United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northwestern Division
LEONARD C. REEDER, Plaintiff,
NPC INTERNATIONAL, INC., D/B/A PIZZA HUT, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand. (Doc. 10). Plaintiff Leonard Reeder filed this
premise liability lawsuit against Defendant NPC
International, Inc. (“NPC”) in the Circuit Court
of Colbert County, Alabama. NPC filed a Notice of Removal to
this court on August 6, 2018, asserting diversity
jurisdiction. (Doc. 1). Mr. Reeder filed a motion to remand
back to state court on August 14, asserting NPC failed to
establish damages exceeding $75, 000, the requisite
amount-in-controversy for federal diversity jurisdiction.
(Doc. 10). Then, this court ordered NPC to show cause why
remand was not appropriate for failure to establish damages
exceeding $75, 000. For the reasons stated below, this court
concludes that Defendant NPC has not met its burden of
establishing an amount-in-controversy in excess of $75, 000.
Thus, this court GRANTS Plaintiff Reeder's Motion to
Remand and REMANDS this case back to the Circuit Court of
Colbert County, Alabama.
Reeder alleges that he visited NPC's Pizza Hut restaurant
in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and tripped over a damaged floor
mat on the premises and fell, striking a door and catching
his arm in the door. Mr. Reeder has produced medical bills he
alleges are related to the injury in the amount of $2, 921
but has not otherwise alleged any specific amount in damages.
Mr. Reeder brings this action under both a negligence theory
and a wantonness theory, requesting relief to the full extent
allowed under Alabama law for both.
Standard of Review
Consistent with the limited nature of federal jurisdiction,
the party seeking a federal venue must establish federal
jurisdictional requirements. See Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). In the removal
context, the removing defendant must establish the
court's jurisdiction. Miedema v. Maytag Corp.,
450 F.3d 1322, 1328 (11th Cir. 2006). When the plaintiff has
not specified the amount of damages in the complaint, the
removing defendant must establish the jurisdictional amount
by a preponderance of the evidence. See Dart Cherokee
Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554
removed this case on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Mr.
Reeder concedes complete diversity, so the sole question
before the court is whether the value of Mr. Reeder's
claims exceeds $75, 000, the jurisdictional threshold under
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
determining amount in controversy for jurisdictional
purposes, the court may not “engage in impermissible
speculation.” Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483
F.3d 1184, 1220 (11th Cir. 2007). But, where the pleadings
are bare, applying the preponderance of evidence burden
meaningfully can be especially difficult. Id., at
1212. Nevertheless, courts may use “judicial experience
and common sense” to determine if a plaintiff's
unspecified damages could plausibly satisfy the
jurisdictional amount, keeping in mind the defendant's
burden. See Roe v. Michelin North Am., Inc., 613
F.3d 1058, 1064 (11th Cir. 2010).
only specified amount of damages is a $2, 921 medical bill,
an amount well short of the jurisdictional requirement.
(See Doc. 15, at 7). Beyond that, Plaintiff Reeder
has requested an unspecified amount for serious bodily
injuries, consequential and incidental damages, and past and
continuing medical expenses. Mr. Reeder's also seeks
exemplary damages for his wantonness claim.
support of its motion, Defendant NPC notes Mr. Reeder's
claim of wantonness and request for exemplary damages. (Doc.
15, at ¶ 7). NPC cites Roe v. Michelin North Am.,
Inc. to support its position that wantonness claims
involve “a high degree of culpability, making the need
for punishment and deterrence all the more exigent.”
637 F.Supp.2d 995, 998. (M.D. Ala. 2009). However, the claim
in Roe was for wrongful death, as compared to Mr.
Reeder's claim, which is pursuant to his allegedly
tripping and falling on an allegedly damaged floor mat at
NPC's premises. See Id. Thus, the Roe
court's analysis is unpersuasive in determining the value
of Mr. Reeder's wantonness claim.
court acknowledges this case is a close call, but Defendant
bears the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that Plaintiffs claim is worth more than $75, 000. Pursuant
to judicial experience and common sense, this court concludes
Defendant failed to meet its burden.
reasons discussed above, this court GRANTS Plaintiffs Motion
to Remand and REMANDS this case to the ...