United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
Lisa Godbey Wood, Judge United States District Court
the Court is Plaintiff Pamela Walker's Motion to Remand,
dkt. no. 7. This Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe
for review. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's
Motion, dkt. no. 7, is DENIED.
case involves a slip and fall that occurred on or about
December 14, 2016, on Defendant's premises, a Wal-Mart
Supercenter. Dkt. No. 1-1 ¶ 6. On July 25, 2018,
Plaintiff filed a complaint for damages. Dkt. No. 1-1. The
original complaint did not request a specific, monetary
amount for damages. Id. On September 4, 2018,
Defendant served written discovery requests upon Plaintiff
for hospital records, bills, and related information. Dkt.
No. 11-1. On January 3, 2019, Plaintiff emailed a settlement
demand to Defendant. Dkt. No. 11-3. The email included a
settlement demand of $175, 000.00. Id. The only
additional information to support the settlement demand was
Plaintiff's counsel's statement that the offer was
"[b]ased upon medical special damages of over $53,
000.00, and in consideration for the unnecessary pain
suffered by my client." Id. On June 3, 2019,
Plaintiff provided supplemental discovery responses, as first
requested by Defendant on September 4, 2018. Dkt. No. 11-6.
Plaintiff's supplemental discovery documents included
medical bills that for the first time specifically detailed
the amount of Plaintiff's alleged damages. Id.
Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, filed a Notice of Removal
in the United States District Court for the Southern District
of Georgia on June 10, 2019. Dkt. No. 6. Plaintiff Pamela
Walker filed a Motion to Remand the case back to the State
Court of Coffee County on June 20, 2019. Dkt. No. 7.
U.S.C. § 1441 allows a defendant to remove a case to
federal court when federal jurisdiction is present. 28 U.S.C.
§ 144 6 states that "a notice of removal may be
filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through
service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading,
motion, order or other paper from which it may first be
ascertained that the case is one which is or has become
district court must have jurisdiction under at least one of
the three types of subject-matter jurisdiction: (1)
jurisdiction pursuant to a specific statutory grant; (2)
federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331; or (3) diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)." Butler v. Morgan, 562
Fed.Appx. 832, 834 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Baltin v.
Alaron Trading Corp., 128 F.3d 1466, 1469 (11th Cir.
1997)). "It is presumed that a cause lies outside this
limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the
contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction."
Id. (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, (1994)). In order for a
federal court to have diversity jurisdiction, two things must
be present: complete diversity of citizenship and an amount
in controversy exceeding $75, 000.00. See 28 U.S.C.
asserts that this case should be remanded back to state court
because of the email sent by Plaintiff on January 3, 2019,
demanding to settle the claim for $175, 000.00. Dkt. No.
11-3. Plaintiff contends that the $175, 000 settlement offer
constituted an "other paper," within the meaning of
28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), and established that the amount in
controversy requirement was over $75, 000. Therefore,
Plaintiff argues that the settlement demand email put
Defendant on notice that the case was
removable. See Federated Mut. Ins. Co. v.
McKinnon Motors, LLC, 329 F.3d 805, 807 (11th Cir.
2003). Thus, pursuant to U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3), Plaintiff
asserts that Defendant had thirty days from receiving the
settlement demand January 3, 2019, to remove this action to
federal court. Because Defendant did not remove this action
until June 10, 2018, Plaintiff argues that the case should be
argues that the removal of this action was timely. Defendant
claims that Plaintiff s supplemental discovery responses
received on June 3, 2019, which disclosed "actual
medical bills," constituted the first notice of the
requisite amount in controversy. Dkt. No. 11. Defendant thus
argues that it timely removed this action within thirty-day
of receiving the supplemental discovery responses, which
satisfies 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3). Defendant bases this
argument on the contention that the settlement demand email
"does not determine whether the amount in controversy
requirement has been satisfied." Dkt. No. 11 (quoting
Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1097 (11th
Cir. 1994)) .
U.S.C. § 1446(b) (3) states that "if the case
stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of
removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the
defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy, of an
amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it
may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has
become removable." In other words, a defendant must
remove a case within thirty days of receipt of a pleading,
motion, order, or other paper from which the defendant can
ascertain that the case is removable. See Lowery v. Ala.
Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1212-13 (11th Cir. 2007)
(stating that "regardless of the type of case, a
defendant must remove within thirty days of receiving the
document that provides the basis for removal.").
"Courts have not articulated a single test for
identifying 'other paper,' but numerous types of
documents have been held to qualify." Id.
Courts in the Eleventh Circuit have held that "a
settlement offer, by itself, does not determine whether the
amount in controversy requirement has been satisfied, but
'it counts for something.'" Cross v.
Wal-Mart Stores, East, LP, 2011 WL 976414, at *2 (M.D.
Ga. 2011) (quoting Burns v. Windsor, 31 F.3d 1092,
1097 (11th Cir. 1994)). Courts in this Circuit have not
established a clear rule on what "it counts for
something" means with regard to settlement offers;
rather, whether the settlement offer establishes an
amount-in-controversy depends on supporting evidence and the
validity of the offer. See Jackson v. Select Portfolio
Serv., Inc., 651 F.Supp.2d 1279, 1281 (S.D. Ala. 2009).
Unsurprisingly, courts have found that "[m]ore weight
should be given to a settlement demand if it is an
'honest assessment of damages.'" Cross v.
Wal-Mart Stores, E., LP, No. 7:11-CV-21 HL, 2011 WL
976414, at *2 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 17, 2011) (quoting Jackson
v. Am. Gen. Fin. Srvs., Inc., 2006 WL 839092, at *2 n.2
(M.D. Ga. Mar. 27, 2006)).
case, Plaintiff's settlement demand email is not
sufficient to establish the amount in controversy because it
does not qualify as an "other paper" under 28
U.S.C. § 1446(b). The demand email lacks the specificity
and honest assessment of damages necessary to be considered
an "other paper" that would have put Defendant on
notice that the case had become removable. As a result, the
thirty-day-removal window did not begin when Defendant
received the settlement email.
case of Golden Apple Management Co. v. Geac Computers,
Inc., 990 F.Supp. 1364, 1368 (M.D. Ala. 1998), is
instructive here. The court in Golden Apple found
that "settlement offers that provide 'specific
information ... to support [the plaintiff's] claim for
damages' suggest [that] the plaintiff is 'offering a
reasonable assessment of the value of [his] claim' and
are entitled to more weight" in determining if the
amount in controversy has been met. Jackson, 651
F.Supp.2d 1279, 1281 (S.D. Ala. 2009) (quoting Golden
Apple, 990 F.Supp. at 1368). The plaintiff in Golden
Apple supplied a demand letter outlining "separate
elements of hard damages, including software costs,
consultant costs and personnel costs." Golden
Apple, 990 F.Supp. at 1368. Therefore, the court held
that the demand letter did qualify as "other
paper," thereby putting the defendant on notice of the
case's removability. Id. at 1366.
the demand letter in Golden Apple, Plaintiff s
settlement demand did not outline specific facts or costs
proving why the medical special damages and consideration for
unnecessary pain equated to $175, 000.00. Instead,
Plaintiff's email demanded $175, 000 and based the demand
only in "medical special damages of over $53, 000.00,
and in consideration for the unnecessary pain suffered by my
client." Dkt. No. 11-3. This was not sufficient to
establish the minimum amount-in-controversy. See
Jackson, 651 F.Supp.2d 1279, 1281 (S.D. Ala. 2009)
(explaining that "[s]ettlement offers commonly reflect
puffing and posturing, and such a settlement offer is
entitled to little weight in measuring the preponderance of
the evidence"); see also Buckner v. Pennsylvania
Life Ins. Co., No. 4:09-CV-614-VEH, 2009 WL 10703163, at
*5 (N.D. Ala. May 14, 2009) (distinguishing Golden
Apple where the plaintiff ...