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Mosley v. American Millennium Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 7, 2017

DEMONTEZ MOSLEY
v.
AMERICAN MILLENNIUM INSURANCE CO.,

         SECTION I

          ORDER AND REASONS

          LANCE M AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a motion[1] filed by Demontez Mosley to remand the above-captioned matter to Louisiana state court. Mosley also requests costs and fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         The Court concludes that American Insurance has not met its burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Therefore, the Court remands the case to the 21st Judicial District Court for the Parish of Tangipahoa, Louisiana. However, the Court denies Mosley's request for costs and fees.

         I.

         Demontez Mosley filed the present negligence action in Louisiana state court seeking damages arising from an automobile accident.[2] Mosley alleges that he was travelling behind a tractor-trailer operated by Rolando Tamez Casas when a tire tread detached from the tractor-trailer and struck Mosley's vehicle, causing Mosley to collide with a guardrail on the side of Interstate 12 in St. Tammany Parish.[3]Mosley alleges that the tracker-trailer was owned by Arizpe Transport & Logistics, LLC and insured by American Millennium Insurance Company (“American Millennium”).[4]

         After Mosley filed suit, American Millennium removed the case.[5] Mosley now seeks to have the matter remanded on the ground that the amount in controversy requirement is not satisfied.

         II.

         Jurisdictional facts supporting removal, including the amount in controversy, are judged at the time of removal. Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883 (5th Cir. 2000). To resolve disputes over the amount in controversy where a civil action has been removed from Louisiana state court, the Fifth Circuit has “established a clear analytical framework.” Id. at 882. Louisiana law prohibits plaintiffs from specifying the numerical value of their damages in their petitions for damages. La. C. Civ. P. art. 893. As such, “the removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Gebbia, 233 F.3d at 882 (citing Luckett v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 171 F.3d 295, 298 (5th Cir. 1999)).

         A removing defendant can meet this burden in two ways: “(1) by demonstrating that it was facially apparent from the allegations of the state court petition that the amount in controversy exceeded the $75, 000.00 jurisdictional threshold, or (2) by offering summary-judgment type evidence of the facts in controversy, which support a finding that the requisite amount was in controversy.” Bienemy v. Hertz Corp., No. 16-15413, 2016 WL 6994200, at *2 (E.D. La. Nov. 30, 2016) (Morgan, J.) (internal quotation marks omitted). “If the amount in controversy is not facially apparent from the allegations in the state court petition and, in fact, is ambiguous at the time of removal, the court may consider a post-removal affidavit or stipulation to assess the amount in controversy as of the date of removal.” Id. However, if “the amount in controversy is clear from the face of the state court petition, post-removal affidavits or stipulations that purport to reduce the amount of damages a plaintiff seeks cannot deprive the court of jurisdiction.” Id.

         Once the defendant has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the “plaintiff can defeat diversity jurisdiction only by showing to a legal certainty that the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000.” Grant v. Chevron Phillips Chem. Co., 309 F.3d 864, 869 (5th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Any doubts about the jurisdictional facts supporting removal “are to be construed against removal and in favor of remand to state court.” Riley v. Wal-Mart, La., No. 15-5729, 2015 WL 9268160, at *1 (E.D. La. Dec. 21, 2015) (Africk, J.).

         III.

         American Millennium argues that the jurisdictional amount is “facially apparent from the allegations of the state court petition.” Bienemy, 2016 WL 6994200, at *2. The Court disagrees and concludes that American Millennium has not met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

         The petition for damages that Mosley filed in Louisiana state court alleges that Mosley “suffered and continues to suffer with pain in his shoulder, neck and back, as well as injuries to his entire body which will be demonstrated at trial.”[6] As such, Mosley “seeks reasonable damages” for “[p]ast, present and future physical pain and suffering”; “[p]ast, present and future mental anguish and emotional pain”; “[p]ast, present and future medical expenses”; “[l]oss of the enjoyment of life (hedonic ...


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