United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
S R ATES DISTRICT JUDGE CARL J. BARBIER
the Court is a Motion to Remand (Rec. Doc.
8) filed by Plaintiff, Damon McFarland. Three
defendants-Kelly Tours, Inc. David M. Robinson, and
Protective Insurance Company (collectively, the
“Removing Defendants”)-originally joined the
Notice of Removal. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
(“State Farm”) did not join in the Notice but did
join the Removing Defendants in filing a joint opposition to
remand. (Rec. Doc. 11). Considering the motion, the
memoranda, the record, and the law, the Court finds the
motion should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
litigation began on February 9, 2018, when Plaintiff filed
suit in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans
for injuries he allegedly suffered in an automobile accident.
(Rec. Doc. 1-3 at 1). In his original petition, Plaintiff
alleges, “Damon McFarland was operating his 1999
Chevrolet Express . . . when suddenly and without warning,
the driver's side of your petitioner's vehicle was
struck by a 2016 Vanh Bus owned by defendant, Kelly Tours,
Inc. and operated [by] defendant, David M. Robinson.”
(Rec. Doc. 1-3 at 2). Plaintiff demands damages for his
injuries, which he alleges were caused by the negligence of
Robinson and Kelly Tours, Inc. He named these defendants'
liability insurer, Protective Insurance Company, and his own
uninsured or underinsured motorist insurer, State Farm, as
additional defendants. It is undisputed that Plaintiff is a
citizen of Louisiana and each of the defendants are citizens
of other states. (See Rec. Doc. 1 at 6; see
generally Doc. 1-3).
petition, Plaintiff does not specify any amount of damages he
suffered. Discovery was therefore necessary to determine
whether the amount in controversy exceeded the threshold for
federal diversity jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Removing
Defendants asked Plaintiff on February 19, 2018 whether
Plaintiff would stipulate to damages below $75, 000. (Rec.
Doc. 1-4). On February 21, 2018, Plaintiff's counsel
responded via e-mail that Plaintiff could not stipulate to
damages less than $75, 000. (Rec. Doc. 1-4). On March 15,
2018, the Removing Defendants filed a dilatory exception for
vagueness with the state court, seeking clarification on
whether the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000. (Rec.
Doc. 1-13 at 38). Hearing on that motion was delayed until
June 29, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 11 at 2). Discovery meanwhile
progressed. Defendants received Plaintiff's medical
records on June 26, 2018 and the Removing Defendants filed
their Notice of Removal (Rec. Doc. 1) on July 18, 2018.
defendant may remove “any civil action brought in a
State court of which the district courts of the United States
have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)
(2011). “A federal district court has subject matter
jurisdiction over a state claim when the amount in
controversy is met and there is complete diversity of
citizenship between the parties.” Mumfrey v. CVS
Pharmacy, Inc., 719 F.3d 392, 397 (5th Cir.2013) (citing
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). The amount in controversy required
by § 1332(a) is currently $75, 000. Id. The
court considers the jurisdictional facts that support removal
as of the time of removal. Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883 (5th Cir. 2000). Because removal
raises significant federalism concerns, any doubt about the
propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of remand.
Gasch v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 491 F.3d
278, 281-82 (5th Cir. 2007).
ARGUMENTS AND DISCUSSION
does not challenge that the requirements of diversity
jurisdiction are met; the Parties are diverse and the amount
controversy exceeds $75, 000. Rather, Plaintiff makes various
procedural complaints-first, the Notice of Removal was
untimely. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1), a
defendant ordinarily has 30 days from receipt of the initial
pleading to file a notice of removal. However, if “the
case stated by the initial pleading is not
removable”-as is true here-“a notice of removal
may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant .
. . of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from
which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which
is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b)(3). Plaintiff argues he refused to stipulate in an
e-mail on February 28, 2018 that his damages did not exceed
$75, 000 and this e-mail constitutes “other
paper” from which Defendants could “ascertain[ ]
that the case is one which is or has become removable.”
(Rec. Doc. 8-2 at 8).
argument is basically that his non-committal answer as to the
amount of damages tipped his hand as to the amount in
controversy, and therefore, the clock started ticking.
Plaintiff also points to an e-mail from the Removing
Defendants' counsel, which indicates the Defendants
already suspected the amount in controversy exceeded the
damages threshold. (Rec. Doc. 8-2 at 11) (“[W]e think
that this litigation is removable.”). But the
Defendants' “subjective knowledge cannot convert a
case into a removable action.” S.W.S. Erectors,
Inc. v. Infax, Inc., 72 F.3d 489, 494 (5th Cir. 1996).
The Fifth Circuit's bright-line rule is that if a
plaintiff “wishes the thirty-day time period to run
from the defendant's receipt of the initial pleading,
” he must “place in the initial pleading a
specific allegation that damages are in excess of the federal
jurisdictional amount.” Chapman v. Powermatic,
Inc., 969 F.2d 160, 163 (5th Cir. 1992).
with that opinion, if Plaintiff wanted to trigger the 30-day
deadline by virtue of an “other paper” in the
form of his e-mail, Plaintiff should have specifically
alleged in the e-mail that damages were in excess of the
jurisdictional amount. The Court must not needlessly expend
resources inquiring into what the Defendants knew or should
have known. See Id. Thus, the Court agrees with the
Defendants that the 30-day clock started with the receipt of
Plaintiff's medical records on June 26, 2018. See
Jacob v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., No. CIV.A. 02-2199, 2002
WL 31375612, at *3 (E.D. La. Oct. 21, 2002) (finding 30-day
period was triggered when defendants received discovery