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Steel Valley Authority v. Union Switch and Signal Division

filed: January 20, 1987.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, D.C. No. 86-625

Author: Garth



GARTH, Circuit Judge:

The Steel Valley Authority (Steel Valley) has appealed from an order of the district court dismissing Steel Valley's complaint against various named defendants for failure to state a cause of action. We do not reach the question of whether Steel Valley stated a viable cause of action because we have determined that the addition of an indispensable, nondiverse party defendant to Steel Valley's action deprived the district court of federal subject matter jurisdiction.


The circumstances giving rise to this case, the migration of heavy industry from long-dependent Pennsylvania communities to new locations outside Pennsylvania, have become all too familiar in the industrial areas of that state. The players in this economic drama are by no means unique. The main defendant in this case is American Standard Corporation, the parent company of both Westinghouse Air Brake Division (WABCO), located in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania since 1889, and Union Switch and Signal Division, located in Swissvale, Pennsylvania since 1887. The plaintiff in this case is the Steel Valley Authority, an organization formed by nine Allegheny County municipalities for the purpose of, among other things, promoting industrial development projects, both new and existing.

The dispute between the parties developed after American Standard's announcement in the latter part of 1985 that it would close down all of the Union Switch plant and most of the WABCO plant by the end of 1987. Not surprisingly, the decision was unpopular in the communities to be affected by the closings. Reaction was particularly bitter because of extensive community efforts over the past twenty years to keep the plants open.

In an effort to salvage the 2,000 jobs which would be lost as a result of this corporate migration, Steel Valley began to formulate a plan to acquire and operate the WABCO and Union Switch plants and properties as industrial development projects. Apparently, during this initial planning period, American Standard threatened the removal of various equipment and fixtures necessary to the successful operation of the plants.

Forced to take action to preserve the feasibility of its project, Steel Valley brought an action on March 24, 1986 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania against the Union Switch and Signal Division; Westinghouse Air Brake; Louis Kopsa and F. Emmett Meyer, Jr., both employees of the American Standard subsidiaries; and Radice Corporation, a Florida corporation.*fn1 Steel Valley's goal in the filing of this action was to preserve the plants in their operable form until it could formulate and implement a plan for the acquisition of the plants through an exercise of its eminent domain power.

In its complaint, Steel Valley alleged that American Standard's removal of specialized machinery and equipment from the property constituted waste; it therefore sought an injunction prohibiting such waste of the property. Steel Valley argues that it was entitled to an injunction against waste of the property at issue because of its reversionary interest in the land arising out of its power of eminent domain. Steel Valley also alleged the need to preserve the status quo until it could formulate its plan or acquisition and development, asserting that its prospective taking would be mooted by the "destruction of the underlying res. " App. at 73a. It therefore sought, among other relief, an injunction against the destruction or razing of the buildings or fixtures forming part of the real estate. Affirmatively, it sought the protection and maintenance of the property until it could file a declaration of taking.

On March 25, 1986, American Standard filed a petition for removal in the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleging the jurisdictional ground of diversity. No hearing had yet been held in state court on the preliminary injunction sought by Steel Valley.

American Standard alleged in its petition for removal that the nondiverse individuals Meyer and Kopsa were "fraudulently and improperly joined" as defendants to Steel Valley's action in an effort by Steel Valley to prevent removal of its case to federal court. App. at 25a. Moreover, American Standard asserted that Radice Corporation, a Florida corporation, which was a diverse defendant, was merely a "nominal party" to the action, because Steel Valley had alleged no wrongdoing by Radice, and thus had not stated any cause of action against Radice to support its claims of relied. Id.

The district court granted American Standard's petition for removal on March 25, 1986, implicitly agreeing with American Standard's assertion that Meyer and Kopsa were fraudulently joined and that Radice Corp. was a nominal party, and therefore need not be considered in satisfying diversity jurisdiction requirements.*fn2

Steel Valley filed an "Emergency" Motion to Remand on March 26, 1986. The following day, Steel Valley, claiming that it had been mistaken as to the identity of the record owner of the Union Switch property, amended its complaint as of right under Rule 15(a)*fn3, substituting Radice-East Hills, Inc. (Radice-East), a Pennsylvania corporation, for Radice Corporation. Radice-East had been the record owner of the Union Switch site since November 4, 1985 when Radice Corporation, the original defendant, assigned its interest in the property to Radice-East. Steel Valley's amended complaint asserted that Radice-East was the owner of the land and buildings ...

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