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Peterson v. Envoy Air, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 7, 2015

ALAN PETERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ENVOY AIR, INC., formerly known as American Eagle Airlines, Inc.; AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC.; and AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP, INC., Defendants.

ORDER

LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion to remand this matter to the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, Wake County, North Carolina ("Wake County Superior Court"), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). (DE 14). The issues raised have been briefed fully, and in this posture are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion is granted and the case is remanded to Wake County Superior Court.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, formerly employed with Skytanking USA, Inc. ("Skytanking") for the purpose of fueling airplanes at Raleigh-Durham International Airport ("RDU"), filed complaint against defendants Envoy Air, Inc.; American Airlines, Inc.; and American Airlines Group, Inc., in Wake County Superior Court on January 7, 2015. Defendants were served with process on January 9, 2015.

Plaintiff alleges that on February 23, 2014, he was standing outside a Skytanking fuel truck parked in the "ramp area" near RDU's gate 23, leaning against the passenger door of the truck for support. An employee of one or more defendants was driving a motorized vehicle, used to transport airline passengers' baggage, through the ramp area in violation of RDU policy. The motorized vehicle collided with the fuel truck, causing the truck to lurch forward. It is alleged that the sudden motion injured plaintiff's left hip and leg.

Plaintiff complains that defendants negligently failed to train the driver. In addition, plaintiff contends defendants are liable for the driver's negligence through the doctrine of respondeat superior. Plaintiff prays for damages "in excess of $10, 000, " alleging he has suffered a loss of income, diminished earning capacity, temporary and permanent injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of quality of life.

On February 6, 2015, defendants filed notice of removal in this court. (DE 1). On February 18, 2015, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand. It is undisputed that no federal question exists in this case. It is further undisputed that the parties are diverse, where plaintiff is domiciled in North Carolina and defendants all are incorporated in Delaware with their principal places of business in Texas. However, in his motion to remand, plaintiff argues that this court lacks diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, because his damages will not exceed $75, 000.

COURT'S DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

A civil action which is brought in state court, but over which the federal courts have original jurisdiction, may be removed by a defendant to the district court embracing the place where the action is pending. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). To properly remove a case, the defendant must file a notice of removal in the district court within thirty 30 days of receipt of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief in the action. Id . § 1446(b). The defendant must also file a copy of the notice of removal in state court. Id . § 1446(d). At any time prior to final judgment, plaintiff may move to remand the case on the basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id . § 1447(c).

"Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, [federal courts] must strictly construe removal jurisdiction. If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is necessary." Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted). This presumption against removal jurisdiction places the "burden of establishing federal jurisdiction... upon the party seeking removal." Id.

B. Analysis

This court has original jurisdiction where the parties are diverse and the "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs." 28 U.S.C. § 1322(a). Where removal of a civil action is sought on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, as here, "the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed to be the amount in controversy, except that the notice of removal may assert the amount in controversy if the initial pleading seeks (i) nonmonetary relief; or (ii) a money judgment, but the State practice either does not permit demand for a specific sum or permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount demanded...." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2). If a complaint does not allege a specific amount of damages, the removing defendant must prove "by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds [$75, 000]." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B); accord Francis v. Allstate Ins. Co., 709 F.3d 362, 367 (4th Cir. 2013).

North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that the complaint "shall not state a [specific] demand for monetary relief." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 8(a)(2). In compliance with that rule, plaintiff asserts only that he has suffered damages "in excess of $10, 000." (Compl., DE 1-1, at 6); see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 8(a)(2). Therefore, defendants bear the burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of the ...


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