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Davis v. Ruston Louisiana Hospital Company, L.L.C.

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

December 18, 2017





         Before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the District Court, is a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) [doc. # 27] filed by defendant, Ruston Louisiana Hospital Company, LLC d/b/a Northern Louisiana Medical Center (“NLMC”)]. The motion is unopposed. For reasons stated below, it is recommended that the motion to dismiss be GRANTED, and that plaintiff's complaint be dismissed, without prejudice.


         On September 20, 2016, Taurus Davis filed the above-captioned matter in federal court against NLMC on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §1332. Plaintiff alleged that on August 26, 2015, while a guest at NLMC, an elevator door malfunctioned and repeatedly struck his body causing “serious and debilitating injuries.” (Compl., ¶ 6). Plaintiff prayed for special and general damages, including past, present and future lost earning capacity; past, present, and future physical pain and suffering; mental anguish; loss of enjoyment of life; and inconvenience. (Compl.; Prayer). He also alleged that his damages exceeded the statutory minimum for the exercise of diversity jurisdiction. (Compl.; ¶ 1).

         After twice requiring plaintiff to amend his complaint to properly allege the citizenship of NLMC, the court reviewed the amended pleadings and found that it enjoyed diversity jurisdiction. See doc. #s 9-16. Moreover, neither party anticipated any jurisdictional challenges to the court's subject matter jurisdiction. (Parties' Rule 26(f) Report [doc. # 8]).

         On November 22, 2017, however, NLMC filed the instant motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis that the amount in controversy does not exceed the jurisdictional minimum - $75, 000. Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion. Moreover, his deadline to do so has lapsed. See Notice of Motion Setting [doc. # 28]. Accordingly, the motion is deemed unopposed. Id.

         Law and Analysis

         It is axiomatic that federal courts are courts of “limited jurisdiction possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064(2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, “there is a presumption against subject matter jurisdiction that must be rebutted by the party bringing an action to federal court.” Coury v. Prot, 85 F.3d 244, 248 (5th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). In other words, the party seeking to invoke federal court jurisdiction bears the burden of demonstrating its existence. Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time. Giles v. Nylcare Health Plans, Inc., 172 F.3d 332, 336 (5th Cir. 1999). “A court can find that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking based on (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Enable Mississippi River Transmission, L.L.C. v. Nadel & Gussman, L.L.C., 844 F.3d 495, 497 (5th Cir.2016) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.” Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). Furthermore, a district court should dismiss where “it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove a plausible set of facts that establish subject-matter jurisdiction.” Venable v. Louisiana Workers' Comp. Corp., 740 F.3d 937 (5th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted).

         Plaintiff invoked this court's subject matter jurisdiction exclusively via diversity, which contemplates complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and an amount in controversy greater than $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The sole issue here is amount in controversy. As explained by the Supreme Court,

[t]he rule governing dismissal for want of jurisdiction in cases brought in the federal court is that, unless the law gives a different rule, the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently made in good faith. It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal. The inability of plaintiff to recover an amount adequate to give the court jurisdiction does not show his bad faith or oust the jurisdiction. Nor does the fact that the complaint discloses the existence of a valid defense to the claim. But if, from the face of the pleadings, it is apparent, to a legal certainty, that the plaintiff cannot recover the amount claimed or if, from the proofs, the court is satisfied to a like certainty that the plaintiff never was entitled to recover that amount, and that his claim was therefore colorable for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction, the suit will be dismissed. Events occurring subsequent to the institution of suit which reduce the amount recoverable below the statutory limit do not oust jurisdiction.

St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-90, 58 S.Ct. 586, 590-91 (1938).

         Applying the foregoing principles to the facts at hand, and in light of the lack of any opposition or argument to the contrary, the court finds that it is legally certain that plaintiff's claims did/do not exceed the jurisdictional minimum.

         In support of its motion, NLMC adduced evidence that, prior to suit, plaintiff had incurred but approximately $4, 000 in medical expenses. See Med. Records; M/Dismiss Exh. A, pgs. 61, 63. Moreover, as of the time of his interrogatory responses in April 17, 2017, plaintiff had suffered lost wages of no more than $31, 000. See Interr. Response No. 14; M/Dismiss, Exh. A (40 hrs./week x $9/hr. x 84 weeks). Although plaintiff continues to experience right knee pain that flares up several times per week, there is no indication that he underwent any surgical procedure for the condition or that surgery is contemplated in the future. See Pl. Depo. and Med. Records; M/Dismiss Exhs. A & B. Also, his back and neck pain resolved. (Pl. Depo., pg. 99). Case law ...

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