United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
KRISTINA BEDYNERMAN and ERIC PAUL BROCKHUSEN BREUNING, Plaintiffs,
TARGET CORPORATION and JOHN DOE, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER 
POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Plaintiffs Kristina Bedynerman and Eric Paul
Brockhusen Breuning's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint
and Remand Case to State Court (Doc. 13) and
Defendant Target Corporation's response (Doc.
was shopping at a Target store when a heavy box fell on her
head. She and her husband sued Target and “John
Doe”-an employee who was stocking nearby shelves at
time of the injury-in Florida state court. Target removed the
case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs want to amend the Complaint to reflect their
identification of John Doe as Daysi M. Castro, a Florida
resident. And because Castro would destroy complete
diversity, Plaintiffs ask the Court to remand the case back
to state court.
cases, courts liberally allow plaintiffs to amend complaints
and join new defendants. But when a plaintiff seeks to add a
non-diverse defendant in a removed case, courts should
scrutinize the pleading “by balancing ‘the
defendant's interest in maintaining the federal forum
with the competing interests of not having parallel
lawsuits.'” Reyes v. BJ's Restaurants,
Inc., 774 Fed.Appx. 514, 517 (11th Cir. 2019) (quoting
Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182
(5th Cir. 1987)). “The equitable balance is guided by
four factors: (1) the plaintiff's motive for seeking
joinder; (2) the timeliness of the request to amend; (3)
whether the plaintiff will be significantly injured if
amendment is not allowed; and (4) any other relevant
equitable considerations.” Id.
are less likely to allow joinder of a nondiverse defendant
when the purpose is to defeat diversity. Target asks the
Court to infer such a purpose from the timing of the proposed
amendment. But Plaintiffs' request to amend comes after
removal only because Target removed the case before
disclosing the name of the “John Doe” defendant.
Eleventh Circuit's opinion in Dever v. Family Dollar
Stores of Ga., LLC, 755 Fed.Appx. 866 (11th Cir. 2018)
is instructive. Dever sued Family Dollar and a misidentified
store manager in state court. Family Dollar disclosed the
identity of the manager after it removed the case, and Dever
moved to substitute in the correct, nondiverse defendant.
Dever, 755 Fed.Appx. at 867-68. The district court
found that Dever's motivation was to defeat federal
jurisdiction and denied the motion. Id. at 868. The
Eleventh Circuit reversed because “Dever sought to
bring a claim against the store manager when she filed her
original complaint in state court.” Id. at
Dever, Plaintiffs sought to sue the nondiverse
defendant in their original Complaint, but Target did not
identify her until after removal. This factor strongly favors
parties agree that Plaintiffs were not dilatory in requesting
the amendment, so this factor favors Plaintiffs.
Potential injury to Plaintiffs
parties disagree about the strategic impact of
Plaintiffs' proposed amendment. Plaintiffs blame Castro
for directly causing Bedynerman's injury and worry that
Target will raise an “empty chair” defense in
Castro's absence. Target argues there will be no
“empty chair” at trial because it is ultimately
liable for any negligence attributable to Castro. The Court
agrees that Target is unlikely to successfully raise an
“empty chair” defense by pointing to the
negligence of its employee. But the Court cannot entirely
dismiss Plaintiffs' concern that Castro's absence at
trial would be a strategic disadvantage. This factor does not
weigh heavily for either side.
Other equitable considerations
party raises compelling considerations not addressed above.
Notably, Target does not raise fraudulent joinder. It instead
argues the Court should give weight to its right as a diverse
defendant to choose a federal forum. But Target only has that
right so long as complete diversity exists, which Target
maintained by refusing to disclose Castro's identity
until after it removed the case. Target should not ...