United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
slip-and-fall case is before the Court on Plaintiff Karen
Gauthier's Motion to Remand to State Court, (Doc. 8), to
which Defendant Target Corporation responded in opposition.
November 21, 2015, Gauthier allegedly slipped and fell while
shopping in a Target store in Jacksonville, Florida. (Doc. 2
¶¶ 9-10). On September 19, 2017, Gauthier filed a
one count Complaint alleging negligence against Target in the
Fourth Judicial Circuit Court in Duval County, Florida. (Doc.
1-1 at 3). The Complaint asserts that it is an action for
“damages in an amount in excess of $15, 000.00,
exclusive of interest and costs.” (Doc. 2 ¶ 1).
The Summons and Complaint were served on Target on September
26, 2017. (Doc. 1-1 at 3). On October 24, 2017, Target
removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1446(a), alleging diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1 at 1).
Gauthier is a citizen of Indiana, and Target is incorporated
in and has its principal place of business in Minnesota.
(Doc. 1 at 1-2). On November 20, 2017, Gauthier filed a
motion to remand the action to state court, asserting that
jurisdiction does not exist because the amount in controversy
is less than the required $75, 000. (Doc. 8 at 2).
removed cases where the alleged jurisdictional basis is
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the defendant bears the
burden of proving (1) complete diversity of citizenship, and
(2) an amount in controversy exceeding $75, 000. § 1332.
The jurisdictional requirements are determined at the time of
removal. Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608
F.3d 744, 751 (11th Cir. 2010). A defendant's plausible
amount in controversy allegation within a notice of removal
should be accepted when not challenged by the plaintiff or
questioned by the court. Dudley v. Eli Lilly &
Co., 778 F.3d 909, 912 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135
S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014)). If the plaintiff contests, or the
court questions, the amount in controversy, then the
defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that
the jurisdictional threshold is met. § 1446(c)(2)(B);
id. at 913.
determining a contested amount in controversy, the court
should first look to the complaint. Pretka, 608 F.3d
at 752. When the complaint's allegations are
indeterminate, the defendant must submit evidence to support
his claim of jurisdiction. Id. at 754. When a case
is removed in the first thirty days after service, the
defendant is not restricted in the type of evidence he may
submit. Id. at 754-55 (“[D]efendants may
submit a wide range of evidence in order to satisfy the
jurisdictional requirements of removal.”). Further the
court is free to make reasonable deductions, inferences, and
other extrapolations from such evidence, and should rely upon
its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at
754; Roe, 613 F.3d at 1062.
amount in controversy is not a statement of how much the
plaintiffs are likely to recover, nor proof of the amount the
plaintiff will recover. Dudley, 778 F.3d at 913.
“Rather, it is an estimate of the amount that will be
put at issue in the course of the litigation.”
Id. (quotations omitted). The plaintiffs likelihood
of success is “largely irrelevant to the court's
jurisdiction because the pertinent question is what is in
controversy in the case, not how much the plaintiffs are
likely to recover.” Pretka, 608 F.3d at 751
(emphasis in original) (quotations omitted). Thus, how a
party values a particular claim is not dispositive. See
defendants have demonstrated that more likely than not the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See §
1332; Pretka, 608 F.3d at 751; (Doc. 1 at 2). At the
time of removal, the medical bills incurred and liens
outstanding totaled $63, 630.11. (Doc. 1 at 3; Doc. 1-2 at 1;
Doc. 8 at 2). Although Gauthier argues that there is no
evidence in the record of the need to recover future medical
bills or lost wages, the Complaint states that Gauthier:
[S]uffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering,
disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of the
capacity for the enjoyment of life, expenses of
hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss
of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, and/or an
aggravation of a previously existing condition. The losses
are either permanent or continuing, and the Plaintiff
will suffer the losses in the future.
(Doc. 2 ¶ 14) (emphasis added). Further, in her demand
letter, Gauthier's counsel alleges that Gauthier
“now has to live with pain medications, physical
therapy and injections for the rest of her life. . . . There
is no question that Ms. Gauthier . . . will continue to
suffer more pain in the future.” (Doc. 1-2). In its
response to the motion to remand, Target states that Gauthier
underwent “low back epidural steroid injections”
(“ESI”) on February 23, 2017. (Doc. 12 at 4).
This is supported by the medical bills attached to the notice
of removal that show charges of $3, 841.33 related to an ESI
on February 23, 2017. (Doc. 1-4 at 12). Gauthier's
contention that she will need such injections for the rest of
her life further supports a finding that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. (See Doc. 1-2; Doc. 2
parties submitted documents from negotiations to support
their contentions regarding the amount in controversy. (Docs.
1-2; 1-3; 8). This Court has previously discussed the value
of settlement offers in determining whether the
jurisdictional amount has been met:
Settlement offers commonly reflect puffing and posturing, and
such a settlement offer is entitled to little weight in
measuring the preponderance of the evidence. On the other
hand, settlement offers that provide specific information to
support the plaintiff's claim for damages suggest the
plaintiff is offering a reasonable assessment of the value of
his claim and are entitled to more weight. Courts may also
consider a plaintiff's failure to argue that its
settlement demand was unrealistic and that the amount in
controversy is actually less than the jurisdictional amount.
Lutins v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No.
3:10-CV-817-J-99MCR, 2010 WL 6790537, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov.
4, 2010) (Corrigan, J.) (citations and quotations omitted).
Gauthier's initial settlement offer was for $1 million,
its last offer prior to removal was for $175, 000. (Doc. 1 at
2-3). Target's counter-offers have hovered
around $24, 000. (Doc. 8 at 11). Although these settlement
offers are not conclusive in determining the amount in
controversy, they are indicative of what the parties believe
to be in controversy. See Lutins, 2010 WL 6790537,
at *2. It appears that Gauthier believes that more than $75,
000 is in ...