Shannon v. Target Stores Inc.
The legal theory of 'fraudulent joinder' can prevent a plaintiff from joining a non-diverse party to permit the plaintiff to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction. Allegedly, the plaintiff, Gina Shannon, slipped and fell outside the entrance of a Target Store in Waterbury, Conn. Shannon, a citizen of Connecticut, sued Target, a Minnesota corporation, and one of its employees, Rod Schmidt, a citizen of Connecticut, in Connecticut Superior Court. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that Schmidt, the store manager, did not properly inspect the area and post signs to warn potential customers about the dangerous condition. The defendants removed the suit to U.S. District Court, based on diversity jurisdiction, and the plaintiff moved to remand to Connecticut Superior Court. As long as Schmidt is a defendant, complete diversity jurisdiction does not exist, because Schmidt and the plaintiff are both citizens of Connecticut. Joinder of a non-diverse defendant can be considered fraudulent, if no possibility exists that the plaintiff's claims against that defendant may be asserted in state court. The court found that the defendants failed to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that Schmidt was fraudulently named as a defendant, merely for the purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction. Although the defendants argued that the plaintiff lacks a legitimate negligence claim against Schmidt, Connecticut law does not bar slip-and-fall plaintiffs from alleging that store managers are negligent. The District Court granted the plaintiff's motion to remand. 'Because the defendants have failed to establish that [Schmidt] was fraudulently joined,' wrote the court, 'the defendants cannot meet their burden of showing that complete diversity exists.'