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Williams v. Ace

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 19, 2017

DIANNE WILLIAMS, ET AL.
v.
ACE, ET AL.

         SECTION “L” (5).

          ORDER AND REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are Plaintiffs' motions to remand. Rec. Docs. 10, 15 & 21. The Court previously addressed this matter on April 12, 2017, holding the motions in abeyance pending limited discovery on the amount in controversy. Rec. Doc. 18. Plaintiffs have refiled another motion to remand, on similar grounds, to which the Defendants oppose. See Rec. Doc. 21; Rec Doc. 28. After reviewing the parties' briefs and the applicable law, the Court now issues this Order and Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 21, 2016, Plaintiffs Dianne Nunez Williams (“Dianne Willams”), individually and on behalf of her minor children, Kelvin Williams and Kevinika Williams, and Kevin Williams, Sr. on behalf of minors Kelvin and Kevinika Williams, brought this action against Defendants Shalen Pal (“Pal”), Swift Transportation Company, Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona (collectively, “Swift”), and Ace American Insurance Company (“Ace”) in the 29th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles. Rec. Doc. 1-1 at 1. Plaintiff Bernice Williams brought a separate but identical action on September 2, 2016, in the 29th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles. No. 17:177. Rec. Doc. 1-2.[1] The cases were consolidated under Docket No. 16-17762 on March 31, 2017. Rec. Doc. 14. The parties are completely diverse: Plaintiffs are domiciled in Louisiana, Pal is domiciled in Washington, Swift Transportation Company and Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona are domiciled in Arizona, and Ace is domiciled in Pennsylvania. Rec. Doc. 1 at 3-4. The amount of controversy is in dispute.

         On September 6, 2015, Dianne Williams operated a 2007 Kia Sorento traveling on I-310 northbound. Rec. Doc. 1-1 at 2. Kelvin Williams and Kevinika Williams were passengers in her vehicle. Id. at 2. Plaintiffs allege that Pal was operating a 2015 truck or tractor trailer in the course and scope of his employment with Swift when the Pal's vehicle struck and collided with Dianne Williams' vehicle on or near the I-310 ramps allowing access to I-10 eastbound and westbound. Id. Plaintiffs aver that Pal was insured by Ace. Id.

         Plaintiffs maintain that the collision was directly and proximately caused by Pal's negligent operation of a vehicle, failure to keep his vehicle under proper control, failure to see what he should have seen, negligent veering into Dianne Williams' lane, failure to a avoid a collision and actually colliding with the side and/or rear of Dianne Williams' vehicle. Id. at 3-4.

         Plaintiffs also claim that as a result of this collision they suffered severe physical pain and mental anguish and required extensive medical care and treatment. Id. at 5. Plaintiffs seek damages for past, present and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of life's pleasures, disabilities, medical, surgical, and miscellaneous expenses, wage loss and loss of earning capacity, court costs and expenses, and property damage, rental expenses, and loss of use of vehicle. Id.

         Plaintiffs aver that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies to the acts and omission by Pal that led to Plaintiffs' injuries. Id. at 4. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, Plaintiffs maintain that Swift Transportation Company and Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, are liable for the negligent acts and omissions of their employee, Pal. Id.

         Both Defendants Ace and Swift timely filed for removal to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. Rec. Doc. 1; No. 17:177, Rec. Doc. 1. Defendants filed the removal actions individually, noting that the state record reflects that no other parties had been served with the citation and a copy of the petition. Rec. Doc. 1 at 2-3; No.17:177, Rec. Doc. 1. Defendants maintain that this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because this is a civil action between citizens of different states, where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 and is therefore removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Rec. Doc. 1 at 3. Defendants aver that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 based on Plaintiffs' claims that they suffered “severe physical pain and keen mental anguish, ” required “extensive medical care and treatment, ” were “disabled in the pursuit of life's pleasures, ” and “may require medical care in the future.” Id. at 4. Plaintiffs also did not include a general allegation that their claims exceed or are less than the requisite amount to establish federal diversity jurisdiction, nor did they provide any situations or affidavits limiting any recovery. Id. at 4-5. Therefore, Defendants maintain that the federal amount in controversy requirement is met. Id. at 5.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Section 1441 (a) of Title 28 provides that a defendant may remove a civil action filed in state court if a federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the issue. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A federal court has jurisdiction of all civil actions between citizens of different states in which the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The removing party bears the burden of proving that a district court has jurisdiction over a matter. See Jernigan v. Ashland Oil Inc., 989 F.2d 812, 815 (5th Cir. 1993).

         Under Fifth Circuit precedent, the burden of a defendant removing based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332 to show that the amount in controversy is sufficient to support federal jurisdiction differs depending on whether the plaintiff's complaint alleges a specific amount of monetary damages, as this figure will generally control. See Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995). When a defendant is removing from a Louisiana state court, where the plaintiff is not permitted to plead a specific amount of money damages, the removing defendant is required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. Id.; see also De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1412 (5th Cir. 1995). The defendant does this by either showing that it is facially apparent that the plaintiff's claims exceed the jurisdictional amount or by setting forth the facts in dispute supporting a finding that the jurisdictional amount is satisfied. Allen, 63 F.3d at 1335.

         If the defendant meets its burden of showing the requisite amount in controversy, the plaintiff can defeat removal only by establishing with legal certainty that the claims are for less than $75, 000.00. De Aguilar, 47 F.3d at 1411-12. To prevent removal, plaintiffs may file a binding stipulation or affidavit in conjunction with their state court petition, but it must affirmatively renounce the right to accept a judgment in excess of $75, 000.00 in order to be binding. Id. at 1412; Crosby v. Lassen Canyon Nursery, Inc., No. CV-02-2721, 2003 WL ...


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