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Olympus Insurance Co. v. Bull

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 10, 2018

OLYMPUS INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID BULL, THE INSURANCE INSIDER, INSIDER PUBLISHING, LTD., EUROMONEY TRADING, LTD., and EUROMONEY INSTITUIONAL INVESTOR, PLC, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

          ROBIN L. ROSENBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This Cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Remand and for Attorney's Fees and Costs Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). DE 12. Defendants responded, DE 18, and Plaintiff replied, DE 19. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this case on March 16, 2017 in the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida. DE 1-1 at 11-15. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants published an article on February 28, 2017 that included false and defamatory remarks about Plaintiff. Id. at 12. Plaintiff's Complaint contains two causes of action: (1) Injunctive Relief seeking to enjoin Defendants from publishing further false statements about Olympus and other Florida insurance companies in the State of Florida, to order Defendants to print a full retraction, and award of attorney's fees; and (2) Defamation seeking all damages so awardable, prejudgment interest, and attorney's fees.

         Defendants removed this action on March 16, 2018, alleging subject-matter jurisdiction under diversity of citizenship. DE 1. Defendants assert that the removal was timely because it was filed within one year after Defendants were served with the Complaint and within 30 days of Defendants ascertaining that this action had become removable. Id. ¶ 3. The Notice of Removal alleges the citizenship of all of the parties and that there is complete diversity of citizenship. Id. ¶¶ 10-13. With respect to the amount-in-controversy, Defendants note that

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff's damages are “in excess of $15, 000.00[.]” Plaintiff states in its February 15, 2018 supplementary response to Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories that it “may be entitled to actual damages, compensatory damages, special damages, general damages, damages to Plaintiff's reputation, consequential damages, and punitive damages[]” against the five foreign defendants. Despite asserting in its response to Defendants' first request for the production of documents that it has completed document discovery, Plaintiff further states in its supplemental response to Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories that “[i]t is unknown at this time what amount of damages Plaintiff will seek at trial of this cause, including any minimum or maximum amount.”

Id. ¶ 14. Defendants state that the Florida Circuit Court found that Plaintiff had not completely responded to Defendants' interrogatories and required Plaintiff to produce documents and provide responsive answers to Defendants' discovery requests. Id. ¶15.

         Plaintiff filed a Motion for Remand and for Attorney's Fees and Costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). In its Motion, Plaintiff argues only that Defendants have failed to meet their burden of establishing that the amount-in-controversy exceeds $75, 000. DE 12. Defendants argue that Plaintiff has avoided specifying the amount of damages it is seeking in order to avoid federal diversity jurisdiction. DE 18 at 3. Defendants allege that Plaintiff has not denied that its damages exceed $75, 000. Id. at 4. Defendants note that Plaintiff has alleged multiple categories of damages, including punitive damages, and has stated that its damages are continuing. Id. at 5. Defendants also “assert that Plaintiff's suit is a SLAPP suit against journalist, Defendants are entitled to seek attorney's fees as permitted under Florida's Anti-SLAPP statute. See Fla. Stat. § 768.295.” Id. at 6. Defendants state that their attorney's fees have already exceeded $80, 000/. Id.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). “A removing defendant bears the burden of proving proper federal jurisdiction.” Leonard v. Enterprise Rent a Car, 279 F.3d 967, 972 (11th Cir. 2002). There is a strong presumption against removal and every doubt concerning whether removal was proper should be resolved in favor of remand. Russell Corp. v. Am. Home Assur. Co., 264 F.3d 1040, 1050 (11th Cir. 2001).

         The removal of this case was premised on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. DE 1 ¶¶ 10-17. “Diversity jurisdiction exists where the suit is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds the statutorily prescribed amount, in this case $75, 000.” Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). In its Motion to Remand, Plaintiff argues only that Defendants have failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. DE 18.

         “Where a plaintiff fails to specify the total amount of damages demanded, . . . a defendant seeking removal based on diversity of jurisdiction must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the $75, 000 jurisdictional requirements.” Leonard, 279 F.3d at 927 (citation omitted). “[R]emoval from state court is proper if it is facially apparent from the complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional requirement. If the jurisdictional amount is not facially apparent from the complaint, the court should look to the notice of removal and may require evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time the case was removed.” Williams, 269 F.3d at 1320. “[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). On the other hand, “[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.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In its Motion to Remand, Plaintiff argues only that Defendants have failed to meet their burden to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Defendants make two ...


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