United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court pursuant to Defendant Black
& Decker (U.S.) Inc.'s Notice of Removal and
subsequent response to this Court's Order to Show Cause.
(Doc. ## 1, 6). For the reasons that follow, this case is
remanded to state court for lack of subject matter
April 17, 2018, Plaintiff Michael Ragle was using a table saw
manufactured by Black & Decker to cut wood when the
machine amputated his middle finger down to the first
knuckle. (Doc. # 1-1 at 2). On December 21, 2018, Ragle
initiated this case in state court. Then, on February 18,
2019, Ragle filed his Amended Complaint against Black &
Decker, claiming damages for strict liability, negligence,
and implied warranties of merchantability and fitness. (Doc.
# 1-1). Black & Decker removed the case to this Court on
May 22, 2019. (Doc. # 1).
23, 2019, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause, (Doc. #
3), explaining that Black & Decker had not established
that the amount in controversy requirement was met by a
preponderance of the evidence. Black & Decker filed a
response to the Court's Order on May 29, 2019, in an
attempt to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. (Doc. # 6). Ragle filed his response to Black &
Decker's response on May 31, 2019. (Doc. # 7).
action was removed to this Court on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction. (Doc. # 1). When a defendant premises
jurisdiction upon diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a) requires that “the matter in controversy
exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests
and costs.” If the amount in controversy is not evident
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 v. Best Buy Co., 269 F.3d
1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001).
“damages are unspecified, the removing party bears the
burden of establishing the jurisdictional amount by a
preponderance of the evidence, ” Lowery v. Ala.
Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1208 (11th Cir. 2007).
Finally, “Courts must be mindful that removal statutes
are construed narrowly and . . . uncertainties are resolved
in favor of remand.” Mitchell v. Tuesday Morning,
Inc., No. 6:10-cv-1913-Orl-22DAB, 2011 WL 2516239, at *5
(M.D. Fla. Apr. 26, 2011).
Amended Complaint does not allege a specific amount of
damages. (Doc. # 1-1). Rather, Black & Decker relies on
four things to establish the amount in controversy: (1)
published precedent; (2) the factual allegations contained in
the Amended Complaint; (3) the opinion Pugliese v. Texas
Roadhouse, Inc., No. 5:17-cv-392-Oc-PRL, 2017 WL
6276587, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 11, 2017); and (4) Ragle's
admission that he is seeking damages in excess of $75, 000.
(Doc. # 6 at 1).
& Decker is correct that published precedent may be used
as evidence to establish the jurisdictional amount in
controversy. See De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 11 F.3d
55, 58 (5th Cir. 1993)(holding that the Defendant proved the
jurisdictional amount using published precedent,
testimonials, and evidence of claim disparity); see, e.g.,
Mitchell, 2011 WL 2516239, at *3 (holding that evidence of
published precedent must be similar in some way to the
Plaintiff's claim in order to establish the
jurisdictional amount). Black & Decker provides a long
list of the jury verdicts and damages won by various
plaintiffs in other finger amputation cases in its response.
(Doc. # 6 at 2-4; Doc. # 6-1). But, the existence of such
precedent is not automatic proof of the jurisdictional
amount; rather, it is one piece of evidence a removing party
may present when attempting to establish the amount in
Black & Decker's presentation of jury verdicts
obtained in other cases, the Court is not convinced that
these cases sufficiently establish the jurisdictional amount
in controversy in this case. True, each of the cases
presented by Black & Decker resulted in damages over $75,
000 and involved finger amputations. However, the mere
similarity between the physical injuries in those cases and
in this one does not account for the many other unique
circumstances that may have influenced the final damages
awards in those cases. Although the Court may use its
judicial experience and common sense in determining whether
the amount in controversy requirement is satisfied, Roe
v. Michelin North America, Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061-62
(11th Cir. 2010), the Court will not make such a large
inferential leap in this case.
& Decker further argues that Ragle's Amended
Complaint itself establishes the jurisdictional amount.
(Doc.# 6 at 5). Black & Decker specifically focuses on
the Amended Complaint's allegation that Ragle
“suffered a permanent physical injury . . . and has
suffered permanent and continuing physical pain and suffering
as well as scarring and mental anguish.”
(Id.). But the Court is not convinced that the
amount in controversy requirement is met based on this vague
allegation about Ragle's injury and pain and suffering,
which is unsupported by facts specific to this case.
Black & Decker argues that Ragle's admission that his
damages exceed $75, 000 demonstrates by a preponderance of
the evidence that the jurisdictional amount has been met.
(Doc. # 6 at 6). Black & Decker relies on Pugliese v.
Texas Roadhouse, Inc. for the proposition that:
“Responses for Requests for Admissions qualify as an
‘other paper' for purposes of establishing the
requisite amount in controversy.” 2017 WL 6276587, at
*2. However, Pugliese also noted that conclusory responses to
requests for admission by themselves “cannot constitute
the basis for removal on diversity jurisdiction, as [such
admissions] lack factual support for the contention.”
Id. Indeed, numerous courts have held that
conclusory admissions like Ragle's do not establish the
amount in controversy. See, e.g., Ernst v. Coca-Cola
Refreshments USA, Inc., No. 8:18-cv-2482-T-33JSS, 2018
WL 7352152, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 10, 2018)(holding that a
Defendant, relying solely on Plaintiff's admission, did
not prove that the amount in controversy had been met);
Bienvenue v. Wal-Mart Stores, East, LP, No.
8:13-cv-1331-T-33TGW, 2013 WL 5912096, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June
19, 2013)(holding that the Plaintiff's generic admission
to seeking an excess of $75, 000 in damages did not satisfy
the Defendant's burden of proof); Parrish v. Sears,
Roebuck and Co., No. 8:10-cv-1684-T-23MAP, 2010 WL
3042230, at *1 (M.D. Fla. July 30, 2010)(holding that an
unsupported and speculative response to a request for
admission did not establish the jurisdictional amount in
case, Black & Decker has only provided Ragle's bare
admission, vague allegations in his Amended Complaint, and
jury verdicts in other cases to establish the amount in
controversy. (Doc. # 6). Because the Court is not convinced
by that other evidence, ...