United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN United States District Judge.
case is before the Court on Plaintiff James Troupe's
Motion to Remand to State Court. (Doc. 3). Defendant PCS
Phosphate Company, Inc. responded in opposition. (Doc. 5).
Troupe alleges that on June 22, 2017, he tripped and fell on
a negligently maintained sidewalk or parking lot. (Doc. 2
¶¶ 7-8). As a result of this trip and fall:
Plaintiff suffered bodily injury in and about his body and
extremities, resulting in pain and suffering, disability,
disfigurement, permanent and significant scarring, mental
anguish, loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life,
expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and
treatment, loss of earning, loss of the ability to earn
money, and aggravation of previously existing condition. The
losses are either permanent or continuing and Plaintiff will
suffer the losses in the future.
Id. ¶ 9. The Complaint alleges that damages are
in excess of $15, 000, the state circuit court jurisdictional
threshold but lists no other damages amount. Id.
removed the case, (Doc. 1), and argues that the amount in
controversy is satisfied based on Troupe's pre-suit
demand letter requesting $150, 000, (Doc. 5 at 1-2). Troupe
does not dispute that the parties are diverse, but asserts
that PCS has failed to prove the jurisdictional amount
because the demand letter represents “mere puffery and
posturing.” (Doc. 3 at 7).
federal court to have diversity jurisdiction, the parties
must have complete diversity and the amount in controversy
must exceed $75, 000. 28 U.S.C § 1332(a).
“Consistent with the limited nature of federal
jurisdiction, the party seeking a federal venue must
establish the venue's jurisdictional requirements.”
Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1207 (11th
Cir. 2007). “Where, as here, the complaint does
‘not allege [ ] a specific amount of damages, the
defendant seeking removal must establish by a preponderance
of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional minimum.'” Thompson v. Columbia
Sussex Corp., No. 2:16-CV-435-FTM-29CM, 2016 WL 6134868,
at *3 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 21, 2016) (citing S. Fla. Wellness,
Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 745 F.3d 1312, 1315 (11th
Cir. 2014)). “The evidentiary value of a settlement
offer in establishing the amount in controversy depends on
the circumstances of the offer.” Lutins v. State
Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 3:10-CV-817-J-99MCR, 2010
WL 6790537, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 4, 2010). A settlement
offer with detailed information supporting a plaintiff's
claim for damages should be given more weight than a
settlement offer that is mere puffery and posturing.
support the amount in controversy, PCS attached Troupe's
demand letter and accompanying medical records. (Doc. 6-1).
The medical records indicate that Troupe suffered an ankle
sprain and that he complains of right ankle and foot pain.
(Doc. 6-1 at 8, 50). No medical bills were attached to the
demand letter; however, the letter states “Mr. Troupe
treated under his WC [worker's comp] and his case settled
at $6, 000. AmTrust North America will have a lien for his
damages.” Id. at 1.
on the evidence presented, the amount in controversy does not
exceed $75, 000. Troupe's injuries appear to consist of a
sprained ankle and foot pain that one doctor described as
“grossly unremarkable” after reading the MRI.
(Doc. 6-1 at 24). Further, the demand letter appears to
indicate that Troupe's medical bills were $6, 000-not
even close to the jurisdictional threshold. Id. at
1. PCS presented no other evidence of damages.
the Court finds remand appropriate, it denies Troupe's
request for attorney's fees, costs, and expenses
associated with removal. Martin v. Franklin Capital
Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141 (2005) (“Absent unusual
circumstances, courts may award attorney's fees under
§ 1447(c) only where the removing party lacked an
objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal.”). A
plaintiff who makes a settlement demand far in excess of the
federal jurisdictional threshold, does so knowing it could
constitute the basis for removal. See, e.g.,
Ashmeade v. Farmers Ins. Exch., No.
5:15-CV-533-OC-34PRL, 2016 WL 1743457, at *4 (M.D. Fla. May
3, 2016) (declining to award fees and costs after improper
removal based on a demand letter seeking $100, 000).
Plaintiff's counsel states that the demand letter was
meant merely to “stake out an aggressive initial
position for negotiating purposes.” (Doc. 3 at 7).
While a certain amount of posturing by both sides regarding
settlement is to be expected, Plaintiff's counsel is
reminded of the ethical obligations inherent in sending a
it is hereby
Plaintiff James Troupe's Motion to Remand to State Court
(Doc. 3) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
part. Troupe's request for attorney's fees,
costs, and expenses is denied. The motion is otherwise
case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of the
Third Judicial Circuit in and for Hamilton County, Florida.
After remand has been effected, the Clerk shall terminate any
pending motions ...