United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
GLORIA Y. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
FLOCO FOODS, INC. d/b/a KJ'S MARKET IGA, Defendant.
RANDAL HALL, CHIFE JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's amended motion to
remand.(Doc. 5.) Plaintiff contends the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction because her claims do not
satisfy the amount in controversy requirement for diversity
jurisdiction. Plaintiff further requests attorney's fees
and costs incurred remanding this matter. For the following
reasons, Plaintiff's motion to remand is GRANTED
IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
filed the present action in the Civil Court of Richmond
County, Georgia,  on June 1, 2018, seeking damages for
alleged injuries suffered in Defendant's store. (Compl.,
Doc. 1-1.) The complaint does not enumerate a specific amount
of damages other than special damages exceeding $9, 578.63.
(Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff is a citizen of Georgia,
and Defendant is a citizen of South Carolina. (Id.
¶ 2; Notice of Removal, Doc. 1, at 1-2.)
26, 2018, Defendant filed its notice of removal to this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. (Notice of
Removal.) In the notice, Defendant contends the Parties are
diverse, and the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory
requirement of $75, 000.00. (Id at 2-3.) On July 30,
2018, Plaintiff filed the present motion arguing the case
should be remanded for want of amount in controversy. (Am.
Mot. to Remand, Doc. 5.) Plaintiff additionally requests
attorney's fees and costs associated with the present
motion. (Id. at 3.)
Motion to Remand
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is
not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)
(internal citations omitted) . As such, a defendant may only
remove an action from state court if the federal court would
possess original jurisdiction over the subject matter. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). The district court may exercise
original jurisdiction where the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000.00, and the suit is between citizens of different
states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The only question
presented is whether the amount in controversy is satisfied.
principle is well established that the party seeking removal
bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is proper
at the time the petition for removal is filed.
Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 73 (1996);
Conn. State Dental Ass'n v. Anthem Health Plans,
Inc., 591 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2009). The weight
of this burden, however, "varies based on the
allegations in the state court complaint." Gen. Pump
& Well, Inc. v. Matrix Drilling Prods. Co., No.
CV608-045, 2009 WL 812340, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 26, 2009).
"Where, as here, the plaintiff has not pled a specific
amount of damages, the removing defendant must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional requirement." Williams v.
Best Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1320 (11th Cir. 2001).
"Defendant's right to remove and plaintiff's
right to choose his forum are not on equal footing; . . .
removal statutes are construed narrowly; where plaintiff and
defendant clash about jurisdiction, uncertainties are
resolved in favor of remand." Burns v. Windsor
Ins., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994).
Defendant fails to meet its burden. Defendant's timely
notice of removal cites the lack of specific damages in the
complaint and Plaintiff s refusal to stipulate to damages as
justification for removal. (Notice of Removal, at 2-3.)
However, the Eleventh Circuit has determined, "There are
several reasons why a plaintiff would not so stipulate, and a
refusal to stipulate standing alone does not satisfy
[defendant's] burden of proof on the jurisdictional
issue." Williams, 269 F.3d at 1320. Defendant
offers no evidence of amount in controversy in the form of
written discovery, affidavits or declarations, deposition
testimony, or exhibits. Instead, Defendant addresses removal
in conclusory fashion and incorrectly shifts the burden to
Plaintiff:" [A] reasonable interpretation of the
allegations in the pleadings, coupled with the lack of a
damage limitation in Plaintiff's Prayer for Relief and
refusal to stipulate her damages, is that the matter in
controversy between Plaintiff and Defendant" exceeds
$75, 000.00. (Notice of Removal, at 2.)
further attempt to support removal, Defendant argues that the
Civil Court of Richmond County was not the proper state court
venue. As a result, the Court should ignore the Civil Court
of Richmond County's jurisdictional ceiling of $45,
000.00 in its analysis. (Def.'s Resp. in Opp'n to
PL's Mot. to Remand, at 2.) Defendant's retort,
however, does not assist it in meeting the preponderance
standard. If Defendant's argument was sufficient
to meet the preponderance of the evidence burden for removal,
nearly every case between diverse parties could be removed to
short, the only certain amount of alleged damages is $9,
578.63. Although other damages are implicated in this action,
the Court is not persuaded the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000.00. Accordingly, there is no federal jurisdiction,
and the case must be remanded.
claims that she is entitled to attorney's fees and costs
incurred in obtaining the remand of the case pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c): "An order remanding the case may
require payment of just costs and any actual expenses,
including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the
removal." Although attorney's fees are left to the
district court's discretion, "[a]bsent unusual
circumstances, courts may award attorney's fees under
§ 1447(c) only where the removing party lacked an
objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal."
Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 141
(2005). The purpose of the reasonableness standard is to
balance "the desire to deter removals sought for the
purpose of prolonging litigation and imposing costs on the
opposing party, while not undermining Congress' basic