United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Russ Walker, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion to
remand and amend her complaint, Doc. 5, and defendants'
motion to substitute Exhibit C to its notice of removal. This
case was initially assigned to the undersigned as presiding
judge, and the parties subsequently consented in writing to
the exercise of final dispositive jurisdiction by the
magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73(a). Doc. 15; Doc. 16. The
motion to remand and motion to substitute exhibit have been
briefed and taken under submission without oral argument. For
the reasons stated herein, the defendants' motion to
substitute exhibit is due to be GRANTED, and plaintiff's
motion to remand is also due to be GRANTED.
BACKGROUND AND FACTS 
initiated this suit on November 2, 2017 by filing a complaint
in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Alabama. Doc.
1-1. Plaintiff was involved in a vehicle collision with a
truck operated by defendant Rodney Bennett during the course
of his employment with defendant Corporate Transportation
(collectively “defendants”). Id.
Plaintiff's complaint alleges that, as a result of
Bennett's negligence, recklessness and wantonness, and as
a result of Corporate Transportation's negligent and
wanton entrustment, and negligent training, retention, and
supervision, plaintiff suffered substantial injuries.
Id. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages as well as
court costs and attorney fees, but her complaint does not
specify the amount of damages she intends to claim.
plaintiff filed her complaint, plaintiff also served the
complaint and summons, interrogatories, and discovery
requests on both defendants. See Doc. 1-2 at 14-44.
These documents were delivered to defendant Corporate
Transportation on November 6, 2017. Id. at 78.
However, attempts to serve defendant Bennett were
unsuccessful. See Id. at 79-81. Corporate
Transportation filed its answer to plaintiff's complaint
on March 19, 2018, id. at 45-54, along with a motion
for a qualified protective order, id. at 55-57,
notice of deposition, id. at 60-61, discovery
request, id. at 62-69, and interrogatories,
id. at 70-77. Defendants filed their notice of
removal, which is premised on diversity jurisdiction, on
April 3, 2018. Doc. 1 at 1.
to the defendants, their notice of removal is timely because
defendant Bennett has not been served the original summons
and complaint, and because Corporate Transportation consents
to such removal. Id. at 3. Defendants allege
complete diversity of parties, and state that, based on
plaintiff's incurred medical expenses, totaling $10,
647.69 as of September 8, 2017, anticipated future medical
expenses, damages for mental anguish, damages for pain and
suffering, and punitive damages, that it is reasonable to
conclude that the damages will exceed the jurisdictional
threshold of $75, 000. Id. at 2-3.
motion to remand does not dispute the timeliness of
defendants' removal or diversity of the parties. Doc. 5.
Plaintiff argues that the case is due to be remanded because
the amount in controversy requirement has not been met.
Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff maintains that defendants
failed to provide evidence to this court that the amount in
controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum and that
defendants' pre-suit offer of $2, 500 demonstrates that
defendants “clearly value [the] case below the $75, 000
threshold.” Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Further,
plaintiff seeks leave to amend its state court complaint to
restrict damages sought to $74, 999. Id. ¶ 5;
Doc. 5-2 ¶ 42.
argue, in response to plaintiff's motion to remand and
amend its complaint, that on three separate occasions,
plaintiff's counsel provided estimates of plaintiff's
claim that were in excess of the jurisdictional threshold.
Doc. 13 at 5. Defendants further argue that the
plaintiff's pre-removal settlement demands, negotiations,
and accompanying documentation support the inference that
plaintiff's counsel attempted to make a reasonable
valuation of plaintiff's claims, and that the
plaintiff's own valuations are entitled to great weight
in determining the amount in controversy. Id. at
5-6. In support of their notice of removal, defendants submit
evidence of Corporate Transportation's insurance policy
declarations, emails detailing plaintiff's pre-suit
demand of $147, 500, and an affidavit by a claims
representative of Corporate Transportations insurance carrier
which states that on March 28, 2018, plaintiff's attorney
indicated that plaintiff would be unwilling to settle for
less than “six figures.” Doc. 12. Defendants also
submit a motion to substitute an exhibit to the notice of
removal, which includes an accident report and
plaintiff's medical bills and record, along with
plaintiff's pre-suit settlement demand letter. Doc. 11-1.
is by now axiomatic that the inferior courts are courts of
limited jurisdiction. They are ‘empowered to hear only
those cases within the judicial power of the United States as
defined by Article III of the Constitution,' and which
have been entrusted to them by a jurisdictional grant
authorized by Congress.” Griffith v. Wal-Mart
Stores East, L.P., 884 F.Supp.2d 1218, 1221 (N.D. Ala.
2012) (citing Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co.,
168 F.3d 405, 409 (11th Cir. 1999)). “[B]ecause removal
jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, federal
courts are directed to construe removal statutes
strictly.” Id. (citing Univ. of S.
Ala., 168 F.3d at 411).
removing party has the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction. Griffith, 884 F.Supp.2d at 1221.
“[B]ecause the jurisdiction of federal courts is
limited, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals favors remand
of cases that have been removed where federal jurisdiction is
not absolutely clear.” Id. (quoting
Lowe's OK'd Used Cars, Inc. v. Acceptance Ins.
Co., 995 F.Supp. 1388, 1389 (M.D. Ala. 1998)). “In
fact, removal statutes are to be strictly construed, with all
doubts resolved in favor of remand.” Id.
(quoting Lowe's, 995 F.Supp. at 1389).
considering a motion to remand, a district court “has
before it only the limited universe of evidence available
when the motion to remand is filed - i.e., the notice of
removal and accompanying documents, ” and “[i]f
that evidence is insufficient to establish that removal was
proper or that jurisdiction was present, neither the
defendants nor the court may speculate in an attempt to make
up for the notice's failings.” Lowery v. Ala.
Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1214-15 (11th Cir. 2007).
However, “a defendant may add post-removal
evidence of jurisdiction to the record when that evidence is
otherwise admissible.” Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza
II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 773 (11th Cir. 2010)
(considering evidence establishing the amount in controversy
requirement (citing Lowery, 483 F.3d at 1218-21)).
See also Travaglio v. Am. Express Co., 735 F.3d
1266, 1269 (11th Cir. 2013) (“we need not vacate a
decision on the merits if the evidence submitted during the
course of the proceedings cures any jurisdictional pleading
deficiency by convincing us of the parties'
citizenship” (considering evidence establishing
diversity of citizenship)); Sierminski v. Transouth Fin.
Corp., 216 F.3d 945, 949 (11th Cir. 2000) (“[w]e
align ourselves with our sister circuits in adopting a more
flexible approach, allowing the district court when ...