United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ, COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Wal-Mart Stores East, LP removed this slip-and-fall case on
November 22, 2017, asserting that the requirements for this
Court's exercise of diversity jurisdiction have been
satisfied. As discussed below, the Court sua sponte
determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
this action and remands this case to state court.
delving into the merits of any case, this Court must
determine “whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists,
even in the absence of a challenge from any party.”
Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006).
Indeed, “it is well settled that a federal court is
obligated to inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua
sponte whenever it may be lacking.” Univ. of
S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410 (11th Cir.
1999). “Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed
at all in any cause.” Id.
28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant can remove an action to a
United States District Court if that court has original
jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
United States District Courts have original jurisdiction over
all civil actions between parties of diverse citizenship
where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Removal is proper if
the complaint makes it “facially apparent” that
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Williams v.
Best Buy, Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001).
Removal is also appropriate when an amended pleading, motion,
or “other paper” establishes that the
jurisdictional requirements are satisfied. 28 U.S.C. §
removed cases, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) specifies, “If
at any time before final judgment it appears that the
district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case
shall be remanded.” Removal statutes are strictly
construed against removal. Shamrock Oil & Gas Co. v.
Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108 (1941). Any doubt as to
propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remand to
state court. Butler v. Polk, 592 F.2d 1293, 1296
(5th Cir. 1979).
Notice of Removal, Wal-Mart predicates federal jurisdiction
on the diversity provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
“For federal diversity jurisdiction to attach, all
parties must be completely diverse . . . and the amount in
controversy must exceed $75, 000.” Underwriters at
Lloyd's London v. Osting-Schwinn, 613 F.3d 1079,
1085 (11th Cir. 2010). Although Wal-Mart has made an adequate
showing concerning complete diversity of citizenship between
the parties, the Notice of Removal does not satisfy the Court
that the jurisdictional amount has been
satisfied. Likewise, the Complaint sheds little light
on the amount in controversy.
Complaint, Worley maintains, “This is a cause of action
for damages in excess of $15, 000.00.” (Doc. # 2 at
¶ 1). Worley claims that as a result of Wal-Mart's
alleged negligence, she suffered:
bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability,
disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the
enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical and
nursing care and treatment, and aggravation of a previously
existing condition. The losses are either permanent or
continuing and Plaintiff will suffer the losses in the
(Id. at ¶ 12).
from the Court's file are any medical reports or other
evidence bearing on the nature and extent of Worley's
claimed injury. Instead, Wal-Mart's sole basis for the
removal of this slip and fall case is Worley's responses
to Requests for Admissions regarding the extent of
Worley's damages. There, Worley “admits” that
she “is alleging damages in excess of $75,
000.00.” (Doc. # 1-2 at 11-15). In the same Requests
for Admissions, Wal-Mart requests that Worley “provide
an itemized breakdown of the damages that Plaintiff is
seeking.” (Id. at 12). Without providing any
breakdown or explanation, Worley simply responds:
“Plaintiff's medical bills alone exceed $75, 000 at
this time.” (Id. at 15).
previously stated, the Complaint alleges damages “in
excess” of $15, 000 dollars. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 1).
Without any further specificity on damages, Wal-Mart, as the
removing party, bears the burden of proving, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy
is in excess of $75, 000. See Lowery v. Ala. Power
Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1208 (11th Cir. 2007). The removing
defendant bears the burden of establishing facts that support
federal jurisdiction. See Allen v. Toyota Motor Sales,
U.S.A., Inc., 155 Fed.App'x 480, 481 (11th Cir.
2005). “A conclusory allegation in the notice of
removal that the jurisdictional amount is satisfied, without
setting forth the underlying facts supporting such an
assertion, is insufficient to meet the defendant's
burden.” Williams, 269 F.3d at 1319-20.
Wal-Mart postulates that Worley's admissions made in
response to discovery establish the amount in controversy.
Such admissions certainly can carry the day when they are
detailed and contain substantive factual information.
However, the admissions and denials before the Court are