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Jackson v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

October 29, 2014

LIA JACKSON, as Mother and Next Friend of AMARI FLYNN, a deceased minor, Plaintiff,
v.
COOPER TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, CARLTON FLYNN, and FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendants,

Page 864

For Lia Jackson, as mother and next friend of AMARI FLYNN, a deceased minor, Plaintiff: Thomas C. Gorham, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gorham & Associates, Nashville, TN; Thomas P. Willingham, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mary Leah Miller, Wyatt P. Montgomery, Law Offices of Thomas P. Willingham, P.C., Birmingham, AL.

For Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, a corporation, Defendant: E. Todd Presnell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (Nashville Office), Nashville, TN; J. Alexander Purvis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (Jackson MS Office), Jackson, MS; Whitt Steineker, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP (Birmingham Office), Birmingham, AL.

For Carlton Flynn, an individual, Defendant: John Thomas Feeney, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Feeney & Murray, PLLC, Nashville, TN.

For Ford Motor Company, a corporation, Defendant: John Randolph Bibb, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Robert F. Chapski, Ryan N. Clark, Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C. (Nashville), Nashville, TN.

Page 865

MEMORANDUM

ALETA A. TRAUGER, United States District Judge.

On July 11, 2014, the plaintiff filed a Complaint against defendants Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (" Cooper Tire" ), Carlton Flynn, and Ford Motor Company (" Ford" ). Notwithstanding the lack of diversity of citizenship between the plaintiff and defendant Flynn, Cooper Tire and Ford removed the case to this court on August 15, 2014, contending that the plaintiff fraudulently joined Carlton Flynn as a defendant.[1] (Docket No. 1.) The plaintiff has filed a Motion to Remand (Docket No. 15), to which Cooper Tire filed a Response in opposition (Docket No. 18), the plaintiff filed a Reply (Docket No. 21), and Cooper Tire filed a Sur-Reply (Docket No. 24). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to Remand will be granted.

BACKGROUND

This case concerns a fatal car accident in which the plaintiff's son, Amari Flynn (" Amari" ), died. On July 14, 2013, Amari was the passenger in a car driven by his father, Carlton Flynn (" Carlton" ). At the time of the accident, Amari, Carlton, and the plaintiff (Amari's mother) were Tennessee residents.[2]

On the date of the accident, Carlton was driving a 2002 Ford Explorer northbound on a highway in Cullman County, Alabama. The car was manufactured by Ford and had a left rear tire manufactured by Cooper Tire (the " tire" ). According to the Complaint, Carlton was driving the car " in a negligent and/or wanton manner at the time of the incident," when, " suddenly, and without warning, the subject tire failed due to a tread separation, causing the driver of the subject vehicle to lose control of the vehicle and resulting in it overturning." (Compl. ¶ 6.) During the rollover accident, Amari was thrown from the vehicle and suffered fatal injuries.

In her Complaint, the plaintiff, in her capacity as mother and next friend of Amari, asserts claims against Cooper Tire, Ford, and Carlton.[3] Against Cooper Tire, the plaintiff asserts claims for strict liability, negligence, negligent failure to warn, wantonness, wanton failure to warn, and breach of warranties, all of which are essentially premised on the theory that the tire was defectively designed and manufactured or contained insufficient warnings

Page 866

concerning the potential hazards that it posed. Against Ford, the plaintiff asserts claims for negligent failure to warn and wanton failure to warn, premised on the theory that Ford owed (and breached) a duty to warn drivers and occupants about (a) the impact of a tire tread separation on the handling and stability of a vehicle and (b) the best way to react to a tire tread separation.

Against Carlton, the plaintiff asserts claims for negligence and wantonness. With respect to the negligence claim, the plaintiff alleges that Carlton " negligently operated" the car on the date of the accident, that Carlton had an obligation to operate the vehicle in a safe manner, that Carlton negligently breached that duty, and that his negligent operation of the vehicle proximately caused Amari's death. With respect to the wantonness claim, the plaintiff alleges that Carlton " willfully and wantonly operate[d] the subject vehicle" at the time of the incident and that Carlton did so " with a conscious disregard and a reckless indifference for the lives and safety of others, including Plaintiff's decedent, Amari Flynn, with knowledge that harm would likely or probably result from his conduct." (Compl. ¶ 46.)

The Complaint pleads the claims under Alabama law (where the incident occurred) in the first instance, but it also pleads ...


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