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Nguyen v. Outfield Brewhouse, LLC

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

July 19, 2017

JOSEPH NGUYEN, Plaintiff,
v.
OUTFIELD BREWHOUSE, LLC, D/B/A BUDWEISER BREW HOUSE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF REMAND

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Joseph Nguyen's motion to remand this action to the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, Missouri, from which it was removed by Defendant Outfield Brew House, LLC ("Outfield Brew House") (Doc. 14) and motion for attorney's fees (Doc. 16). The motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will grant the motion to remand and grant in part the motion for attorney's fees.

         Background

         On February 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed this civil action in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, Missouri, alleging that on January 2, 2017, he was peacefully patronizing a business located at 601 Clark St. ("the premises") in St. Louis, Missouri, when four unknown men ("John Doe defendants") assaulted him (Doc. 5). Plaintiff named eight defendants: the four John Doe defendants, Outfield Brew House, Ballpark Village, Ballpark Village Holdings Block 100 Office, LLC ("BPV 100"), and Semper Blue Professional Services, Inc. ("Semper Blue"). Plaintiff identified himself as a California citizen, Ballpark Village as a Missouri citizen, and Outfield Brew House as "a limited liability company registered in the State of Maryland, doing business in the State of Missouri" (Id. at 2). He asserted that Outfield Brew House and Ballpark Village "own and/or operate properties that provide entertainment, recreation and social gathering to the public for profit, " and that Outfield Brew House "operated a nightclub, restaurant, [or] bar" at the premises (Id. at 2-3). Plaintiffs petition indicated that one of the John Doe defendants was employed by Outfield Brew House or Ballpark Village; and that three John Doe defendants were Semper Blue employees who worked as "security staff and/or bouncers at [Outfield Brew House's] establishment" (Id. at 3).

         Plaintiff alleged that Ballpark Village "operates, manages, owns, controls, supervises, leases, and maintains" the premises, and leases the premises to Outfield Brew House (Id. at 2). He further claimed that BPV 100 is the parent company of Ballpark Village and that it too "operates, manages, owns, controls, supervises, leases, and maintains" the premises (Id.). Plaintiff asserted two counts in his petition; as relevant, Count II alleged the following:

28. Defendants individually and collectively in their respective capacities as owners, operators, managers service providers at the premises and property and the nature of the business conducted at 601 Clark Avenue, Saint Louis, Missouri owed a duty of due care to protect Plaintiff and others lawfully upon their premises by Defendants' express and/or implied invitation, from foreseeable violent attacks perpetrated by their employees, agents, and third parties.
29. Defendants through their negligent, gross negligent, willful and wanton acts and omissions breached their duty of due care to Plaintiff, created an unreasonably dangerous and hazardous condition and as a direct and proximate result Plaintiff suffered ... injuries and damages.
30. Defendants' negligent, gross negligent, willful and wanton acts . . . and/or omissions consisted of, but are not limited to the following, to wit:
a. In failing to provide reasonably safe premises to patrons given the nature and location of their business; b. In failing to provide experienced, properly trained, mature and mentally balanced individuals to oversee and provide security and entertainment on their premises.

(Id. at 6).

         On March 16, 2017, Outfield Brewhouse removed the case to this Court, purporting to invoke the Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) (Doc. 1). In its notice of removal, Outfield Brew House asserted that it was not a citizen of Missouri or California but, as a limited liability company, is instead a citizen of Maryland and/or the District of Columbia because each of its members is a citizen of one of those jurisdictions (Id. at 2-4). Plaintiff thereafter filed the now pending motions to remand and for an award of attorney's fees (Docs. 14, 16). In support of his motion to remand, Plaintiff attached an executed copy of a summons indicating that Semper Blue-a diversity-destroying defendant[1]-was served with the summons and complaint on March 14, 2017, or two days before Outfield Brew House removed the case to this Court (Doc. 14.1).

         As to his motion for an award of attorney's fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), Plaintiff argues that removal of this case was objectively unreasonable (Doc. 16). More specifically, Plaintiff contends that Outfield Brew House has adduced insufficient evidence of its Maryland citizenship; that BPV 100 and Semper Blue-both of which are Missouri citizens and thus diversity-destroying defendants-were served pre-removal; that Semper Blue's citizenship would be considered regardless of whether it was served pre-removal; that Semper Blue and BPV 100 have not consented to removal; that BPV 100 was properly joined; and that Outfield Brew House knew the identities of the John Doe Defendants and their likely citizenship prior to removal (Id.).

         In response, Outfield Brew House concedes that, in light of the executed summons establishing that Semper Blue was served pre-removal, this case should be remanded back to the state court (Doc. 18 at 3). Outfield Brew House opposes Plaintiffs motion for attorney's fees, however, insisting that removal of this case was objectively reasonable (Id. at 3-6). More specifically, Outfield Brew House argues that it reasonably sought to invoke the Court's diversity jurisdiction because (1) as far as it could tell at the time, Semper Blue had not yet been served when the case was removed; (2) the John Doe defendants were sued under fictitious names; (3) Ballpark Village was fraudulently joined because Ballpark Village is a non-existent entity for which the Missouri Secretary of State has no record; and (4) BPV 100 was fraudulently joined because it cannot be held vicariously liable in its role as the alleged parent company of Ballpark Village in the absence of any allegations to support piercing the corporate veil (Id. at 3-5). In Outfield Brew House's view, it reasonably removed this case based on the argument that the Court should only consider the citizenship of Plaintiff, a California citizen, and Outfield Brew House, a Maryland citizen, when determining whether the parties are completely diverse. ...


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