United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
FEDERICO A. MORENO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is an insurance breach of contract claim by Ministerio
Evangelistico International against its insurer, United
Specialty Insurance Company, to recover damages to its
property allegedly covered by the policy. The parties
disagree on the amount of alleged property damage. United
removed the case to federal court based on diversity
jurisdiction. There is no dispute that the parties are of
diverse citizenship. The only jurisdictional issue is whether
the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.
This cause comes before the Court upon Ministerio's
Motion for Remand.
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction falls on the
party who is attempting to invoke the jurisdiction of the
federal court. McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936). Courts should strictly
construe the requirements of 28 U.S.C. §1441 (removal
jurisdiction) and remand all cases in which such jurisdiction
is doubtful. Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v.
Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 109 (1941). Moreover, removal
statutes are construed narrowly, and when the plaintiff and
defendant clash on the issue of jurisdiction, uncertainties
are resolved in favor of remand. Burns v. Windsor Ins.
Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994).
properly removed this case to federal court. Where, as here,
plaintiff has not pled a specific amount of damages, the
removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional requirement. See Tapscott v. MS Dealer
Serv. Corp., 77 F.3d 1353, 1356-57 (11th Cir. 1996),
overruled on other grounds by Cohen v. Office Depot,
204 F.3d 1069 (11th Cir. 2000). "When the complaint does
not claim a specific amount of damages, removal from state
court is proper if it is facially apparent from the complaint
that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
requirement. If the jurisdictional amount is not facially
apparent from the complaint, the court should look to the
notice of removal and may require evidence relevant to the
amount in controversy at the time the case was removed."
Williams v. Best Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th
case, it is not facially apparent from Ministerio's
complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
Thus, this Court looks to United's notice of removal,
which presents an estimate of repairs provided by Ministerio
in response to requests for production. The repair estimate
totals $104, 362.35, and Ministerio's discovery responses
indicate that this estimate reflects the amount of damages
being claimed. This evidence alone satisfies United's
burden. However, United also provides other evidence that the
amount-in-controversy requirement is met. According to
United, it served a request for admission seeking an
admission that Ministerio is seeking damages in excess of
$75, 000. Just before United removed the case to federal
court, Ministerio responded that it "[c]annot admit or
deny as phrased." Ministerio's refusal to stipulate
the actual amount of damages at the time of removal does not,
standing alone, support jurisdiction. See Id. at
1320. But, a plaintiffs refusal to stipulate or admit to
damages below the jurisdictional amount should be considered
when assessing the amount in controversy. See Devore v.
Howmedica Osteonics Corp., 658 F.Supp.2d 1372, 1380
(M.D. Fla. 2009). Therefore, Ministerio's refusal to
stipulate to damages less than or equal to $75, 000
strengthens United's already strong support for removal.
does not provide any contrary evidence to prevent removal. In
its motion to remand, Ministerio states: "at the time
this case was removed, [it] had already stipulated that the
damages pursuant to contract in this action would not exceed
[$75, 000]." This assertion is simply false. This case
was removed on December 22, 2016. On January 3, 2017,
Ministerio's counsel wrote a letter to United's
counsel stating: "In exchange for [United]'s
agreement to remand this action [Ministerio] is willing to
stipulate to a cap of $75, 000 for all indemnity
damages." Clearly, Ministerio had not stipulated to
damages at the time of removal.
Ministerio's reliance on Williams is misguided.
In its motion to remand, Ministerio states: "In
Williams v. Best Buy Co., a federal court chose that
remand was proper when it was not apparent from the face of
the complaint that the $75, 000 threshold for removal based
on diversity was satisfied." However, the
"remand" discussed in Williams was a
remand from the Eleventh Circuit back to the federal district
court "for the limited purposes of developing the record
and making findings of fact with regard to the amount in
controversy at the time of removal." See 269
F.3d at 1321. It was not, as Ministerio may have been
suggesting, a remand from federal to state court. In
Williams, the sole evidence of the amount in
controversy defendant provided in its notice of removal was
plaintiffs refusal to stipulate that her claims did not
exceed $75, 000. The Eleventh Circuit determined that more
evidence was needed to support jurisdiction. Here, United has
provided strong evidence indicating that the amount in
controversy is well over the jurisdictional threshold.
Therefore, Williams is inapposite.
has met its burden in proving by a preponderance of the
evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000 at
the time of removal. Accordingly, the Court
DENIES Ministerio's motion to remand.
on the foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED AND
ADJUDGED that Ministerio's Motion to Remand is