United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff Acuity,
A Mutual Insurance Company, to voluntarily dismiss Count I
without prejudice, amend its complaint for declaratory
judgment, and add an additional count to its complaint. ECF
No. 42. For the following reasons, the Court will grant
August 5, 2016, there was a vehicle accident on Interstate 57
in Williamson County, Illinois. One of the drivers involved
in the accident was operating a tractor trailer under the
authority and dispatch of Rex, LLC, Acuity's insured. The
Geans were also involved in the accident and are parties to
litigation regarding the accident in Illinois state court.
filed this interpleader action based on diversity
jurisdiction on December 30, 2016, regarding insurance
proceeds payable as the result of the accident. In its
complaint, Acuity sought in Count I to deposit its $1 million
policy limits with the Court so that the Court could ensure a
fair and equitable division of the fund to the fund
claimants. In Count II, Acuity sought a declaratory judgment
that the applicable insurance policy limit is $1 million in
light of the policy's “anti-stacking”
Geans filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction (interpleader count) and personal jurisdiction
(declaratory judgment count) or, in the alternative, to
dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(3). Specifically, the Geans suggested that
this Court did not have jurisdiction over the interpleader
count because the amount deposited was less than the sum
claimed by the claimants. The Geans further argued that this
Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. Specifically,
they claimed that Acuity did not, and could not, allege in
its complaint sufficient ties or contacts between the Geans
and the state of Missouri to satisfy the requirements of
personal jurisdiction. Lastly, in the event the Court found
subject matter and personal jurisdiction, the Geans sought
dismissal for improper venue on the basis that no bona fide
claimant resides in the Eastern District of
October 30, 2017, the Court issued an order finding that it
did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the count for
interpleader because Acuity failed to deposit the maximum
amount in dispute. Rather than dismiss the case outright, the
Court held the motion to dismiss in abeyance and granted
Acuity leave to either post the appropriate amount or dismiss
November 13, 2017, Acuity filed the instant motion to
voluntarily dismiss Count I without prejudice. But in its
motion, Acuity now seeks to amend its complaint for
declaratory judgment, and to add a count for declaratory
judgment under the Missouri declaratory judgment statute. The
amended complaint also contains a section asserting the
Court's personal jurisdiction over the Geans.
Geans filed a response in opposition to Acuity's motion.
ECF No. 43. The Geans contend that Count I should be
dismissed with prejudice and that leave to amend the
complaint should not be granted because Acuity's
amendment would not cure the defect of personal jurisdiction.
Specifically, the Geans argue that the proposed amended
complaint asserts no ties between the Geans and the state of
Missouri other than an expressed interest in the construction
of an auto insurance policy held by Missouri resident, Rex,
LLC. This pre-litigation interest, the Geans submit, is
insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction.
filed a reply, maintaining that the Court has personal
jurisdiction over this action “by virtue of the
Geans' intentional conduct in having a Missouri insurance
policy construed in their favor.” ECF No. 45 at 2. In
other words, Acuity argues that the Geans, by making a claim
under the auto insurance policy, have intentionally availed
themselves of the protections and perils of a Missouri
insurance contract that is subject to Missouri law.
Court will grant Acuity's motion to dismiss Count I
without prejudice. The decision to allow a plaintiff to
voluntarily dismiss is within the sound discretion of the
district court. See Donner v. Alcoa, Inc., 709 F.3d
694, 697 (8th Cir. 2013). When determining whether to allow a
voluntary dismissal without prejudice, a district court
should consider “whether the party has presented a
proper explanation for its desire to dismiss; whether a
dismissal would result in a waste of judicial time and
effort; and whether a dismissal will prejudice the
defendants.” Id. (internal citation omitted).
Here, the Court has considered the above factors and finds
that Acuity presented a proper explanation for its desire to
dismiss, that dismissal would not result in a waste of
judicial time and effort, and that the remaining Defendants
would not be prejudiced by dismissal without prejudice.
Moreover, in light of the Court's previous order
permitting Acuity to either cure Count I's defect
regarding subject matter jurisdiction by depositing
additional funds or voluntarily dismiss the count, the Court
finds that granting Acuity's request to dismiss Count I
without prejudice is appropriate.
Court will also grant Acuity's motion to amend the
complaint and add a count to its complaint. Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that leave to amend
“shall be freely given when justice so requires.”
“[H]owever, [the Court] may properly deny a party's
motion to amend its complaint when such amendment would
unduly prejudice the non-moving party or would be
futile.” McAninch v. Wintermute, 491 F.3d 759,
766 (8th Cir. 2007). The determination as to whether to grant
leave to amend is entrusted to the sound discretion of the
trial court. Niagara of Wis. Paper Corp. v. Paper Indus.
Union Mgmt. Pens. Fund, 800 F.2d 742, 749 (8th Cir.
the Geans may well be correct with respect to their arguments
regarding the futility of the amended complaint. However,
under the liberal standard of Rule 15 and in light of the
fact that there exist numerous claims against numerous
parties, the Court will permit Acuity to amend its complaint.
And, as Acuity properly asserts, courts have held that a
denial of leave to amend is not the preferred vehicle for
addressing futility based on lack of personal jurisdiction.
See, e.g., Mobius Risk ...