United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
SUZANNE C. DIXON and JERRY CARROLL, Plaintiffs,
WHATLEY OIL & AUTO PARTS CO. and CHEVRON USA, INC., Defendants.
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
a premises liability personal injury case. Suzanne C. Dixon
and Jerry Carroll, who are proceeding pro se, allege that
Chevron USA, Inc. and Whatley Oil & Auto Parts Co.
operate a Zelmo's Zip-In self-serve gasoline station in
Phenix City, Alabama. Plaintiffs assert that Dixon slipped
and fell at the gas station and was injured. Plaintiffs filed
this action in the State Court of Muscogee County. Chevron
removed the action to this Court, and Whatley consented to
the removal. Plaintiffs previously filed a motion to remand,
which the Court denied because although it was not clear that
the amount in controversy requirement was met, it was also
not clear that the jurisdictional requirement was not
satisfied. Dixon v. Whatley Oil & Auto Parts
Co., No. 4:18-CV-141 (CDL), 2018 WL 4275924, at *3 (M.D.
Ga. Sept. 7, 2018). The Court permitted the parties to
develop the record on the amount in controversy, and
Plaintiffs filed a renewed motion to remand, arguing that the
amount in controversy is only $72, 284.00 “at this
point” and that Plaintiffs' injuries “merit
an award of at least $72, 284.00.”Pl.'s Renewed
Mot. to Remand 3, ECF No. 41. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court is satisfied that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.00. Plaintiffs' renewed motion to remand
(ECF No. 41) is denied.
are Alabama citizens. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1-1. Whatley
is a Georgia corporation with its principal place of business
in Georgia, and it operates the gas station in Phenix City,
Alabama where Dixon fell. Id. ¶ 2. Chevron is a
Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business
in California. Id. ¶ 2.
is an elderly lady who went to the Zelmo's gas station in
Phenix City to fill up her car. She slipped and fell when she
tried to enter the store to get her receipt. Id.
¶¶ 6, 8. She “suffered trauma and hematoma
requiring at least four staples to close the head
injury.” Id. ¶ 7. Dixon “has lost
control of a number of bodily functions consistent with the
area of the brain affected, ” and her health has
declined consistent with the degenerative brain disease CTE
(chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Id. Plaintiffs
assert that if Defendants had exercised reasonable care in
maintaining the premises, Dixon would not have fallen and
suffered significant injuries. Id.
did not seek a specific amount of damages in their Complaint,
although they alleged that Dixon incurred and will continue
to incur medical bills, that she experienced and continues to
experience pain and suffering and mental anguish, and that
she suffered injuries that render her unable to attend to her
normal affairs. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiffs also
asserted that the home where Dixon resides needs disability
modifications to accommodate her. Id. at 16-17
¶ F. And, Plaintiffs allege that both Dixon and Carroll
lost wages as a result of Dixon's injuries and that they
are entitled to punitive damages.
the Court denied Plaintiffs' initial motion to remand,
Plaintiffs asserted that the total amount needed to reimburse
Dixon's medical providers and purchase equipment to
accommodate Dixon's disabilities caused by her fall was
$73, 998.97. Pl.'s Reply Br. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot.
for Summ. J. 9-10, ECF No. 31. In their renewed motion to
remand, Plaintiffs reduced that amount to $72, 284.00 because
the cost of one of the necessary accommodations decreased.
Pl.'s Renewed Mot. to Remand 1, ECF No. 41.
defendant may remove a state court action to federal court if
the action could have been filed originally in federal court.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The removing defendant
has the burden to prove jurisdiction. Williams v. Best
Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001).
Defendants contend that this action could have been filed
originally in this Court based on diversity jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Court has original jurisdiction over a civil action if it is
between citizens of different States and the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
Here, Plaintiffs are citizens of Alabama. Neither Defendant
is an Alabama citizen. A corporation is “a citizen of
every State . . . by which it has been incorporated and of
the State . . . where it has its principal place of business.
28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). Chevron is a Pennsylvania
corporation with its principal place of business in
California. Whatley is a Georgia corporation with its
principal place of business in Georgia. Plaintiffs appear to
believe that Whatley should be considered an Alabama citizen
because it owns a gas station in Alabama, but simply
operating a store in Alabama does not make Whatley an Alabama
citizen. There is complete diversity among the parties.
determining whether the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000.00, the Court may make “reasonable deductions,
reasonable inferences, or other reasonable
extrapolations” from the pleadings and other evidence
to determine whether the amount in controversy is met.
Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744,
754 (11th Cir. 2010). The Court “need not
‘suspend reality or shelve common sense in determining
whether'” the amount in controversy is met. Roe
v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1062 (11th Cir.
2010) (quoting Pretka, 608 F.3d at 770). Here,
Plaintiffs seek more than $72, 000.00 in out-of-pocket
expenses for medical bills and disability accommodations that
they claim were incurred because of Dixon's fall at the
Zelmo's Zip-In. This amount does not include other items
of damage that Plaintiffs claimed in their Complaint,
including future medical expenses, pain and suffering and
mental anguish, lost wages, and punitive damages. Given that
Plaintiffs assert that they incurred more than $72, 000.00 in
out-of-pocket expenses and that they claim Dixon suffered a
serious head injury, is permanently disfigured, and is now
unable to attend to her normal affairs, it is certainly
reasonable to conclude that the total amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.00. Thus, the Court is satisfied that the
amount in controversy requirement is met in this case.
reasons set forth above, the Court is satisfied that
Defendants met their burden of establishing that federal
jurisdiction exists. Accordingly, ...