United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
POLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Adrian Jacobs' Motion to Remand.
(Doc. 23). Defendants Thor Motor Coach, Inc. and Ford Motor
Company oppose the Motion. (Docs. 30; 32). Also here is
Thor's Motion to Transfer (Doc. 5) and Ford's Motion
to Dismiss (Doc. 14). The parties do not address which Motion
to tackle first; therefore, the Court begins with the
jurisdictional challenge in the Motion to Remand.
a breach of warranty case under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty
Act (“MMWA”). (Doc. 3). Jacobs purchased a
defective recreational vehicle (“RV”) for $200,
218. (Doc. 3 at 2, 4-5). The RV “contains unrepaired
manufacturing defects and cannot be utilized for personal,
family, and/or household use.” (Doc. 3 at 3). So,
Jacobs filed his complaint, asserting two MMWA breach of
warranty claims. (Doc. 3 at 8-12). The complaint does not
specify the repair costs or diminished value of the RV. (Doc.
3). It does, however, plead that damages exceed the
state-court jurisdictional minimum of $15, 000. (Doc. 3 at
2). In the end, Jacobs seeks diminution in value, cost of
repairs, incidental and consequential damages, interest,
attorney's fees and costs, and any other relief
“the Court deems just and appropriate.” (Doc. 3
at 10, 12). Thor removed the case from state court. (Doc. 1).
But Jacobs wants to go back. (Doc. 23).
standards are narrowly construed, and all
“uncertainties are resolved in favor of remand.”
Burns v. Windsor Ins., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir.
1994). Unless clear from the complaint, the removing
defendant bears a burden of establishing the amount in
controversy at the time of removal. Williams v. Best Buy
Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001). While
defendants need not prove amounts in controversy
“beyond all doubt, ” they must show amounts above
the jurisdictional limit by preponderance of the evidence.
Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744,
752-54 (11th Cir. 2010) (noting that courts may make
“reasonable inferences” over the amount in
controversy, but cannot engage in “conjecture,
speculation, or star gazing”).
in federal court, an MMWA action must exceed $50, 000. 15
U.S.C. § 2310(d)(3)(B). If it does not, the case should
proceed in state court. Id. at § 2310(d)(1)(A).
In any event, state law determines a plaintiff's damages.
Boyd v. Homes of Legend, Inc., 188 F.3d 1294, 1296,
1298 (11th Cir. 1999). State law sets the following measure
of damages for a breach of warranty claim: the difference
between the RV's value as warranted when accepted (i.e.,
the purchase price) and the defective RV's actual value
at the time of acceptance. See Fla. Stat. §
672.714(2); Kia Motors Am., Inc. v. Doughty, 242
So.3d 1172, 1175-76 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2018).
argues the purchase price is the amount in controversy
because the complaint alleged the RV “cannot be
utilized for personal, family and/or household use.”
(Doc. 3 at 3). Since it cannot be used for those purposes,
says Thor, the RV has no value. To be sure, a couple local
cases agreed with little analysis. Thurston v. Jayco,
Inc., No. 8:19-cv-293-T-35JSS (M.D. Fla. May 2, 2019);
Johnson v. Thor Motor Coach, Inc., No.
8:18-cv-1146-T-26CPT (M.D. Fla. May 25, 2018). But others
have not. Carpenter v. Forest River, Inc., No.
8:18-cv-1622-T-36AEP, 2018 WL 8244571, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Aug.
15, 2018) (remanding an MMWA case for failing to show the
jurisdictional minimum); Braunm v. Winnebago Indus.,
Inc., No. 8:18-cv-1883-T-23SPF, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
12259, at *2-3 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 25, 2019)
(same). The Court agrees with the latter.
Regardless of any defects, the Court will not construe
Jacobs' allegation to mean that an RV valued at $200, 218
two years ago is worth less than a penny today. As Jacobs
notes, the RV has value even if defects prevent him from
using the RV for its intended purpose. (Doc. 32 at 5-6, 10).
Jacobs allegations bind him, but Thor's contortions of
those allegations do not. Without more, the complaint
alleging the RV “cannot be utilized for personal,
family and/or household use” does not somehow imply
that the RV is worthless.
the amount in controversy is not as simple as looking at the
purchase price because the complaint does not seek repurchase
of the RV. (Doc. 3 at 10, 12). Along with interest and fees,
the complaint seeks diminution in value, repair costs, and
incidental and consequential damages, not repurchase or
revocation. Thor contends the general demand for any other
appropriate relief puts revocation or repurchase (and the
entire purchase price) at issue. Even if it could in general,
however, Jacobs admittedly does not seek those remedies here.
(Doc. 23 at 2, 5, 9-10 (“Plaintiff's Complaint does
not seek revocation of acceptance or the repurchase of the
subject RV.”)); see also Burns v.
Winnebago Indus., Inc., No. 8:10-cv-1441-T-24-MAP, 2010
WL 3190233, at *2-3 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 11, 2010). And while
Jacobs asked for the full purchase price in a pre-suit demand
letter (Doc. 1-6 at 5), that is not dispositive on the amount
in controversy. E.g., Carpenter, 2018 WL
8244571, at *2. The letter does not establish the amount at
issue; instead, it reflects mere “puffing and
posturing” without showing the RV repair costs or
diminished value. See id. So the purchase
price is not necessarily the disputed amount.
under the proper diminished-value damages calculation, the
amount in controversy is undetermined. Jacobs purchased the
RV for $200, 218. Yet neither party offers the value of the
defective RV when Jacobs bought it. So the difference between
the RV's purchase price and value at the time of
acceptance is unknown. See Braunm, 2019
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12259, at *2-3; Messmer v. Thor Motor
Coach, Inc., No. 3:16-cv-1510-J-34JBT, 2017 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 7236, at *5-6 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 19, 2017). It is
Thor's burden to establish the amount in controversy. By
providing no evidence on the cost of repairs or diminished
value, it failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence
that $50, 000 is at issue. See, e.g.,
Carpenter, 2018 WL 8244571, at *3; Satsky v.
Aston Martin Lagonda of N. Am. Inc., No.
9:18-cv-80056-RLR, 2018 WL 8139342, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 9,
2018). Thus, remand is appropriate. And all other motions are
denied as moot.
it is now
1. Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (Doc. 23) is
GRANTED. This case is
REMANDED to the Circuit Court of the
Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Lee County, Florida.
2. All other Motions (Docs. 5; 14; 31) are DENIED as
3. The Clerk is DIRECTED to transmit a
certified copy of this Order to the Clerk of the Circuit
Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in ...