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Mi Pulpe, LLC v. Mexilink Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 2, 2019

MI PULPE, LLC, formerly known as Del Valle Import and Export #2, Plaintiff,
v.
MEXILINK INCORPORATED, Defendant.

          Louis, Judge

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR REMAND

          BETH BLOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Plaintiff Mi Pulpe, LLC's (“Mi Pulpe” or “Plaintiff”) Motion for Remand, ECF No. [11] (the “Motion”). Defendant Mexilink Incorporated (“Mexilink” or “Defendant”) filed a response, ECF No. [14] (“Response”), to which Plaintiff filed a reply, ECF No. [15] (“Reply”). The Court has carefully considered the Motion, the Response and Reply, the record in this case and the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Complaint, ECF No. [1-1], filed in state court seeks injunctive relief and damages for Defendant's alleged breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. According to the Complaint, Mi Pulpe is a national distributor of food products originating in Central America. Mexilink is a national, full-service importer, master distributor and marketer of leading Mexican brands in the United States. In 2016, Mi Pulpe and Mexilink entered negotiations to broaden Mexilink's product line to include more brands from Central America. As a result, they entered into a written agreement (the “Agreement”) to explore a distribution network for Honduran and other Central American products and brands for distribution in the United States. Pursuant to the Agreement, Mexilink is prohibited from soliciting business from current, former, or prospective customers, suppliers, employees or business contacts of Mi Pulpe. Nevertheless, Mexilink allegedly began contacting Mi Pulpe's customers and suppliers for potential business negotiations that do not include Mi Pulpe. See generally ECF No. [1-1].

         Defendant removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. See ECF No. [1] (the “Notice”). In the Motion, Plaintiff requests that the Court remand the case, arguing that Defendant has failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A removing defendant bears the burden of proving proper federal jurisdiction.” Coffey v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 994 F.Supp.2d 1281, 1283 (S.D. Fla. 2014). A district court has diversity jurisdiction where the parties are completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “Where, as here, the plaintiff has not pled a specific amount of damages, the removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdiction requirement.Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 752 (11th Cir. 2010); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “To determine whether this standard is met, a court first examines whether it is facially apparent from the complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional requirement.” Miedema v. Maytag Corp., 450 F.3d 1322, 1330 (11th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted), abrogated on other grounds by Dudley v. Eli Lilly & Co., 778 F.3d 909 (11th Cir. 2014). “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.” Id. (citation omitted).

         “[A] removing defendant is not required to prove the amount in controversy beyond all doubt or to banish all uncertainty about it.” Pretka, 608 F.3d at 754 (citations omitted). The use of reasonable inferences and deductions is permissible to show the amount that is in controversy in the case. See id. (discussing the difference between reasonable deductions and inferences with “conjecture, speculation, or star gazing”). However, district courts narrowly construe removal statutes, and where a plaintiff and defendant clash about jurisdiction, uncertainties are resolved in favor of remand. Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095, (11th Cir. 1994), superseded in part by statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1446. With these standards in mind, the Court considers the Motion.

         III. DISCUSSION

         In the Motion, Mi Pulpe argues that this case should be remanded because Mexilink fails to meet its burden. It contends that the Notice improperly calculates the amount in controversy relying upon factors that are not relevant to this case-specifically, the amount of unpaid invoices in a separate lawsuit currently pending in Texas state court. In response, Mexilink argues that the pleadings, evidence, and reasonable inferences to be drawn from them show by a preponderance of the evidence that Mi Pulpe's claimed damages, attorneys' fees, and the value of the injunctive relief sought exceed $75, 000.00. Upon review, the Court agrees that Mexilink has failed to satisfy its burden.

         The Court first reviews the allegations in the Complaint - the operative pleading - to determine whether the amount in controversy is satisfied. In the Complaint, Mi Pulpe alleges that it seeks “temporary and permanent injunctive relief and for damages in excess of $15, 000.00, excluding interest, costs and attorneys' fees.” ECF No. [1-1] ¶ 1. As such, it is not facially apparent from the Complaint that the amount in controversy is satisfied.

         Because Mi Pulpe does not plead a specific amount of damages, the Court next looks at the Notice to determine whether the amount in controversy is satisfied. In the Notice, Mexilink asserts that a subsequent Commission Agreement between Mi Pulpe and Mexilink concerning a Honduran manufacturer-Corporacion Dinant's-food products, which is the subject of pending litigation in Texas state court, involves over $300, 000.00 of unpaid invoices between the parties. From this fact, Mexilink extrapolates that the injunctive relief in this case is valued in excess of $75, 000.00. The Court disagrees.

         First, the Court is not persuaded that the subject matter of the litigation pending in Texas is relevant to this Court's inquiry for purposes of determining its own diversity jurisdiction, especially where the cases involve allegedly different agreements. Second, Mexilink does not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the value of the injunction to Mi Pulpe is in excess of $75, 000.00. “For amount in controversy purposes, the value of injunctive or declaratory relief is the ‘value of the object of the litigation' measured from the plaintiff's perspective.” Morrison v. Allstate Indem. Co., 228 F.3d 1255, 168 (11th Cir. 2000) (citing Ericsson GE Mobile Commc'ns, Inc. v Motorola Commc'ns & Elecs., Inc., 120 F.3d 216, 218-20 (11th Cir. 1997)). “In other words, the value of the requested injunctive relief is the monetary value of the benefit that would flow to the plaintiff if the injunction were granted.” Cohen v. Office Depot, Inc., 204 F.3d 1069, 1077 (11th Cir. 2000). Here, Mexilink contends that under the Commission Agreement, which is the subject of the Texas litigation, millions of dollars in product has been supplied by Dinant to Mexilink, resulting in commission payments well over $75, 000.00 to Mi Pulpe. As a result, Mexilink postulates that because the injunction requested seeks to prevent Mexilink from doing business directly with at least ...


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