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About Armstrong Fluid Technology

Armstrong Fluid Technology manufactures intelligent fluid flow equipment, pumps, valves, heat exchangers, and control solutions. The company offers fluid flow systems, integrated plant packages, heat transfer, fire pumps and systems, and variable speed and design envelope pumps. It is based in Toronto, Ontario.

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23 Bertrand Avenue

Toronto, Ontario, M1L 2P3,


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Guijarro v. Enterprise: The Fifth Circuit Analyzes Multiple Issues Pertinent to Product-Liability Cases

Jul 29, 2022

Guijarro v. Enterprise: The Fifth Circuit Analyzes Multiple Issues Pertinent to Product-Liability Cases To embed, copy and paste the code into your website or blog: <iframe frameborder="1" height="620" scrolling="auto" src="//" style="border: 2px solid #ccc; overflow-x:hidden !important; overflow:hidden;" width="100%"></iframe> The Fifth Circuit’s recent decision in Guijarro v. Enterprise Holdings, Inc., No. 21-40512, 2022 WL 2433778 (5th Cir. July 5, 2022), provides solid foundational arguments on issues pertinent in most product-liability cases. Specifically, the Court found that: (1) the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold as a matter of common sense, (2) heightened review applies when a plaintiff attempts to join defendants that would destroy diversity jurisdiction, and (3) expert testimony is generally necessary to establish defect and causation in product-liability cases. Each of these aspects of the decision merits attention. Amount in Controversy After a car accident allegedly caused by their rental vehicle’s brake failure, Plaintiffs sued defendants Enterprise Holdings and EAN Holdings in Texas state court, alleging negligence, breach of contract and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Defendants removed the suit to federal court, and Plaintiffs moved for remand, arguing that Defendants failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeded the jurisdictional threshold, $75,000. As the Fifth Circuit explained, the trial court correctly rejected this argument. “The only question” Plaintiffs raised in this first motion to remand was “whether the suit involve[d] the requisite amount in controversy.” Id. at *2. In Texas, plaintiffs are not required to specifically state the amount of damages sought, which often creates ambiguity as to the amount truly in controversy. A removing defendant “must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000” and can do so “in one of two ways: (1) by establishing that it is ‘facially apparent’ that the claims are likely to exceed $75,000, or (2) by setting forth the facts in controversy that support a finding of the requisite amount.” Id. The Guijarro Defendants successfully employed the first approach. To assess whether it was facially apparent that Plaintiffs’ claims likely exceeded $75,000, the Fifth Circuit examined the nature of the accident, injury and damages sought. Id. at *5. The case involved a major car accident where the rental car “struck a concrete culvert” and “came to rest facing down with the rear end in the air.” Id. “The alleged damages included: (1) medical expenses, (2) physical disfigurement, (3) physical pain and mental anguish, (4) loss of earning capacity, (5) punitive damages, (6) treble damages under the DTPA and (7) attorney’s fees.” Id. Based on the allegations and claimed damages, the Fifth Circuit found it to be a matter of “[c]ommon sense” that at least one plaintiff’s claims would exceed $75,000, “which is all that is needed as the federal court would then have supplemental jurisdiction over the claims of the others.” Id. Plaintiffs’ suit therefore satisfied the amount in controversy requirement. Preventing Joinder of Non-Diverse Defendants After obtaining leave to file an amended complaint, Plaintiffs purported to destroy diversity jurisdiction by naming two new, non-diverse defendants in their amended pleading—the Enterprise employee who handled the rental transaction and an entity that inspected the vehicle prior to the rental. Id. at *4. Plaintiffs then filed another motion to remand. In this second motion to remand, and again on appeal, Plaintiffs argued that “the district court had no choice but to remand the case because it had already permitted joinder by granting their motion for leave to amend the complaint.” Id. at *3. Not so. Plaintiffs’ maneuver did “not mean the court’s hands were tied” because courts “may repair diversity by vacating a prior order joining nondiverse parties.” Id. Thus, the trial court remained entitled to determine whether the Plaintiffs should be permitted to amend their complaint by joining new defendants that would deprive it of subject matter jurisdiction. After summarily rejecting Plaintiffs’ lead argument, the Court turned to a more substantive question: whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying Plaintiffs leave to add the diversity-destroying defendants. Id. at *3–4. Generally speaking, trial courts must “freely” allow amended pleadings “when justice so requires.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). But “a ‘higher level of scrutiny’ applies” when the proposed amended complaint names “a new nondiverse defendant in a removed case.” Guijarro, 2022 WL 2433778, at *3 (quoting Allen v. Walmart Stores, L.L.C., 907 F.3d 170, 185 (5th Cir. 2018)). In this scenario, courts look to “several factors, including ‘the extent to which the purpose of the amendment is to defeat federal jurisdiction,’” and a “plaintiff's failure to state a plausible claim against a proposed defendant is evidence of the amendment's improper purpose and sufficient reason to deny leave to amend.” Id. (quoting Hensgens v. Deere & Co., 833 F.2d 1179, 1182 (5th Cir. 1987)). The Defendants defeated Plaintiffs’ second motion to remand by showing that Plaintiffs failed to state any claims against the proposed non-diverse defendants. Enterprise’s employee could not be held individually liable because the claim against her “related solely to her acts and omissions as an” employee and she did not owe Plaintiffs any duty independent of that employment. Id. at *4. (citing Leitch v. Hornsby, 935 S.W.2d 114, 117 (Tex. 1996)). And the claims against the automotive defendant failed as a matter of blackletter Texas law because, subject to an inapplicable exception, “auto repair shops are under no duty to discover and warn about latent defects or recalls.” Id. at *4. Therefore, the Court found that the non-diverse parties were added only to destroy diversity, making it proper to strike the amended complaint and deny Plaintiffs’ second motion to remand. Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs Failure to Designate Experts Having satisfied itself of federal jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit turned to the merits, reviewing the trial court’s ruling that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment based on Plaintiffs’ failure to “submit expert opinions that identified a specific defect and ruled out other possible causes of the crash.” Id. The Texas Supreme Court had previously required expert testimony to identify a specific defect and rule out other possible causes in unintended-acceleration cases. See id. (citing Nissan Motor Co. v. Armstrong, 145 S.W.3d 131, 137 (Tex. 2004)). Relying on Armstrong and subsequent cases applying Texas law, the Fifth Circuit found that this evidentiary standard is “not limited to acceleration cases” or “to the products-liability arena” and held that “Texas law requires plaintiffs alleging a brake defect to put forth ‘competent expert testimony and objective proof’ that the defect caused their injuries.” Id. at *5–6 (quoting Armstrong, 145 S.W.3d at 137). Guijarro has broad implications because, as the Fifth Circuit pointed out, “Texas law has long required expert testimony for issues of causation that go beyond ‘general experience and common sense.’” Id. at *6 (quoting Lenger v. Physicians Gen. Hosp., Inc., 455 S.W.2d 703, 706, 708 (Tex. 1970)). Just as there was no reason to limit Armstrong to unintended-acceleration cases, there is no reason to limit Guijarro to automotive cases. When defect theories require specialized or technical knowledge, “the expert requirement” applies “across the board.” Id. at *5. Accordingly, plaintiffs generally cannot survive summary judgment in product-liability cases without designating qualified experts to identify a specific defect and establish its role in the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. --- Each of the issues dealt with by the Guijarro court present in most federal product-liability cases. The decision represents strong authority on multiple important points: (1) an unalleged amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold when it is facially apparent from the complaint, (2) courts should deny leave to join non-diverse defendants against whom plaintiffs cannot state a claim, and (3) expert testimony regarding defect and causation is required to survive summary judgment in product-liability cases.

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    Armstrong Fluid Technology's headquarters is located at 23 Bertrand Avenue, Toronto.

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