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Mehedi v. Memry Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 5, 2017

SHEIKH P. MEHEDI, Plaintiff,
v.
MEMRY CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ORDER ON SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION AND MOTION TO INTERVENE BY ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY OF ILLINOIS [DOC. 10]

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR., Senior United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Sheikh P. Mehedi commenced this action to recover damages for physical injuries he allegedly sustained to his left index finger while he was working on a "wire draw machine" during his assignment as a temporary employee for Defendant Memry Corporation ("Memry") on July 7, 2015. At that time, Plaintiff was "an employee of a temporary employment staffing agency known as Premier Staffing Services of New York, Inc., " which was located at 340 Glen Street, Suite 401, White Plains, New York 10603. Doc. 1, ¶ 7. Premier had assigned Plaintiff to the machine operator position at Memry's facility in Bethel, Connecticut. Id., ¶ 8.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff based this Court's subject matter jurisdiction solely upon "diversity of citizenship" under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).[1] Doc. 1, ¶ 5. However, because Plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations were insufficient for this case to proceed in federal court, the Court ordered the parties to submit affidavits to establish their citizenship for diversity purposes. See Mehedi v. Memry Corp., No. 3:17-CV-809 (CSH), 2017 WL 2485377, at *1 (D. Conn. June 8, 2017). The Court also ordered Plaintiff to declare, and provide facts to support, that his damages meet the requisite jurisdictional amount, exceeding the sum or value of $75, 000, "exclusive of interest and costs, " 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The parties have filed the requisite affidavits so that, as set forth below, the Court may make its determination regarding subject matter jurisdiction.

         Furthermore, since the Court's prior Order, Zurich American Insurance Company Of Illinois ("Zurich"), as subrogee of Premier Staffing Services of New York, Inc., has filed a motion to intervene as co-plaintiff in this action. Doc. 10. The Court will examine the motion to intervene and its ramifications herein.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         The Court has reviewed the affidavits of Plaintiff Mehedi and Defendant Memry [Doc. 8 & 11] with respect to citizenship and has determined that the Court has "diversity of citizenship" subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Specifically, the action is between "citizens of different states" and the amount in controversy "exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

         With respect to citizenship, individual Plaintiff Mehedi has established through his affidavit that on "May 17, 2017, the date this action was commenced, " he was domiciled at "8069 88thAvenue, Woodhaven, New York." Doc. 8-1, ¶ 3. An individual's citizenship for diversity purposes is determined by his or her domicile. See, e.g., Palazzo ex rel. Delmage v. Corio, 232 F.3d 38, 42 (2d Cir. 2000); John Birch Soc. v. Nat'l Broad. Co., 377 F.2d 194, 199 (2d Cir. 1967). Plaintiff is thus a citizen of New York.

         As to the citizenship of Defendant Memry Corporation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1), a corporation "shall be deemed to be a citizen of every State and foreign state by which it has been incorporated and of the State or foreign state where it has its principal place of business." Memry has proven by affidavit of its Vice President Controller, John Schosser, that it is a citizen of Delaware and Connecticut. Specifically, Memry was "only incorporated by the state of Delaware" and has its principal place of business "located at 3 Berkshire Boulevard in Bethel[, ] Connecticut." Doc. 11, ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff Mehedi's citizenship (New York) is therefore diverse from that of Defendant Memry (Delaware and Connecticut).

         Finally, with respect to damages, "a party invoking the jurisdiction of the federal court has the burden of proving that it appears to a 'reasonable probability' that the claim is in excess of the statutory jurisdictional amount." Tongkook Am., Inc. v. Shipton Sportswear Co., 14 F.3d 781, 784 (2d Cir. 1994). In his affidavit, Plaintiff has provided sufficient facts to establish that the amount in controversy meets the jurisdictional minimum, exceeding "$75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, " 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         In particular, Plaintiff has testified by affidavit that "[a]s a result of the subject injuries which [he] sustained on July 7, 2015": he was "required to undergo two surgical procedures, as well as extensive physical rehabilitation and therapy;" he has incurred over $18, 000 in medical expenses; he has lost approximately $28, 000 in wages due to his "inability to work;" upon injury, he sustained "58.5% permanent partial impairment to [his] left index finger" so he has lost the ability to play the guitar and the flute, which were two of his avocations prior to his injury; he now has difficulties typing and/or using a computer keyboard with his left index finger (which may impair his earning capacity because his "educational background is in computer science"); he has been advised by physicians that further surgery "may only marginally improve [his] range of motion" in his left index finger and will not help with the "constant, significant, and at times, debilitating pain" he experiences from his injuries."[2] Doc. 8-1, ¶¶ 5-8. In light of these alleged facts, Plaintiff has amply supported his submission that his "economic and non-economic damages due to the permanent injuries [he] sustained on July 7, 2015, exclusive of interest and costs, are well in excess of the jurisdictional threshold amount of . . . $75, 000." Id., ¶ 9.

         There is a rebuttable presumption that the Plaintiff's alleged amount in controversy is a "good faith representation" of that amount. Wolde Meskel v. Vocational Instruction Project Cmty. Servs., Inc., 166 F.3d 59, 63 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Tongkook, 14 F.3d at 785-86) ("If the right of recovery is uncertain, the doubt should be resolved . . . in favor of the subjective good faith of the plaintiff."). Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's testimony in his affidavit regarding his injuries, the Court finds that the jurisdictional amount in controversy has been met.

         Having carefully reviewed the contents of the parties' affidavits, the Court concludes that it has "diversity of citizenship" jurisdiction. Pending before the Court, however, is Zurich's motion to intervene, which the Court must resolve before determining whether the action may proceed - i.e., whether Zurich must or may intervene as co-plaintiff; and whether, in either event, its entry in the action would destroy "diversity of citizenship" subject matter jurisdiction. The Court now turns to that motion.

         B. Motion to Intervene

         On June 23, 2017, Zurich American Insurance Company of Illinois, as subrogee of Premier Staffing Services of New York, Inc., filed a motion to intervene in this action as co-plaintiff. Doc. 10. Zurich asserts that it may intervene pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 31-293(a), which authorizes an employer to intervene in the employee's action against a third-party tortfeasor within thirty (30) days of receiving notification of such action. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-293(a) ("[A]ny employer or the custodian of the Second Injury Fund, having paid, or having become obligated to pay, [workers'] compensation under the provisions of this chapter may bring an action against such person to recover any amount that he has paid or has become obligated to pay as compensation to the injured employee.").

         Under Connecticut law, although the insurance carrier of the employer is not specifically covered by § 31-293, that insurer may bring an action against the third-party tortfeasor as the employer's subrogee under the common law. See Pac. Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Champion Steel, LLC, 323 Conn. 254, 266 (2016) ("Our conclusion that a workers' compensation insurer may maintain a common-law equitable subrogation action against a third-party tortfeasor who is liable for injuries sustained by an employee is also supported by public policy. . . . [A]llowing insurers to bring such actions serves the public policy of containing the cost of workers' compensation insurance.") (citing Quire v. Stamford, 231 Conn. 370, 375 (1994) (§ 31-293[a] implements public policy of containing cost of workers' compensation insurance)).

         In the motion, Zurich represents that Mehedi's alleged injuries in this action "arose out of and in the course of his employment [by Premier, while on assignment as a "machine operator" to Memry] and the employment was in the scope of Connecticut's Workers' Compensation Act." Doc. 10-1, ¶ 1. Due to the injuries for which Mehedi seeks recovery in this action, Zurich "has paid and become obligated to pay large sums to and on behalf of Mehedi under the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act."[3] Id., ¶ 2. Zurich "claims that any damages recovered in said action shall be so paid and apportioned so that it will be reimbursed the amount it has paid and may become obligated to pay under the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act, and a credit made toward any proceeds which Mehedi may receiver [sic] against any future benefits." Id., ¶ 3. See also Doc. 10-1, ¶ 7. Finally, Zurich states that, "pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-293, [it] was duly notified of the bringing of this action, and hereby intervenes within thirty days thereof."[4] Doc. 10, ¶ 4.

         1. Standard of Review - Rule 24, ...


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