317 F.Supp.2d 1111, 1114-15 (W.D. Mo. 2004) (citations omitted); In re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., 618 F.Supp.2d 1047, 1052 (E.D. Mo. 2009). Tellingly, Defendants attached exhibits to their opposition to Plaintiff's motion to remand, and ask the Court to consider those exhibits when deciding Plaintiff's motion to remand.

         III. MOTION TO REMAND

         Plaintiff asks the Court to remand this matter. Defendants argue Plaintiff has fraudulently joined Zimmerman in an effort to destroy ...


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