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Southwest Feed and Farm Supply, Inc. v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

March 5, 2015

Southwest Feed and Farm Supply, Inc.
v.
Union Pacific Railroad Co.

ORDER

RICHARD T. HAIK, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is a Petition For Damages filed by plaintiff, Southwest Feed and Farm Supply, Inc., alleging damages resulting from the August 4, 2013 Union Pacific Railroad Company train derailment in Lawtell, Louisiana. R. 1. Plaintiff originally filed this action in the Twenty-seventh Judicial District Court, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. Defendant, Union Pacific Railroad Co., removed this action to this Court, contending that the parties are diverse in citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold of $75, 000.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, federal district courts have subject matter jurisdiction over civil actions in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs and the parties are citizens of different states. The person seeking to invoke federal court jurisdiction has the burden of proof of demonstrating, at the outset of the litigation, that the federal court has authority to hear the case. St. Paul Reinsurance So., Ltd. v. Greenburg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir. 1998). Therefore, a removing party bears the burden of showing that federal jurisdiction exists. Manguno v. Prudential Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002). The removing defendant must establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and the parties are diverse in citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Here, the Petition establishes that the parties are diverse in citizenship. Thus, in order to remain in federal court, "the removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000." Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 882 (5th Cir.2000).

Plaintiff alleges it is a commercial business in operation for several years on U.S. Highway 190 located at 2819 West Landry Opelousas, Louisiana and suffered damages from the "complete closure of U.S. Highway 190 for days" because of the train derailment and seeks recovery for "past, present and future loss of income, loss of profit, economic loss, including nuisance and loss of use and enjoyment of its property." R. 1-1, ¶¶ 3, 10. Plaintiff, however, fails to provide any quantification of its damages. Thus, the Petition does not provide any facts that would permit reasonable estimate of Plaintiff's actual damages to be calculated.

It is hardly apparent from the face of Plaintiff's Petition that his claims exceed $75, 000.00. The damages claimed are vaguely stated - amounting to customary categories of damages universally set forth in such actions - and, thus, provide the Court with little guidance as to the actual damages that Plaintiff incurred. "[R]emoval cannot be based simply upon conclusory allegations." Felton v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 324 F.3d 771, 774 (5th Cir.2003). The various damages stated in Plaintiff's Petition are too speculative to provide the Court the requisite degree of confidence that the Petition, standing alone, makes out a claim for more than $75, 000.00.

Thus, upon sua sponte review of Defendant's removal materials, the Court concludes that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Defendant has failed to establish that the amount in controversy in this matter likely exceeds $75, 000.00. Accordingly, as the Court is without subject matter jurisdiction to hear this suit,

IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court is to remand this action to the Twenty-seventh Judicial District Court, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.


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