United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
DAMIEN C. SANTANA and ANDREA LYNN RENFRO, Plaintiffs,
COGGIN CHEVROLET LLC, d/b/a Coggin Chevrolet at the Avenues, Defendant.
Morales Howard United Slates District Judge
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand
to State Court and Incorporated Memorandum of Law and
Supporting Affidavits (Dkt. No. 6; Motion) filed on January
31, 2017. In the Motion, Plaintiffs request that the Court
remand this case to state court because the amount in
controversy does not exceed $75, 000.00. See Motion
at 1. Defendant opposes the Motion and asserts that the Court
does have jurisdiction in this matter. See
Defendant's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand
to State Court and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (Dkt. No.
8; Response) filed on February 13, 2017.
a state-court complaint states a case that satisfies federal
jurisdictional requirements, a defendant may remove the
action to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b).” See Roe v. Michelin N. Am., Inc.,
613 F.3d 1058, 1060 (11th Cir. 2010). The removing party
bears the burden of demonstrating that federal jurisdiction
exists. Kirkland v. Midland Mortg. Co., 243
F.3d 1277, 1281 n.5 (11th Cir. 2001); see also Pretka v.
Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 752
(11th Cir. 2010). Here, where Defendant relies on diversity
jurisdiction under § 1332(a) as the basis for removal,
this burden requires Defendant to show both that the parties
to the action are of diverse citizenship and that the amount
in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. See Williams v. Best
Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001). In this
case, the parties do not dispute diversity of citizenship.
Therefore, the only jurisdictional question before the Court
concerns whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has
been satisfied. Williams, 269 F.3d at 1319.
Supreme Court recently clarified the procedure for evaluating
the amount in controversy for diversity jurisdiction purposes
in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v.
Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547 (2014). There, the Court observed
when a defendant seeks federal-court adjudication, the
defendant's amount-in-controversy allegation should be
accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by
the court. … If the plaintiff contests the
defendant's allegation, § 1446(c)(2)(B) instructs:
“[R]emoval … is proper on the basis of an amount
in controversy asserted” by the defendant “if the
district court finds, by the preponderance of the evidence,
that the amount in controversy exceeds” the
jurisdictional threshold. This provision … clarifies
the procedure in order when a defendant's assertion of
the amount in controversy is challenged. In such a case, both
sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance
of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy
requirement has been satisfied.
Dart, 135 S.Ct. at 553-54 (footnote omitted). In
some cases, “it may be ‘facially apparent'
from the pleading itself that the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional minimum, even when ‘the
complaint does not claim a specific amount of
damages.'” Roe, 613 F.3d at 1061 (quoting
Pretka, 608 F.3d at 754). In determining whether the
amount-in-controversy requirement is met, the Court
“focuses on how much is in controversy at the time of
removal, not later.” Pretka, 608 F.3d at 751
(citations omitted); see also Poore v. Am.-Amicable Life
Ins. Co. of Texas, 218 F.3d 1287, 1290-91 (11th Cir.
2000) (holding that “the district court must determine
whether it had subject matter jurisdiction at the time of
removal”), overruled on other grounds by Alvarez v.
Uniroyal Tire Co., 508 F.3d 639, 640-41 (11th Cir.
2007); Sierminski v. Transouth Fin. Corp., 216 F.3d
945, 946 (11th Cir. 2000).
may not speculate or guess as to the amount in controversy.
See Pretka, 608 F.3d at 752. However,
“Eleventh Circuit precedent permits district courts to
make ‘reasonable deductions, reasonable inferences, or
other reasonable extrapolations' from the pleadings to
determine whether it is facially apparent that a case is
removable.” Roe, 613 F.3d at 1061-62 (quoting
Pretka, 608 F.3d at 754). Indeed, “courts may
use their judicial experience and common sense in determining
whether the case stated in a complaint meets federal
jurisdictional requirements.” Id. at 1062.
Moreover, “a removing defendant is not required to
prove the amount in controversy beyond all doubt or to banish
all uncertainty about it.” Pretka, 608 F.3d at
754. All that is required is that a removing defendant show,
by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in
controversy exceeds the jurisdictional requirement. See
id. at 752. However, in considering the propriety of a
removal, federal courts consistently caution that removal
statutes must be strictly construed, and all doubts resolved
in favor of remand. See Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co.,
31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994); see also Shamrock
Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 109 (1941)
(“Due regard for the rightful independence of state
governments, which should actuate federal courts, requires
that they scrupulously confine their own jurisdiction to the
precise limits which the statute has defined.”)
(internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, when it is clear
that the jurisdictional minimum is likely met, a district
court should acknowledge the value of the claim, even if it
is unspecified by the plaintiff. See Roe, 613 F.3d
at 1064. To do otherwise would abdicate the court's
statutory right to hear the case, and reward a plaintiff for
“employing the kinds of manipulative devices against
which the Supreme Court has admonished us to be
vigilant.” See id.
upon review of the Motion and Response, the Court finds that
Defendant has failed to carry its burden of establishing by a
preponderance of the evidence that the amount put in
controversy by Plaintiffs' pleading exceeds $75, 000.00.
In attempting to reach the jurisdictional threshold Defendant
improperly relies on speculation as to the potential amount
of attorney's fees and the possibility that Plaintiffs
may seek to add a claim for punitive damages which they have
not pled. The amount in controversy, however, is determined
from the Plaintiffs' pleading not based on such
hypothetical propositions. Accordingly, it is
1. Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand to State Court and
Incorporated Memorandum of Law and Supporting Affidavits
(Dkt. No. 6) is GRANTED.
2. The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to remand this case to
the Circuit Court of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, in and for
Duval County, Florida, and to transmit a certified copy of
this Order to the clerk of that court.
3. The Clerk is further directed to terminate all pending
motions and deadlines as moot and close the file.