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Dunomes v. Trinity Marine Products, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 19, 2014



JOSEPH C. WILKINSON, Jr, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, William Ray Dunomes, originally filed this action against his employer, Trinity Marine Products, Inc., in the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana. Plaintiff's one-page petition asserts that he and Trinity are Louisiana residents. He alleges that his privacy was invaded on two separate occasions by Trinity supervisors who looked over the top of a bathroom stall while he was seated on the commode and that Trinity publicized the incidents, causing him public embarrassment. Dunomes seeks general damages. However, in accordance with Louisiana law, his petition does not specify any amount of damages. He prays for trial by jury, "should the amount in controversy so warrant." Petition for Invasion of Privacy, Record Doc. No. 1-1.

Trinity removed the petition to this court based exclusively on diversity jurisdiction. Defendant states in its notice of removal that it is a citizen of Delaware and Texas. It alleges that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold of $75, 000 because plaintiff's prayer for general damages probably includes, but is not limited to, "injuries to character or reputation, mental or physical pain and suffering and other losses of lifestyle or enjoyment which cannot be easily quantified." Notice of Removal, Record Doc. No. 1 at p. 4. Dunomes did not move to remand the action to state court.

This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings and entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) upon written consent of all parties. Record Doc. No. 9. At the preliminary conference, I ordered Trinity to

file a memorandum establishing (a) diverse citizenship, (b) jurisdictional amount, which appears insufficient on the face of the petition, and (c) why an award of costs, expenses and attorneys fees should not be made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) if the court remands this case to state court. Plaintiff's counsel stated during the conference that he does not want an opportunity to file a reply memorandum.

Record Doc. No. 13 at pp. 1-2. Defendant filed a timely Memorandum in Support of Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction, supported only by plaintiff's petition. Record Doc. No. 14. Dunomes did not file a reply.

Having considered the petition, the record, the arguments of defendant and the applicable law, and for the following reasons, I find that Trinity has not carried its burden to show that plaintiff's petition seeks more than $75, 000 in damages, as required for diversity jurisdiction. Trinity has not asserted and the petition does not reveal any other basis for federal jurisdiction. Accordingly, this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the action must be remanded to state court.

Civil actions originally filed in state court may be removed to a federal court that would have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Actions are removable based on diversity jurisdiction when 28 U.S.C.§ 1332(a) is satisfied, which requires (1) complete diversity of citizenship among all properly joined parties and (2) an amount in controversy (exclusive of interest and costs) that exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b).

"Federal 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." The court "must presume that a suit lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking the federal forum." In an action that has been removed to federal court, a district court is required to remand the case to state court if, at any time before final judgment, it determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

Bourne v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 582 F.Supp.2d 828, 832 (E.D. Tex. 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Grp., L.P. , 541 U.S. 567, 571 (2004)) (additional citations omitted) (quoting Rasul v. Bush , 542 U.S. 466, 489 (2004); Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co. , 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001)) (internal quotations omitted).

The court must examine its jurisdiction whenever jurisdiction appears doubtful. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 671 (2009). "Federal courts must raise and decide jurisdictional questions that the parties either overlook or elect not to press.'" A.I.M. Controls, L.L.C. v. Comm'r , 672 F.3d 390, 392 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki, 562 U.S. 428, 131 S.Ct. 1197, 1202 (2011)).

Trinity asserts in its removal notice and court-ordered memorandum that it is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas, making it a citizen of those two states for diversity purposes. Trinity's business records filings with the Louisiana Secretary of State confirm that its domicile address is in Delaware and its principal business office is in Texas.[1] Thus, Trinity is completely diverse from Dunomes, who is a citizen of Louisiana.

To establish diversity jurisdiction, the petition must also assert an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000. Plaintiff's failure to seek remand or to oppose Trinity's jurisdictional memorandum cannot establish this element of jurisdiction.

Although plaintiff has not objected to removal on this basis, "a party may neither consent to nor waive federal subject matter jurisdiction." "The removing party bears the burden of showing that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper." To determine whether jurisdiction exists, courts must consider the claim or claims as they existed at the time of removal. "Any ambiguities are ...

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