United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER REMANDING CASE
SMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on a sua sponte review of
the record. It is a fundamental principle of law that
“a federal court has an independent obligation to
review its authority to hear a case before it proceeds to the
merits.” Mirage Resorts, Inc. v. Quiet Nacelle
Corp., 206 F.3d 1398, 1400-01 (11th Cir. 2000) (citation
omitted). “Thus, even if the litigants do not question
the court's jurisdiction, the court must inquire into its
jurisdictional basis sua sponte.” Id.
filed this action in state court in Palm Beach County,
Florida, on July 15, 2019. The Complaint alleges one cause of
action against the Defendant for violation of the Florida
Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, 501.201 et
seq. Compl. [DE 1-1] at 7-8. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant deceptively marketed and sold the product Roundup,
and failed to warn consumers about the carcinogenic
properties of the product. Id. at 2-8. Plaintiff
seeks “injunctive relief and declaratory relief, actual
damages of no more than $5000, exclusive of interest [and]
costs, and  attorney's fees and costs . . . pursuant to
section 501.211(2), Florida Statutes.” Id. at
1, 9. Plaintiff is a resident of Palm Beach County, Florida.
Id. ¶ 2. “Defendant is a corporation
incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware, and has
its corporate headquarters, where its officers direct,
control, and coordinate the corporation's activities, in
the State of Arkansas.” Not. of Removal [DE 1] ¶
12. Defendant removed this action to federal court on August
16, 2019 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
principal federal statute governing diversity jurisdiction,
28 U.S.C. § 1332, gives federal district courts original
jurisdiction of all civil actions ‘between . . .
citizens of different States' where the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Lincoln Prop. Co. v.
Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (2005) (citation omitted). A
party that removes a state court action to federal court
bears the burden of proving that federal jurisdiction exists.
See Williams v. Best Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319
(11th Cir. 2001). If it is not facially apparent from the
complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional requirement, the court may look to the notice
of removal and any evidence submitted by the parties. See
Id. Removal statutes are strictly construed and
“all doubts about jurisdiction should be resolved in
favor of remand to state court.” Univ. of S.
Alabama v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 411 (11th Cir.
1999). A court may rely on its judicial experience and common
sense when determining whether a claim satisfies the
amount-in-controversy requirement. See Roe v. Michelin N.
Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1064 (11th Cir. 2010).
evident from the record that the parties are “citizens
of different States, ” within the meaning of section
1332(a)(1). The issue lies with the amount-in-controversy
requirement. Plaintiff only alleges $5000 in specific
monetary damages. However, as Defendant correctly notes,
“[w]hen a statute authorizes the recovery of
attorney's fees, and the plaintiff has requested
attorney's fees, a reasonable amount of those fees is
included in the amount in controversy.” Parker v.
Scottsdale Ins. Co., No. 18-24340-CIV, 2019 WL 409039,
at *2 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 1, 2019). To establish that
attorney's fees in this case would raise the amount in
controversy to an amount in excess of $75, 000, Defendant
In this case, based upon previous filings by Plaintiffs
counsel regarding his hourly rate and the anticipated
litigation activity that will be required to resolve this
matter, experience and common sense demonstrate that
Plaintiff seeks attorney's fees in excess of $75, 000 in
this matter. On information and belief, Plaintiffs attorney,
Howard Rubinstein, charges an hourly rate of not less than
$750 per hour. Litigation of this claim will require
significant activity, including discovery and depositions
regarding the labeling claim, motion practice, and other
litigation activities through trial. Furthermore, trial of
this matter is likely to be exceedingly complex. . .. All of
these activities will easily generate over $75, 000 in
attorney's fees in this matter.
Not. of Removal at 6-7. While Defendant presents this
argument, it has failed to provide the Court with any
evidence regarding the probable amount of attorney's
fees. Furthermore, based on the Court's experience, it is
unlikely that this case, where Plaintiff is seeking “no
more than $5, 000” in actual damages, will be a
protracted dispute resulting in significant attorney's
fees. Plaintiffs claim falls within the jurisdiction of small
claims court in state court. See Florida Small
Claims Rule 7.010(b). Thus, Defendant failed to meet its
burden of establishing that the amount in controversy in this
action exceeded the jurisdictional threshold. Accordingly, it
1) This case is REMANDED to the Fifteenth
Judicial Circuit for Palm Beach County, Florida. The Clerk of
the Court is hereby directed to take all necessary steps and
procedures to effect the expeditious remand of this action;
2) All pending motions are denied as MOOT;
3) This case is CLOSED.