Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Day v. Kia Motors America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

January 20, 2017

LACRETIA RENEE DAY, et al.., Plaintiffs,
v.
KIA MOTORS AMERICA, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          JOHN H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Plaintiff Lacretia Renee Day, individually and as Mother and Next Friend of S.K.D, II, a minor, (“Day”) initiated this action via service of the summons and complaint on May 26, 2016, in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, against Defendant Kia Motors America, Inc. (“Kia”).[2] (Docs. 1-4 & 1-9 at 1). Kia subsequently removed the action to this Court based on alleged diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332 and, alternatively, based on the Magnuson-Moss Product Warranty Act (“MMPWA”), specifically 15 U.S.C. §2310(d), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331. (Doc. 1). Day then moved to remand, contending Kia cannot meet its burden of proving the amount in controversy to be $75, 000 or greater to establish diversity jurisdiction, and that Kia cannot establish the $50, 000 amount in controversy requirement for the MMPWA. (Doc. 5). Kia opposes the motion to remand. (Doc. 7). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for review. (Doc. 5 & 7). Because Kia has established by a preponderance of the evidence the amount in controversy is $75, 000.00 or more, the motion to remand, (doc. 5), is DENIED.

         I. Standard of Review

          Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375 (1994); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir.1994). Accordingly, this Court is “empowered to hear only those cases within the judicial power of the United States as defined by Article III of the Constitution.” Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 409 (11th Cir.1999) (citing Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir.1994)). “It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. When the parties disagree on the court's jurisdiction, questions or doubts are to be resolved in favor of returning the matter to state court on a properly submitted motion to remand. Burns, 31 F.3d at 1095. Construction of removal statutes are based on federal law. Grubbs v. Gen. Elec. Credit Corp., 405 U.S. 699, 705 (1972).

         II. Background

         According to the complaint, Day purchased a new 2013 Kia Optima for approximately $25, 000.00. (Doc. ¶7). Day alleges there were multiple defective conditions relating to the vehicle's engine that impaired its “use, value[, ] and safety.” (Id. at ¶¶11, 13). Day alleges the vehicle ultimately “ignited in flames and was destroyed.” (Id. at ¶11). As a result of the alleged defective conditions and the vehicle burning, Day seeks both compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 7). As to the compensatory damages sought, Day alleges “actual, consequential[, ] and incidental damages, including but not limited to money expended on the purchase of the Vehicle, damages associated with the inconvenience suffered as a result of the complete failure of the vehicle to operate properly, the cost of repairs related to the defects, loss of wages . . . .” (Id. at ¶22). Day also alleges she suffered and “continues to suffer severe mental anguish and emotional distress” because she was in the zone of danger when the vehicle caught fire.” (Id. at ¶ 53). Day further alleges she was “otherwise injured and damaged.” (Id.).

         The complaint alleges claims under the Alabama Lemon Law, breach of express and implied warranty, claims under Alabama Code § 7-2-714 for accepted and non-conforming goods, claims under the MMPWA, and Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine (“AEMLD”) claims for the allegedly defective design and manufacture of the vehicle. (See doc. 1-4).

         Day, as well as the minor plaintiff, S.K.D., II, is an individual citizen of the State of Alabama. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶6-7). Kia is a foreign corporation, incorporated in the State of California with its principal place of business in the State of California. (Id. at ¶8).

         III. Analysis

         To establish diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332, Kia must demonstrate (1) every plaintiff is diverse from every defendant, Triggs v. John Crump Toyota, Inc., 154 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 1998), and (2) the amount in controversy is $75, 000.00 or more. See e.g., Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 752 (11th Cir. 2010). The parties do not dispute there is diversity of citizenship; however, Day contends Kia cannot meet its burden of establishing the amount of controversy to be at least $75, 000.00. (See doc. 5 at 3-4).

         Because Day's state court complaint alleges unspecified damages, Kia, the removing party, bears the burden of establishing the jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of the evidence. Pretka, 608 F.3d at 752 (citing Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1207 (11th Cir. 2007); Tapscott v. MS Dealer Service Corp., 77 F.3d 1353, 1357 (11th Cir.1996), overruled on other grounds, Cohen v. Office Depot, Inc., 204 F.3d 1069 (11th Cir.2000). In this assessment, the district court “need not suspend reality or shelve common sense.” Roe v. Michelin North America, Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061(11th Cir. 2010). Instead, this Court may use “reasonable deductions, reasonable inferences, or other reasonable extrapolations from the pleadings to determine whether it is facially apparent that the case is removable.” Id. The court is not “bound by the plaintiff's representations regarding its claim, nor must it assume that the plaintiff is in the best position to evaluate the amount of damages sought.” Id. Furthermore, the court must consider the request for and availability of punitive damages unless it is apparent to a legal certainty that such cannot be recovered. See, e.g., Holley Equip. Co. v. Credit Alliance Corp., 821 F.2d 1531, 1535 (11th Cir. 1987); Mitchell v. Carrington Mort. Serv., L.L.C., Case No. 5:16-cv-00833-CLS, 2016 WL 3570373, *3 (N.D. Ala. July 1, 2016).

         Although Day's complaint does not specify the amount of damages sought, it alleges “actual, consequential and incidental damages, including but not limited to money expended on the purchase of the Vehicle [$25, 000], damages associated with the inconvenience suffered as a result of the complete failure of the vehicle to operate properly, the cost of repairs related to these defects, loss of wages . . . .” (See doc. 1-4 at ¶22). Day also alleges she suffered and “continues to suffer severe mental anguish and emotional distress” because she was in the zone of danger when the vehicle caught fire. (See Id. at ¶53). In addition, Day alleges she was “otherwise injured and damaged.” (See id.). As a result of the alleged defective conditions and vehicle burning, Day also seeks punitive damages (pursuant the AEMLD).[3] (Id. at 7).

         It is apparent from the face of the complaint that the jurisdictional amount has been met. The complaint demands compensatory damages well-above the $25, 000 purchase price of the vehicle and further demands punitive damages, which, as this Court has explained, may be “slightly more than double the compensatory damages claim.” Blackwell v. Great Am. Fin. Res., Inc., 620 F.Supp.2d 1289, 1291 (N.D. Ala. 2009). The potential value of Day's claims exceeds $75, 000.

         Day's argument that Kia has offered “no evidence that the amount in controversy . . . is $75, 000 or more other than the bald assertions and vague generalities about damages claimed” is without merit. (Doc. 5 at 4). On a motion for remand the court is not evaluating evidence. Instead, as Day points out in her motion, the task at hand is to evaluate “the document received by the defendant from the plaintiff[, ]” here the state court complaint, “and determine[] whether that document and the notice of removal unambiguously establish federal jurisdiction.” (Doc. 5 at 3 (citing Lowery, 483 F.3d 1213). That is exactly what this Court has done. Furthermore, Day's motion to remand fails to account for her request for punitive damages or her failure to disclaim entitlement to more than $ 75, 000.00, see Smith v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 868 F.Supp.2d 1333, 1335 (N.D. Ala. 2012) (holding that, to avoid removal, plaintiffs who want to pursue claims against diverse parties in state court seeking unspecified damages of various kinds, such as punitive damages and emotional distress, must in ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.