United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT
N. SCOLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon an independent review of the
record. The Defendant removed this case from the Seventeenth
Judicial Circuit Court in and for Broward County based upon
diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
(Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1). Upon further review of the
notice and the complaint (ECF No. 1-3 at 4-29), the Court
determines that this case should be remanded back to the
"district court may act sua sponte to address
the issue of subject matter jurisdiction at any time."
Herskowitz v. Reid, 187 Fed.Appx. 911, 912-13 (11th
Cir. 2006). Indeed, the Court is obligated to consider
jurisdiction "even if it means raising the issue sua
sponte." In re Donovan, 532 F.3d 1134, 1136 (11th
Cir. 2008) (citing AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Nat'l
Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 494 F.3d
1356, 1359 (11th Cir. 2007)). Additionally, federal courts
are directed to construe removal statutes strictly and
"all doubts about jurisdiction should be resolved in
favor of remand to state court." Univ. of So. Ala.
v. American Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 411 (11th Cir.
1999). Accordingly, "once a federal court determines
that it is without subject matter jurisdiction, the court is
powerless to continue." Id. at 410.
seeking removal of a civil action has the burden to prove by
a preponderance of the evidence that federal jurisdiction
exists. Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608
F.3d 744, 751 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Vega v. T-Mobile
USA, Inc., 564 F.3d 1256, 1268 n.12 (11th Cir. 2009)).
Diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties are citizens
of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Where, as in this case,
the allegations of a complaint make an unspecified claim for
damages, "the district court is not bound by the
plaintiff's representations regarding its claim, "
and may review the record for evidence relevant to the amount
in controversy. Roe v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., 613
F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010). Indeed, "[t]he
substantive jurisdictional requirements of removal do not
limit the types of evidence that may be used to satisfy the
preponderance of the evidence standard. Defendants may
introduce their own affidavits, declarations, or other
documentation" to meet their burden. Pretka,
608 F.3d at 755. Importantly, however, a court's analysis
of the amount in controversy focuses only on how much is in
controversy at the time of removal, not later. Id.
at 751; see also Shaver v. Ford Motor Co., 768
F.Supp.2d 1235, 1236 (S.D. Fla. 2011) (Marra, J.).
complaint, the Plaintiff alleges claims for breach of
contract and bad faith arising from the Defendant's
failure to pay for medical treatment rendered to the insured,
Tanya Arroyo Santiago. The Plaintiff seeks declaratory
relief, punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, and
specifically alleges that the "amount presently at issue
is greater than One-Hundred Dollars ($100.00) but does not
exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5, 000.00)." (Compl. at
¶ 2.) In addition, the Plaintiff made a pre-suit demand
in the amount of $1, 987.71. (See Compl. Ex. 1, ECF
No. 1-3 at 18-19.) Therefore, upon the face of the complaint,
the jurisdictional amount is not satisfied. See Miedema
v. Maytag Corp. 450 F.3d 1322, 1330 (11th Cir. 2006)
("[A] court first examines whether it is facially
apparent from the complaint that the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional requirement.") (quoting
Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319
(11th Cir. 2001)) (internal quotations omitted). Thus, the
Court looks to the notice of removal.
notice, the Defendant contends that in addition to
unspecified medical treatment costs, the Court should
consider present and future attorney's fees and punitive
damages in the calculation of the amount in controversy, but
provides no basis upon which the Court may determine what a
reasonable amount may be. The Defendant further asserts that
the value of the declaratory judgment sought by the Plaintiff
is significantly more than $75, 000, and references a related
case currently pending in the Middle District of Florida, in
which the Defendant is seeking $15, 000, 000 for alleged
fraud by the Plaintiff across a number of related cases
involving in part the claimed charges in this case. However,
that is an entirely different case from the case at bar,
which involves one individual's claim for coverage.
result, the Defendant has not met its burden of proving that
the amount in controversy is satisfied in the present case,
and thus, that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction.
Accordingly, this case is remanded to the
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court in and for Broward County.
All pending motions, if any, are denied as
moot. The Court directs the Clerk to close