United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ALTMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court upon a sua sponte review of the
federal court not only has the power but also the obligation
at any time to inquire into jurisdiction whenever the
possibility that jurisdiction does not exist arises.”
Fitzgerald v. Seaboard Sys. R.R., Inc., 760 F.2d
1249, 1251 (11th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted). It is the
Court's responsibility to “zealously insure that
jurisdiction exists over a case.” Smith v. GTE
Corp., 236 F.3d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 2001).
courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions where
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, and the suit is
between citizens of different states. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). For the amount in controversy requirement,
the party invoking federal jurisdiction must show that the
amount exceeds $75, 000. See Id. If left
unchallenged, a removing defendant, “as specified in
§ 1446(a)[, ] . . . need include only a plausible
allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional threshold.” Dart Cherokee Basin
Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 89 (2014).
But, once challenged by either the court or the opposing
party, “a conclusory allegation that the amount in
controversy requirement is satisfied [is] insufficient to
sustain jurisdiction.” Morrison v. Allstate Indem.
Co., 228 F.3d 1255, 1273 (11th Cir. 2000).
“[W]here jurisdiction is based on a claim for
indeterminate damages, the . . . party seeking to invoke
federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proving by a
preponderance of the evidence that the claim on which it is
basing jurisdiction meets the jurisdictional minimum.”
Federated Mut. Ins. Co. v. McKinnon Motors, LLC, 329
F.3d 805, 807 (11th Cir. 2003); see also Dart Cherokee
Basin, 574 U.S. at 88.
Defendant removed this case to federal court on the basis of
a letter the Plaintiffs' counsel composed, in which the
Plaintiffs demanded $87, 500 to resolve their claims.
See Notice of Removal (the “Notice”)
[ECF No. 1]. On November 6, 2019, the Court ordered the
Defendant to show cause why that settlement demand satisfied
the amount in controversy requirement. See Order to
Show Cause (the “OSC”) [ECF No. 3]. Specifically,
the Court informed the Defendant that “the Court gives
the settlement offer little weight in assessing the amount in
controversy” and gave the Defendant a chance to
supplement its amount in controversy allegations.
See OSC at 2- 3.
Defendant responded on November 8, 2019. See
Response to Order to Show Cause (the “Response”)
[ECF No. 4]. In that Response, the Defendant doubled down. It
had properly removed this case, the Defendant insisted,
because the “Plaintiffs submitted a demand that
included attorney's fees and was $12, 500 more than $6,
672.” Resp. at 9. In other words, the Defendant
continues to argue, as it did in its Notice of Removal, that
(1) the settlement demand satisfies the amount in controversy
requirement; and that (2) the attorney's fees the
Plaintiffs have accrued thus far somehow push the amount in
controversy above $75, 000. See generally Response.
Both arguments are unpersuasive.
The Settlement Offer
offers “do not automatically establish the amount in
controversy.” Lamb v. State Farm Fire Mut. Auto.
Ins. Co., No. 3:10-CV-615-J-32-JRK, 2010 WL 6790539, at
*2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 5, 2010). To the contrary, an unadorned
settlement offer merely “reflect[s] puffing and
posturing, and such a settlement offer is entitled to little
weight in measuring the preponderance of the evidence.”
Jackson v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., 651
F.Supp.2d 1279, 1281 (S.D. Ala. 2009). Only a settlement
offer that provides “specific information to support
the plaintiff's claim for damages” constitutes an
appropriate indication of the damages in question.
Lamb, 2010 WL 6790539, at *2.
Lamb, the court concluded that a settlement offer
that “fails to explain how [the plaintiff] arrived at
her damages calculation” does not “establish that
the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000.”
Id. By contrast, in Wilson, this Court
determined that a settlement offer that “delineates the
extent of [the plaintiff's] injuries, the physicians who
have treated her, and the medical care she received from each
of those physicians”-and which includes a claim of
“$100, 000 in medical expenses and estimates [that]
future medical expenses will be over $1
million”-provided sufficient “detail” to
surpass the amount in controversy threshold. Wilson v.
Target Corp., No. 10-80451-CIV-MARRA, 2010 WL 3632794,
at *4 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 14, 2010).
settlement demand at issue here is as bare-bones as they
come. See Settlement Demand (the
“Demand”) [ECF No. 1-4] ...