Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson, Bishop Bartoni & Barry Sutton won a victory for their clients in a products liability case in Mississippi. The Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the Circuit Court of Jasper County, Mississippi, one of the most plaintiff friendly jurisdictions in the South, for injuries resulting from a fall while using the subject treestand and full body safety harness. The Plaintiffs filed suit against the manufacturer, retailer, as well as the Treestand Manufacturers Association (TMA), which is a Mississippi voluntary non-profit trade association. Mel Karfis, Stephanie Anderson and Bishop Bartoni defended the manufacturer and removed this case to United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi based on fraudulent joinder of the non-diverse TMA. Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the case back to state court. Sutton joined in opposition to the remand and filed a Motion to Dismiss on behalf of our other client, the TMA.
The Federal District Court, noting the heavy burden in establishing fraudulent joinder, held that Plaintiffs could not establish a viable claim against the TMA because the TMA was not a manufacturer, designer or seller and could not be liable under the Mississippi Product Liability Act. The Federal District Court further noted that Plaintiffs failed to plead any factual allegations that the TMA took any action or made any representations that resulted in the injury. Plaintiffs Motion for Remand was denied and the District Court properly found that the TMA was improperly joined for the sole purpose of defeating diversity jurisdiction. As such, the District Court further dismissed the TMA with prejudice from the suit and Clark Hill will continue to defend its clients in Federal Court, escaping the very dangerous local state court.