United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
C. BUCKLEW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
remand (Doc. 6) and Defendant's response thereto (Doc.
11). When, as here, the complaint seeks an indeterminate
amount of damages, the defendant seeking removal based on
diversity jurisdiction must prove that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000 by a preponderance of the
evidence. The evidence presented by Defendant, including a
pre-suit demand for less than the jurisdictional amount, does
not satisfy this burden. Accordingly, the Court remands this
action to state court for lack of subject matter
initiated this personal injury action in state court on
December 12, 2016. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that
he was injured when an all-terrain vehicle winch cable
purchased from Defendant snapped and struck Plaintiff on his
neck and back. (Doc. 2). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that
he suffered “injuries including scarring” as well
as “great bodily injury, resulting pain and suffering,
disability, disfigurement, mental anguish and loss of
capacity for enjoyment of life, aggravation of a pre-existing
condition, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing
care and treatment, and loss of earnings and earning
capacity.” (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 14, 26).
The complaint states that damages exceed $15, 000, the
jurisdictional minimum to be in Florida circuit court, but it
provides no further specificity. (Id. at ¶ 3).
notice of removal is premised on diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1). Because
Defendant did not provide any basis for its claim that the
amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000, the Court ordered
Defendant to supplement its notice of removal with evidence
supporting this assertion. (Doc. 3). In its supplement,
Defendant notes that Plaintiff alleges “great bodily
injury, resulting pain and suffering, disability,
disfigurement, mental anguish, and loss of the capacity for
enjoyment of life” in his complaint. (Doc. 5).
Defendant further states that in addition to these intangible
damages, Plaintiff's complaint includes a claim for loss
of future income. (Id.). Attached to Defendant's
supplement are portions of Plaintiff's pre-suit demand
package including medical records and bids for jobs that
Plaintiff allegedly took but was unable to complete due to
his injuries. (Doc. 7). The demand package states that
Plaintiff suffered a minor traumatic brain injury and
scarring as a result of the incident and is “suffering
from headaches, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.”
(Id. at 5). It is further indicated that Plaintiff
suffered $10, 584.93 in medical expenses and $7, 557.55 in
lost wages. (Id.). All of this, according to
Defendant, establishes that Plaintiff is seeking in excess of
$75, 000. What Defendant conveniently fails to mention,
however, is that the demand itself is for only $50, 000.
now seeks to remand this action to state court, arguing that
Defendant has not met its burden of establishing that the
amount in controversy exceeds the $75, 000 jurisdictional
threshold. (Doc. 6). There is no dispute that complete
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant can remove an action to
a United States district court if that court had original
jurisdiction over the action. District courts have original
jurisdiction over all civil actions between parties of
diverse citizenship where the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. When, as here, “the
jurisdictional amount is not facially apparent from the
complaint, the court should look to the notice of removal,
” along with other relevant evidence. Williams v.
Best Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001). The
Eleventh Circuit has “repeatedly held that the removing
party bears the burden of proof to establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional minimum.” Dudley v. Eli
Lilly & Co., 778 F.3d 909, 913 (11th Cir. 2014)
(citations omitted); see also Roe v. Michelin N. Am.,
Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010) (“If a
plaintiff makes an unspecified demand for damages in state
court, a removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that the amount in controversy more likely than
not exceeds the . . . jurisdictional amount.”
(citations and internal quotation marks
other hand, “a removing defendant is not required to
prove the amount in controversy beyond all doubt or banish
all uncertainty about it.” Pretka v. Kolter City
Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 754 (11th Cir. 2010).
“[A] court may rely on evidence put forward by the
removing defendant, as well as reasonable inferences and
deductions drawn from that evidence.” Dudley,
778 F.3d at 913 (quoting S. Fla. Wellness, Inc. v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 745 F.3d 1312, 1315 (11th Cir.
2014)). However, “[c]onclusory allegations are
insufficient to establish the amount in controversy.”
Green v. Travelers Indem. Co., No.
3:11-cv-922-J-37TEM, 2011 WL 4947499, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Oct.
18, 2011). And “removal statutes are construed
narrowly” with “uncertainties  resolved in
favor of remand.” Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co.,
31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994).
Motion to Remand
response to Plaintiff's motion to remand, Defendant
argues that the requisite amount in controversy is
established because: 1) the demand package describes
extensive symptoms associated with a head injury, concussion,
and mild traumatic brain injury; 2) jury verdicts and
settlements in other mild traumatic brain injury cases exceed
$75, 000; and 3) Plaintiff has refused to state clearly that
the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. (Doc.
11). The Court finds this evidence insufficient to satisfy
Defendant relies upon Plaintiff's pre-suit demand package
to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
Settlement offers are relevant, but not determinative, of the
amount in controversy. Piazza v. Ambassador II JV,
L.P., No. 8:10-cv-1582-T-23EAJ, 2010 WL 2889218, at *1
(M.D. Fla. July 21, 2010) (citing Burns, 31 F.3d at
1097). On its face, the demand package fails to establish the
amount in controversy because Plaintiff demands $50, 000,
which is less than the jurisdictional amount, and it
substantiates just $10, 584.93 in past medical expenses and
$7, 557.55 in past lost wages.
spite of this, Defendant urges the Court to instead focus on
Plaintiff's allegations of permanent and continuing
traumatic brain injury and physical injuries sufficient to
interfere with Plaintiff's ability to earn income.
Defendant points out that the demand package indicates that
Plaintiff's “job is extremely physically demanding
and since the accident [Plaintiff] has been unable to fulfill
the physical requirements of his job.” Defendant
essentially argues that notwithstanding the fact that the
demand is for $50, 000 and substantiates only $18, 142.48 in
damages, the amount in controversy is satisfied because
Plaintiff alleges a serious injury and is seeking damages for
loss of future income.
“mere allegations of severe injuries are insufficient
to establish the amount in controversy.”
Green, 2011 WL 4947499, at *3 (citations omitted).
There is no information from which the Court can estimate the
amount of any future medical expenses or future loss of
income. And the Court will not speculate regarding the value
of these claims or the value of any claims for pain and
suffering. See Nelson v. Black & Decker (U.S.),
Inc., 8:16-cv-869-T-24JSS, 2015 WL 12259228, at *3 (M.D.
Fla. Aug. 30, 2016). The allegations of serious injury and
loss of future income in the demand package, without evidence
as to the value of these claims, are simply not enough to
establish the jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of the
evidence- especially given that the demand itself is for less
than the jurisdictional threshold. In fact, in a case like
this, in which the relied-upon demand substantiates less than
$20, 000 in past damages and there are only conclusory
allegations of future damages, the Court would be hard
pressed to find that the amount in controversy was satisfied
even if the demand itself were for more than the