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Poudy v. Texas Roadhouse Management Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

January 22, 2018

GANEL POUDY, Plaintiff,
TEXAS ROADHOUSE MANAGEMENT CORP., a Foreign Profit Corporation, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. #10) filed on January 5, 2018. Defendant filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. #13) on January 18, 2018. Plaintiff seeks to remand the case back to the Lee County Circuit Court arguing that defendant has failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. The Court agrees.


         As the party seeking federal jurisdiction, the burden is upon defendant to establish diversity jurisdiction as of the date of removal, Sammie Bonner Constr. Co. v. W. Star Trucks Sales, Inc., 330 F.3d 1308, 1310 (11th Cir. 2003), and defendant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the federal jurisdictional amount, Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001). In doing so, defendant may use affidavits, declarations, or other documentation. Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 755 (11th Cir. 2010). “[C]ourts may use their judicial experience and common sense in determining whether the case stated in a complaint meets federal jurisdictional requirements.” Roe v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1062 (11th Cir. 2010).


The parties do not dispute the diversity of their citizenship, and the Notice of Removal alleges that the parties are citizens of different States. (Doc. #1, p. 3; Doc. #10, p. 3.) The only issue is whether defendant has shown that it is more likely than not that the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, when the pleading only contains an unspecified demand for damages in state court.

         1. Notice of Removal

         On December 22, 2017, defendant filed a Notice of Removal (Doc. #1) asserting that the addition of two counts in an amended pleading greatly increased the amount in controversy and made the case removable. Specifically, defendant argues that the addition of a claim under the Florida Civil Rights Act, which authorizes back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs, increased the potential damages in excess of $75, 000. (Id., p. 4.) Defendant calculated the potential lost wages as $29, 640, and front pay as approximately $14, 820. This provides a total of $44, 460. (Id., p. 6.) This estimate is not disputed by plaintiff. Defendant states that a “conservative estimate” of compensatory damages would be $25, 000, without any factual support, and estimates attorney's fees will be $40, 000, because they “routinely exceed $40, 000” in the Southern District of Florida.[1] (Id., p. 7.) Defendant did not supplement the Notice of Removal with any supporting documents or affidavits.

         2. Amended Complaint

         In the Amended Complaint (Doc. #2-2), plaintiff Ganel Poudy seeks relief under the State of Florida's Constitution (minimum wage), Florida common law (breach of contract), and under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) for discriminatory practices.

         In Count I, plaintiff alleges that on or about July 24, 2014, and continuing until on or about January 12, 2017, plaintiff worked as a prep cook for defendant Texas Roadhouse Management Corp., and defendant failed to and refused to pay minimum wage for all the hours worked. More specifically, the Manager and Assistant Manager kept plaintiff's timecard and would not allow him to clock in and out. Plaintiff alleges violations of the wage and hour laws of the State of Florida, and seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, compensation for unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and attorney fees and costs. Paragraphs 19 through 21 delineate the differences in the minimum wages for each time period plaintiff worked. (Id., ¶¶ 9-12, 15-16, 18-23.) In Count II, plaintiff seeks damages for a breach of oral contract to perform as a prep cook for pay. Plaintiff was terminated, and not paid fully for all hours worked while employed as agreed. Plaintiff seeks compensation for the wages due and owing, prejudgment interest, and a reasonable attorney's fee. (Id., ¶¶ 25-27, 29, 31.)

         In Count III, plaintiff alleges discrimination based on his race, color, and national origin. During plaintiff's employment, he was promoted to prep cook because he was a good worker. In November 2015, a new Hispanic Manager was hired who reduced plaintiff's hours considerably, and made plaintiff do work before he clocked in and after he clocked out without pay. Two other Haitian employees also had their hours reduced. On January 12, 2017, the Manager told plaintiff that he did not want to deal with Haitians, and he had “two Spanish ladies” to do his job. Plaintiff was constructively discharged based on his national origin of Haiti, his race, and color, and defendant took no action to stop the discrimination. Plaintiff alleges irreparable injury and monetary damages, and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and reasonable attorney fees. (Id., ¶¶ 34-44.) As compensatory damages, plaintiff seeks lost “wages and all other sums of money, including, but not limited to retirement benefits, accrued sick pay, health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, all fringe benefits, and all other employment benefits which were lost, together with said amounts and interest for the injuries suffered as a result of Defendant violations of the FCRA.” (Id., ¶ 44c.)

         3. Compensatory Damages

         Under the FCRA, a plaintiff in a civil action may be awarded back pay, and “compensatory damages, including, but not limited to, damages for mental anguish, loss of dignity, and any other intangible injuries, and punitive damages.” Fla. Stat. § 760.11(5). Plaintiff seeks back pay and compensatory damages, along with reasonable attorney fees, however there are no allegations in the Amended Complaint to suggest that plaintiff is seeking or entitled to a large amount of ...

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