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Morales v. Fastrx, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 30, 2019

FASTRX, INC. f/k/a DOC RX, CO., INC., Defendant.



         This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (DE 3) and Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue (DE 4). Both motions are fully briefed with responses and replies. The Court has considered the motions and the record, and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is DENIED and Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Shayna Morales began working for Defendant DocRX Inc.[2] on March 19, 2018. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on July 10, 2018. On August 18, 2018, Plaintiff provided notice to her supervisor Karli Washburn of her chemotherapy treatments to facilitate any necessary accommodations. On August 24, 2018, Plaintiff was assigned to create a new clinic. Plaintiff emailed Washburn on multiple occasions asking for assistance with the project, but Washburn did not respond. On August 30, 2018, Washburn and Catherine Hunter, another employee of Defendant, called Plaintiff, explaining that Plaintiff was required to always be available from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. They further advised that she was not eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, that she was not guaranteed a job, and that she should be able to handle her job with the amount of training she had been provided. Plaintiff continued working over the next four months to the best of her abilities, taking occasional leave for chemotherapy treatments after providing notice and completing appropriate forms. During this period, Plaintiff participated with Washburn in a three-day training session in Plaintiff's home.

         On December 27, 2018, Plaintiff notified Washburn on the phone that she would have a surgery date in the near future. On January 3, 2019, Plaintiff emailed Washburn a form for paid time off, which indicated that Plaintiff's bilateral mastectomy was scheduled for February 11, 2019. Plaintiff sought five days of post-surgery recovery. On January 7, 2019, Hunter terminated Plaintiff over the phone, stating that Plaintiff should have been further along in her ability to do her job based on her experience and training.

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint in state court on September 13, 2019, under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (“FCRA”), Fla Stat. § 760.01 et seq., alleging that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis of a disability and that Defendant failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Defendant removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 on October 30, 2019. DE 1. Plaintiff moves for remand, arguing that Defendant has failed to prove by a preponderance that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, as required for diversity jurisdiction. Defendant moves to transfer venue to the Southern District of Alabama under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) pursuant to a forum selection clause in the employment agreement between the parties.

         II. REMAND

         District courts have original jurisdiction over any civil case where the amount in controversy “exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs” and the parties' citizenship is diverse. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Unlike when a plaintiff files a claim in federal court that satisfies the amount in controversy requirement on its face, removal statutes are construed narrowly. Burns, 31 F.3d at 1095. Where, as here, the complaint seeks an unspecified amount of damages, Defendant must establish the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence. Tapscott v. M.S. Dealer Service Corp., 77 F.3d 1353, 357 (11th Cir. 1996). However, “a removing defendant is not required to prove the amount in controversy beyond all doubt or to banish all uncertainty about it.” Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 754 (11th Cir. 2010). Rather, a court is permitted to make “reasonable deductions, reasonable inferences, or other reasonable extrapolations.” Id.

         A. Discussion

         Diversity of citizenship is not at issue here; Plaintiff is a Florida citizen and Defendant is an Alabama citizen. DE 1 ¶¶ 8-9. Rather, Plaintiff argues that Defendant has not met its burden in establishing the amount in controversy. Defendant asserts that the combination of four types of relief place the amount in controversy above $75, 000: back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees. As discussed below, the Court concludes that back pay together with compensatory and punitive damages satisfies the amount in controversy.

         1. Back pay

         Florida law authorizes the award of back pay in civil actions under the FCRA. Fla. Stat. § 760.11(5). The parties agree that Plaintiff's pay during her employment with Defendant was approximately $1, 354.17 per week, and that $56, 875.14 of back pay is in controversy from the date of Plaintiff's termination on January 7, 2019, through the date of removal on October 30, 2019. Defendant argues that the court should consider back pay not only through the date of removal, but through an estimated trial date. The Court need not address this argument because the $56, 875.14 of back pay incurred through the date of removal, combined with the value of Plaintiff's compensatory and punitive damages, is more likely than not in excess of $75, 000.

         2. Compensatory and punitive damages

         The FCRA authorizes “compensatory damages, including but not limited to, damages for mental anguish, loss of dignity, and any other intangible injuries, ” along with punitive damages up to a statutory cap of $100, 000. Fla. Stat. § 760.11(5). Plaintiff seeks “all damages recoverable” under the FCRA, “including punitive damages.” DE 1-6 at 5. Defendant cites several comparator cases involving disability discrimination against ...

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