United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
JONATHAN SCHNEIDER, DEANNA REARY, and LANGDON CLAY, all individually, and on behalf of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CCC-BOONE, LLC, AND CAPSTONE PROPERTIES, LLC, Defendants.
RICHARD L. VOORHEES, District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Remand to Watauga County Superior Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), and for attorneys' fees and costs, filed on November 20, 2013. (Doc. 7.)
Plaintiffs Jonathan Schneider ("Schneider"), Deanna Reary ("Reary"), and Langdon Clay ("Clay") filed this suit individually and on behalf of those similarly situated in the General Court of Justice, Superior Division in Watauga County on September 20, 2013. (Doc. 7-1 at 1.) The Complaint seeks class-wide relief for damages allegedly suffered after entering lease agreements with Defendants CCC-Boone, LLC ("CCC-Boone") and Capstone Properties, LLC ("Capstone") for occupancy of newly constructed student housing units located in Boone, North Carolina. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants unlawfully charged an administrative fee of $200 in their lease agreements, and as a result, also violated North Carolina's Debt Collection Practices Act ( N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 75-70 et seq. ) and North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act ( N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 75-1 et seq. ). Plaintiffs also allege that they were overcharged rent for a variety of reasons and seek a reduction or discount in the amount of their rent as "rent abatement."
On October 21, 2013, Defendants filed their Notice of Removal to this Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1332. (Doc. 1 at 1.) Defendants argue:
This action is removable under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441(a) as the Federal District Court has original jurisdiction based upon the diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory minimum of $75, 000.00.
( Id. at ¶ 4.) In support of their claim for diversity, Defendants allege that Plaintiffs are citizens and residents of Watauga County, North Carolina, that CCC-Boone is a Delaware company with its principal place of business in New York, and that Capstone is an Alabama company with its principal place of business in Alabama. ( Id. at 2, ¶¶ 5-7.) Defendants allege no additional facts in support of their initial claim that the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory minimum.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
"The subject matter jurisdiction of federal courts is limited and the federal courts may exercise only that jurisdiction which Congress has prescribed." Chris v. Tenet, 221 F.3d 648, 655 (4th Cir. 2000)(citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673 (1994)). It is presumed that a cause of action is outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts "and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party [seeking removal]." Kokkonen at 377, 1675.
Where "jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand to state court is necessary" because of the "significant federalism concerns implicated." Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 816 (4th Cir. 2004)(quotations and citations omitted.)
a. Diversity Jurisdiction
Defendants claim original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) in their notice of removal. Section 1332(a) provides jurisdiction in "all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between" citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
The amount in controversy requirement is determined by the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading or by a district court finding, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B). Where multiple plaintiffs have brought an action, the amount claimed by each plaintiff can be aggregated to meet the amount in controversy requirement only where the plaintiffs have united "to enforce a single title or right, in which they have a common and undivided interest." Troy Bank of Troy, Ind., v. G.A. Whitehead & Co., 222 U.S. 39, 40-41, 32 S.Ct. 9 (1911). Otherwise, where plaintiffs have united "for convenience and economy in a single unit" and "have separate and distinct demands, " id., the amount ...