United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand (Doc. No. 4) (the “Motion”), which has
been fully briefed by the parties (Docs. Nos. 6, 7), and
Plaintiff's Request for this Court to Rule on the
Outstanding Motion (Doc. No. 9). For the reasons stated
below, the Motion is GRANTED, and this matter is remanded to
Mecklenburg County Civil Superior Division.
Complaint, originally filed in North Carolina Mecklenburg
County Superior Court (“Superior Court”), seeks
relief from a slip and fall that occurred while on
Defendant's premises. (Doc. No. 1-2, at 1). The Complaint
alleges three causes of action arising under state
law-negligence, premises liability, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Id. at 2-3.
Plaintiff's Complaint claims the amount sought
“exceeds twenty-five thousand dollars ($25, 000.00),
” including punitive damages. Id. at 4.
removed the matter to this Court, asserting jurisdiction
based on diversity of citizenship and an amount in
controversy that exceeds $75, 000, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). While Plaintiff does not dispute the parties
are diverse, Plaintiff has moved to remand this case back to
Superior Court on the grounds that the amount in controversy
is not satisfied. (Doc. No. 4-1, at 3).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
defendants have a statutory right to remove any civil action
brought in state court over which “the district courts
of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a); Davis v. N.C. Dep't of
Corr., 48 F.3d 134, 138 (4th Cir. 1995). To invoke
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1441(b), the matter in controversy must exceed $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and costs, and be “between
citizens of different states.” 28 U.S.C. §
because of inherent federalism concerns, federal courts
strictly construe removal jurisdiction. Mulcahey v.
Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir.
1994); see also Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v.
Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 109 (1941) (“Due regard for
the rightful independence of state governments . . . requires
that [federal courts] scrupulously confine their own
jurisdiction to the precise limits which the [removal]
statute has defined.”) (citations omitted).
Consequently, “[i]f federal jurisdiction is doubtful, a
remand is necessary.” Mulcahey, 29 F.3d at 151
(citing In re Bus. Men's Assur. Co. of America,
992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1993); Cheshire v. Coca-Cola
Bottling Affiliated, Inc., 758 F.Supp. 1098, 1102
(D.S.C. 1990)); accord Bartnikowski v. NVR, Inc.,
307 Fed.Appx. 730, 739 (4th Cir. 2009) (unpublished).
seeking removal to federal court has the burden establishing
federal subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Kokkonen
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of
Indiana, 298 U.S. 178, 183 (1936)). In cases where State
practice does not permit a demand by a plaintiff for a
specific sum-as is the case here-removal is only proper
“if the district court finds, by the preponderance of
the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds [the
$75, 000 threshold].” 28. U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B);
accord Francis v. Allstate Ins. Co., 709 F.3d 362,
367 (4th Cir. 2013). When conducting this inquiry, the court
may consider the claims alleged, evidence in the record or
submitted by the parties, the applicability of attorney's
fees, and potential punitive or trebling of damages. See
Francis, 709 F.3d at 369 (considering attorney's
fees when calculating the amount in controversy); R.L.
Jordan Oil Co. of N. Carolina v. Boardman Petroleum,
Inc., 23 Fed.Appx. 141, 145 (4th Cir. 2001) (unpublished)
(“When calculating the amount in controversy, the
district court should consider any special or punitive
damages, such as treble damages”); ECR Software
Corp. v. Zaldivar, No. 5:12CV0039-RLV-DCK, 2013 WL
1742676, at *8 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 23, 2013) (“In order to
satisfy the requirements of removal under 28 U.S.C. §
1446(c), Defendant was required to point to an allegation
within Plaintiff's well-pleaded Amended Complaint or make
the argument within the Notice of Removal.”). Further,
“[m]ere averments are not sufficient; the defendant
must produce some competent proof that the amount of
controversy requirement is satisfied.” Cargo
Logistics Servs., Corp. v. XTRA Lease, LLC, No.
3:12-CV-832-RJC-DSC, 2013 WL 1798344, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Apr.
29, 2013) (citations omitted).
contends this Court has jurisdiction because the parties are
diverse and the amount in controversy is satisfied; yet,
Defendant has failed to present meaningful arguments to
support this contention. Defendant's main argument is
because other cases have yielded settlements or trial awards
for significantly higher than $75, 000, this case's
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 as well. (Doc. No. 6,
at 3). Defendant does not, however, explain how
Defendant's cited cases are factually similar to the case
at hand or even allege the same causes of action. Similar
arguments have been addressed and rejected by this Court
Defendant cites cases involving similar claims and argues
that because those cases resulted in verdicts or settlements
in excess of $75, 000, [plaintiff's] damages could be
expected to exceed that amount as well. Courts may look to
verdicts and settlements in similar cases in making a
jurisdictional analysis. However, Defendant offers no
evidence that the damages in those cases were similar to
[plaintiff] in this case. Mere conjecture is insufficient to
meet Defendant's burden. Accordingly, diversity subject
matter jurisdiction does not exist and Plaintiffs' Motion
to Remand should be granted.
Cargo Logistics Servs. Corp. v. XTRA Lease, LLC, No.
3:12-CV-832-RJC-DSC, 2013 WL 789744, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Mar. 4,
2013), adopted by, No. 3:12-CV-832-RJC-DSC, 2013 WL 1798344
(W.D. N.C. Apr. 29, 2013) (citations omitted); see also
Matt, 2018 WL 3846310, at *3 (“In an attempt to
satisfy its burden, defendant speculates that the amount
exceeds $75, 000 simply because state law permits such award.
Defendant fails to provide any facts related to
plaintiff's allegations that support the existence of a
damages sum greater than $75, 000. Instead, defendant cites
two cases in which punitive damages were found to push the
amount in controversy over the jurisdictional threshold.
Defendant's reliance on these cases is
misguided.”). Likewise, this Court is not persuaded by
Defendant's argument regarding speculative damages.
further argues that in order to warrant a remand back to
Superior Court, Plaintiff must stipulate it will not seek
more than $75, 000, because “such a stipulation is the
only way in which the Defendant can be certain that the
jurisdictional limit of the federal court has not been
met.” (Doc. No. 6, at 2). However, Defendant has not
identified any applicable law that requires a plaintiff to
make such a stipulation, nor is the Court aware of any case
that holds such a stipulation is necessary. See, e.g.
Cargo Logistics, 2013 WL 789744, at *2 (finding
defendant “has failed to carry its burden of
establishing that the amount in controversy requirement was
met” without any stipulation from the plaintiff);
see also ...