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Federal appellate review of an order granting leave to add parties that destroys diversity jurisdiction is unavailable

August 22, 2014 by in General

The plaintiff, whose parents were killed when a Union Pacific train derailed, filed a wrongful death action against Union Pacific in Illinois state court. Union Pacific removed the case to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction: The decedents were domiciled in Illinois and Union Pacific is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Nebraska. After conducting some initial discovery, the plaintiff sought to amend his complaint to add claims against two Illinois residents employed by Union Pacific. The district court granted the request and, because the parties were no longer completely diverse, remanded the case to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Union Pacific appealed both the leave to amend and the remand.

An order remanding a case to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “is not reviewable on appeal or otherwise.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). However, the bar against reviewing remand orders does not prevent the court of appeals from reviewing separate, appealable rulings that happen to be contained in the same document as the remand order. Yet the part of the district court’s order granting leave to amend the complaint was also unappealable because it was not a final order in that it did not grant or deny relief on the merits of any claim and it could be revisited and challenged at later stages of the litigation. Accordingly, the court of appeals found that it was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

Alternatively, Union Pacific asked the court to treat the appeal as a petition for mandamus. The “drastic and extraordinary” remedy of mandamus is appropriate only if three conditions are satisfied: (1) there must be no other adequate means to remedy the problem; (2) the party’s right to the writ must be clear and indisputable; and (3) the court must be satisfied that granting the writ would be an appropriate exercise of its discretion. Here, there was another adequate means to remedy the problem of which Union Pacific complained. It could seek reconsideration or later appellate review of the order granting leave to amend in the state courts. Therefore, mandamus relief was neither necessary nor appropriate.

The court of appeals also commented in a footnote that “Union Pacific has not explained how we could issue an order [of mandamus] compelling the district court to take action in a case over which it has already relinquished jurisdiction.” But the court simply assumed that it could issue such an order and went on to address Union Pacific’s failure to meet the mandamus requirements.

The court dismissed Union Pacific’s appeal and request for a writ of mandamus.

Linder v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 2014 WL 3892539 (7th Cir. Aug. 11, 2014).

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