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Lauderdale v. Caballero

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 21, 2017

SHELBY LAUDERDALE, ET AL.
v.
JOE CABELLERO, ET AL.

          SECTION "F"

          Before the Court is the plaintiffs' motion to remand. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Background

         This litigation arises out of an accident in which a Volvo sleeper box truck allegedly struck a Hyundai Sonata, injuring the Sonata's driver and three passengers.

         On May 2, 2016, Shelby Lauderdale was driving his 2005 Hyundai Sonata westbound on Highway 90 in the center lane with Madonna Rogers, Katrice Drawsand, and Derrick Drawsand riding as passengers. Jose Caballero was driving a 2016 Volvo sleeper box truck westbound on I-10 in the lane adjacent to Lauderdale's Sonata. When Mr. Caballero tried to switch lanes, the truck he was driving struck Lauderdale's car. As a result of the collision, Lauderdale and each of his passengers alleges that they suffered injuries: Lauderdale alleges that he suffered cervical strains and aggravation of pre-existing herniated lumbar discs; Rogers alleges that she suffered cervical strains and a herniated lumbar disc; Katrice Drawsand alleges that she sustained a lumber strain and a cervical strain; and Derrick Drawsand alleges that he suffered cervical strains, lumbar strains, and shoulder strain.

         Alleging that Mr. Caballero's negligence in operating the truck caused these injuries to Lauderdale and his passengers, Lauderdale, Rogers, and the Drawsands sued Caballero, along with his employer, Atlanta Meat Company, and Westfield Insurance Company in state court.[1] The plaintiffs allege in the state court petition that they are entitled to recover past, present, and future medicine, drugs, hospitalization, medical care, support care, lost wages, loss of wage earning capacity, pain and suffering, residual disabilities, mental anguish, emotional upset, and distress, and other psychological sequelae.[2] On April 28, 2017, Westfield Insurance Company removed the lawsuit to this Court, invoking the Court's diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiffs now move to remand.

         I.

         A.

         Although the plaintiff challenges removal in this case, the removing defendant carries the burden of showing the propriety of this Court's removal jurisdiction. See Jernigan v. Ashland Oil, Inc., 989 F.2d 812, 815 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 868, 114 S.Ct. 192, 126 L.Ed.2d 150 (1993); Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir. 1988). "Because removal raises significant federalism concerns, the removal statute is strictly construed." Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248, 251 (5th Cir. 2008). Further, "any doubt as to the propriety of removal should be resolved in favor of remand." Id.

         B.

         A defendant may generally remove a civil action filed in state court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the case -- that is, if the plaintiff could have brought the action in federal court from the outset. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). To exercise diversity jurisdiction, complete diversity must exist between the plaintiffs and all of the properly joined defendants, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The only dispute here is whether the amount-in-controversy requirement is met.

         To determine whether it has jurisdiction, the Court must consider the allegations in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal. See Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002)(citing Cavallini v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 44 F.3d 256, 264 (5th Cir. 1995)). Louisiana law requires that a plaintiff include "no specific amount of damages" in her prayer for relief. La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 893.[3]

         When the plaintiffs have alleged an indeterminate amount of damages, the removing party must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Simon v. Wal-Mart Stores, 193 F.3d 848, 850 (5th Cir. 1999); see also De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1412 (5th Cir. 1995). This showing may be made by either (1) showing that it is facially apparent that the plaintiff's claims likely exceed $75, 000 or (2) setting forth "summary judgment type evidence" of facts in controversy that support a finding of the jurisdictional amount. Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723; Luckett v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 171 F.3d 295, 298 (5th Cir. 1999). "[I]f it is facially apparent from the petition that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 at the time of removal, post-removal affidavits, stipulations, and amendments reducing the amount do not deprive the district court of jurisdiction." Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883 (5th Cir. 2000). If the removing defendant cannot show that the amount in controversy is facially apparent, it may be able to "set[] forth the facts in controversy - preferably in the removal petition, but sometimes by affidavit - that support a finding of the requisite amount." Luckett, 171 F.3d at 298. If the petition is ambiguous as to whether the alleged damages surpass the jurisdictional amount in controversy, the Court may consider a post-removal affidavit that ...


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