United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
MARY A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF FLORIDA, INC., Defendant.
S. MOODY, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand (Dkt. 7) and Defendant's Response in Opposition
(Dkt. 8). The Court, having reviewed the motion, response,
and being otherwise advised in the premises, concludes that
the motion should be denied.
Mary A. Thomas commenced this negligence action on or about
February 14, 2017, in the Circuit Court of the Thirteenth
Judicial Circuit, in and for Hillsborough County, Florida.
Plaintiff seeks damages against Defendant Family Dollar
Stores of Florida, Inc. related to a slip-and-fall injury she
sustained at one of Defendant's stores. Specifically, the
complaint claims that Plaintiff “. . . was injured in
and about her body and extremities; incurred medical expenses
for the treatment of said injuries; incurred pain and
suffering of both a physical and mental nature; incurred a
permanent injury to the body as a whole; incurred loss of
ability to lead and enjoy a normal life; incurred loss of
wages and a loss of wage earning capacity, all of which are
either permanent or continuing in nature” and that
Plaintiff “will sustain said loss in the future.”
March 9, 2017, Defendant timely removed the complaint to this
Court based on diversity jurisdiction. The notice of removal
indicates that the parties are diverse and Plaintiff's
damages exceed the amount in controversy. Defendant relies,
in relevant part, upon the allegations in the complaint,
Plaintiff's pre-suit demand letter, which demanded over
$75, 000 and documented past medical expenses totaling $17,
155, and a “Comprehensive Therapeutic Treatment Course
Summary” from Plaintiff's orthopaedic surgeon,
wherein that doctor estimated future medical costs stemming
from Plaintiff's injuries. In the summary, the doctor
forecasted that Plaintiff's future medical costs
“would be $2500 to $3000 a year for continued physical
therapy and other therapeutic treatment modalities and up to
$2500 a year for anti-inflammatory and pain analgesia.”
(Dkt. 1-5). Defendant contends that, based on the
doctor's forecast, Plaintiff, who was 64 years old at the
time of the subject incident, and who has a life expectancy
of 19.52 years, would incur future medical costs in a range
of approximately $97, 600 to $107, 360.
now moves to remand the case, arguing Defendant did not
establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
the alleged basis for federal jurisdiction is diversity under
28 U.S.C. § 1332, as it is in this case, the removing
defendant has the burden of demonstrating that there is (1)
complete diversity of citizenship and (2) an amount in
controversy greater than $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). When, as here, damages are not specified in
the state-court complaint, the defendant seeking removal
“need include only a plausible allegation that the
amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
threshold.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v.
Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014) (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(a)). If, however, a “plaintiff contests the
defendant's allegation... ‘[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.”
Id. at 553-54 (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
1446(c)(2)(B)); see also Roe v. Michelin N. Am.,
Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010). A removing
defendant is not required “to prove the amount in
controversy beyond all doubt or to banish all uncertainty
about it.” Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II,
Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 754 (11th Cir. 2010).
determining the amount in controversy, the court should look
first to the complaint. Id. If the amount is
unavailable from the complaint alone, the court can look to
the notice of removal and other “evidence relevant to
the amount in controversy at the time the case was removed,
” including evidence submitted in response to a motion
to remand. Id. In Pretka, the Eleventh
Circuit held that a party seeking to remove a case to federal
court within the first thirty days after service is not
restricted in the types of evidence it may use to satisfy the
jurisdictional requirements for removal. Id. at
770-71. This evidence may include the removing
defendant's own affidavit, declaration, or other
documentation. Id. at 755. Moreover, district courts
are permitted to make “reasonable deductions” and
“reasonable inferences, ” and need not
“suspend reality or shelve common sense in determining
whether the face of a complaint ... establishes the
jurisdictional amount.” Id. at 770.
“Instead, courts may use their judicial experience and
common sense in determining whether the case stated in a
complaint meets federal jurisdictional requirements.”
Roe, 613 F.3d at 1062-63.
the guidelines set forth in Roe and Pretka,
the Court concludes that Defendant met its burden in
establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the
amount in controversy more likely than not exceeds $75, 000.
The complaint alleges extensive damages associated with
significant personal injury. Defendant also provides evidence
of Plaintiff's medical expenses incurred prior to filing
this action (i.e., $17, 155), Plaintiff's pre-suit
demand, in which she demanded an amount greater than $75,
000, and Plaintiff's future medical costs in a range from
$97, 600 to $107, 360. It appears, based on the
complaint's allegations, that Plaintiff also seeks
damages for lost wages, future loss of earning capacity, and
mental pain and suffering.
it would “suspend reality” to conclude that the
damages do not exceed $75, 000. And Plaintiff's arguments
to the contrary are unpersuasive, especially because she does
not provide the Court with any evidence rebutting
Defendant's claim that the amount in controversy exceeds
therefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that
Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (Dkt. 7) is denied.