United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
E. Ott, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
case is before the Court on the Plaintiff's motion to
remand the case to the Circuit Court of Jefferson County,
Alabama. (Doc. 8). The motion includes a request for an award
of attorney's fees and costs incurred as a result of the
removal. The Defendant has filed a response in opposition to
the motion to remand (doc. 14) and the Plaintiff has replied
(doc.17). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant
the Plaintiff's motion to remand but deny its request for
fees and costs.
Cadence Bank, N.A. (“Cadence”) filed this action
in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Doc. 1-1,
Complaint). The action arises from a security interest held
by Cadence in an annuity issued by defendant Allianz Life
Insurance Company of North America (“Allianz”).
The annuity was pledged as security for a loan made by
Cadence to a third-party. In its complaint, Cadence alleges
that Allianz allowed withdrawals from the annuity without
Cadence's knowledge or consent and in violation of
Cadence's security interest. Cadence alleges that, when
the third-party subsequently defaulted on the loan, the
remaining value of the annuity was insufficient to pay off
the entire amount due, and that a deficiency of $41, 348.92
remained on the loan as a result of the unauthorized
withdrawals permitted by Allianz. Cadence has asserted claims
against Allianz for breach of the annuity contract (Count
One), conversion of funds from the annuity (Count Two), and
negligence (Count Three). All three counts demand judgment
against Allianz “in the amount of $41, 348.92, plus
applicable prejudgment interest and costs” as well as
“such further and different relief as the Court may
deem just and appropriate.” (Complaint, Counts One, Two
timely removed the case to this Court. (Doc. 1, Notice of
Removal). In its notice of removal, Allianz asserts that the
Court has diversity jurisdiction over the case pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). Alliance avers that there is complete
diversity of citizenship between the parties and that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of
interest and costs, notwithstanding Cadence's demand for
only $41, 348.92 in damages in each count of its complaint.
Allianz contends that the actual amount in controversy is the
difference between the value of the annuity before Allianz
allegedly allowed the unauthorized withdrawals ($345, 515.59)
and its value afterwards ($213, 000.00), or $132, 515.59.
(Notice of Removal, ¶ 8).
removal, Cadence filed the instant motion to remand. (Doc.
8). Although Cadence does not dispute that there is complete
diversity of citizenship between the parties, it argues that
Allianz has not established the minimum amount in controversy
for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Cadence insists that
the amount in controversy is $41, 348.92, an amount that is
far less than the jurisdictional threshold of $75, 000.00.
(Doc. 8, ¶ 2).
removing defendant bears the burden of proving proper federal
jurisdiction.” Leonard v. Enterprise Rent A
Car, 279 F.3d 967, 972 (11th Cir. 2002). Because federal
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, the removing
defendant's burden is a heavy one:
While a defendant does have a right, given by statute, to
remove in certain situations, plaintiff is still the master
of his own claim. Defendant's right to remove and
plaintiff's right to choose his forum are not on equal
footing; for example, unlike the rules applied when plaintiff
has filed suit in federal court with a claim that, on its
face, satisfies the jurisdictional amount, removal statutes
are construed narrowly; where plaintiff and defendant clash
about jurisdiction, uncertainties are resolved in favor of
Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th
Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted).
as here, a complaint filed in state court expressly pleads an
amount in controversy that is less than the jurisdictional
minimum set by 42 U.S.C. § 1332(a), “the sum
demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be
deemed to be the amount in controversy.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(c)(2). To overcome this presumption, the removing
party must establish “by the preponderance of the
evidence” that the amount in controversy actually
exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B). Where a
plaintiff disputes a defendant's allegation that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, “[t]he Court
must find that it is ‘more likely than not' that
the plaintiff could recover more than $75, 000 from the
defendant[ ] in order for jurisdiction to exist under Section
1332.” Bennett v. Williams, No.
7:17-cv-00602-LSC, 2017 WL 3781187, *1 (N.D. Ala. Aug. 31,
2017) (quoting Roe v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., 613
F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010). Moreover, if a plaintiff
“does not desire to try his case in the federal court
he may resort to the expedient of suing for less than the
jurisdictional amount, and though he would be justly entitled
to more, the defendant cannot remove.” St. Paul
Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 294
opposition to Cadence's motion to remand, Allianz
correctly notes that “Alabama practice permits a
plaintiff to recover damages in excess of the amount it
demands in its complaint.” (Doc. 14 at 3) (citing Ala.
R. Civ. P. 54(c)). Allianz then argues that “the
preponderance of the evidence shows that the amount in
controversy [in this case] exceeds the specifically pled
amount of $41, 348.92.” (Id. at 4). Allianz
advances three arguments for why the amount in ...