United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lillie Kidd-Hicks (“Kidd-Hicks”) originally filed
this claim in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Alabama.
Kidd-Hicks seeks compensatory and punitive damages for
personal injuries resulting from a slip and fall on the
property of Defendant Bellemere Properties, LLC
(“Bellemere”). Bellemere removed the case to this
Court on May 17, 2018, asserting diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446.
(Doc. 1.) In response, Kidd-Hicks filed a motion to remand on
May 25, 2018, claiming that the amount in controversy
requirement has not been met in this case. (Doc. 4.)
Bellemere has timely filed their response. (Doc. 6.)
Subsequently, Kidd-Hicks filed a motion for leave to file
amended complaint. (Doc. 8.) For the reasons below,
Kidd-Hicks's motion to remand (doc. 4) is due to be
granted, and this matter remanded.
December 1, 2017, Kidd-Hicks went to the Frontier Bingo
Casino, which is owned and operated by Bellemere. During her
visit, Kidd-Hicks slipped and fell in a puddle of unknown
liquid in the restroom. The complaint and removal petition
claim that Kidd Hicks suffered damages and “severe
personal injuries” as a result of the fall. (Doc. 1.)
Kidd-Hicks filed this action in state court on April 20, 2018
against Bellemere and fictitious defendants A, B, and C
(collectively “Defendants”). Kidd-Hicks claims
Defendants are liable for negligently and/or wantonly causing
or allowing a dangerous condition to exist and failing to
warn of this dangerous condition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court, like all federal courts, is a court of “limited
jurisdiction.” Jackson-Platts v. Gen. Elec. Capital
Corp., 727 F.3d 1127, 1134 (11th Cir. 2013). It is
authorized to hear only those cases falling within “one
of three types of subject matter jurisdiction: (1)
jurisdiction under a specific statutory grant; (2) federal
question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331; or
(3) diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a).” PTA-FLA, Inc. v. ZTE USA, Inc., 844
F.3d 1299, 1305 (11th Cir. 2016). A defendant may remove an
action initially filed in state court to federal court if the
action is one over which the federal court has original
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “[A] defendant
seeking to remove a case to a federal court must file in the
federal forum a notice of removal ‘containing a short
and plain statement of the grounds for removal.'”
Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135
S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a)).
notice of removal asserts that this Court has diversity
jurisdiction over this action. (Doc. 1.) Diversity
jurisdiction exists if there is complete diversity of
citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Where a
defendant's notice of removal makes a good-faith claim
for a specific amount in controversy, his “allegation
should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or
questioned by the court.” Dart Cherokee, 135
S.Ct. at 553.
when a defendant's amount in controversy allegation is
“contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court,
” id., then “both [plaintiff and
defendant] submit proof and the court decides, by a
preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount in
controversy requirement has been satisfied.”
Id. at 554. The Court must find that it is
“more likely than not” that the plaintiff could
recover more than $75, 000 from the defendants in order for
diversity jurisdiction to exist. Roe v. Michelin N. Am.,
Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010). The removing
party bears the burden of proof to establish that the amount
in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum. Dudley
v. Eli Lilly and Co., 778 F.3d 909, 913 (11th Cir.
2014). Any doubt about the existence of federal jurisdiction
“should be resolved in favor of remand to state
court.” City of Vestavia Hills v. Gen. Fid. Ins.
Co., 676 F.3d 1310, 1313 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405,
411 (11th Cir. 1999)).
has asserted that the amount in controversy requirement has
been met because Kidd-Hicks's complaint alleges that she
suffered “severe” injuries and requests punitive
damages. (Doc. 1.) However, Kidd-Hicks in her motion to
remand agues the Court lacks jurisdiction because the amount
in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. Thus, under Dart
Cherokee, this Court must look past the parties'
allegations to the evidence submitted by both sides of the
amount in controversy. 135 S.Ct. at 554. In doing so the
Court “must make findings of jurisdictional fact to
which the preponderance standard applies.” Id.
(quoting H.R.Rep. No. 112-10, p. 16 (2011)). If “the
jurisdictional amount is not facially apparent from the
complaint, ” this Court “look[s] to the notice of
removal and may require evidence relevant to the amount in
controversy at the time the case was removed.”
Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319
(11th Cir. 2001). “Where the pleadings are inadequate,
[this Court] may review the record to find evidence that
diversity jurisdiction exists.” Id. at 1320.
“Where both actual and punitive damages are recoverable
under a complaint each must be considered to the extent
claimed in determining jurisdictional amount.” Bell
v. Preferred Life Assur. Soc. of Montgomery, Ala., 320
U.S. 238, (1943) (emphasis added); see also Holley Equip.
Co. v. Credit Alliance Corp., 821 F.2d 1531, 1535 (11th
allegations in the complaint are devoid of “specific
facts on the amount in controversy.” Pretka v.
Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 752 (11th Cir.
2010). Kidd-Hicks's complaint avers that she suffered
severe injuries, but does not disclose the nature and extent
of those injuries. Therefore, Bellemere cannot meet the
preponderance standard by simply pointing to the language in
Kidd-Hicks's complaint because “severe”
injuries to one person could easily be only minor injuries to
Bellemere argues that Kidd-Hicks's claim is within this
Court's jurisdiction because Kidd-Hicks did not disclaim
any entitlement to more than $75, 000.00 in her motion to
remand. (Doc. 6 at 4-5.) Kidd-Hicks's failure to deny
that her claim will meet the jurisdictional amount in her
motion to remand does not support removal. See
Williams, 296 F.3d at 1316. Moreover, a conclusory
statement by Kidd-Hicks that her claims exceeded $75, 000
would also not be enough to establish jurisdiction because
parties cannot manufacture federal jurisdiction by consent or
agreement. See Mansfield, C. & L.M. Ry. Co. v.
Swan, 111 U.S. 379 (1884); Fitzgerald v.
Seaboard System R.R., Inc., 760 F.2d 1249, 1251
(11th Cir. 1985) (“it is axiomatic that federal
jurisdiction can never be created by the
only evidence that the amount in controversy requirement is
met are citations to Foremost Ins. Co. v Parham, 693
So.2d 409 (Ala. 1997) (fraud involving insurance coverage),
Liberty Nat'l life Ins. Co. v. McAllister, 675
So.2d 1292 (Ala. 1995) (fraud involving insurance coverage),
and Davis v. Carl Cannon Chevrolet-Olds, Inc., 182
F.3d 792 (11th Cir. 1999) (fraud). (Doc. 1.) Bellemere argues
that these cases suggest that the amount in controversy
requirement is met because punitive damage awards against out
of state corporations often exceed $75, 000. However, a
comparison of past punitive damage awards rendered against
out of state defendants alone is insufficient to establish an
amount in controversy, especially when the cases cited are
factually distinct. “Mere citation to what has happened
in the past” does not establish that a plaintiff's
claim meets the amount in controversy requirement. See
Federated Mutual Ins Co. v McKinnon Motors, LLC, 329
F.3d 805 (11th Cir. 2003).
the Court may make “reasonable inferences and
deductions” in order to determine if the judicial
amount has been met, no real evidence on which a deduction
can be made has been provided. S. Fla. Wellness, Inc. v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 745 F.3d 1312, 1315. Bellemere's
allegation that the amount in controversy requirement is met
because Kidd-Hicks alleges she suffered severe personal
injuries and requests punitive damages without ...