United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
BRODERICK WATERS, ET AL.
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC
J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Remand (Rec. Doc.
7) filed by Plaintiffs, Broderick and Jocelyn
Waters, in which they argue that removal of this case under
diversity jurisdiction was untimely because discovery
responses submitted more than 30 days in advance of the
Notice of Removal (Rec. Doc. 1) constituted
“other paper” from which Defendant, Lowe's
Home Centers, LLC, should have ascertained the amount
controversy exceeds $75, 000. Defendant fled an opposition
(Rec. Doc. 9), countering that the discovery
responses do not conclusively support that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000 and that the amount at issue did
not become “unequivocally clear and certain”
until Plaintiff made a settlement demand of $166, 508.29.
Plaintiffs filed a reply (Rec. Doc. 14), in
which they change tacks, now arguing this case was improperly
removed because the Defendant does not genuinely believe the
amount at issue exceeds $75, 000 and because the settlement
demand was mere hyperbole and not a true reflection of the
value of its case. Plaintiffs suggest heads or tails they
win: either the case was untimely removed because the
discovery indicated the case was worth over $75, 000 or the
amount at issue does not exceed the minimum bar, so this
Court lacks jurisdiction.
Court need not dwell on the Plaintiffs' latest argument.
Simply because the defendant is skeptical that the value of a
plaintiff's claim exceeds the jurisdictional minimum does
not mean the Court is deprived of jurisdiction. Federal
courts give significant weight to the value plaintiffs attach
to their claims. C.f. St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red
Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938) (“The 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.”). Even if
the Plaintiffs' settlement demand for twice the value of
the jurisdictional minimum was mere hyperbole, Plaintiffs
even now admit they “have a subjective belief that the
case is worth more than $75, 000.” As it is obvious
from the Plaintiffs' own statements that they will seek
damages in excess of the jurisdictional minimum, the Court
will not dismiss on this ground.
leaves the Plaintiffs' claim that “other
paper” in the form of discovery responses triggered the
30-day removal period and Defendant failed to act within the
window. Broderick Waters, a commercial truck driver, asserts
in the petition that he was injured on the job when he
dropped a flower and plant cart he was lifting over a curb.
The cart pinned him to the concrete, thereby fracturing his
leg and injuring his back. Per Louisiana law, Plaintiffs did not
quantify their damages in their state court petition.
the initial pleading does not indicate the case was
removable, Defendant was permitted to file its Notice within
30 days of receiving “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).
“Ascertained” is the critical word, as it signals
the triggering document is one that provides
certainty as to the amount in controversy.
“[T]he information supporting removal in a copy of an
amended pleading, motion, order or other paper must be
‘unequivocally clear and certain' to start the time
limit running for a notice of removal under the second
paragraph of section 1446(b).” Bosky v. Kroger
Texas, LP, 288 F.3d 208, 211 (5th Cir. 2002) (per
curiam). This threshold requires even more clarity than the
measure applied to initial pleadings, which asks whether the
petition “affirmatively reveals on its face” that
the plaintiff seeks damages in excess of the jurisdictional
minimum. Id. at 211. In adopting this higher
standard, the Fifth Circuit noted it should promote judicial
economy and reduce “protective” removals by
defendants who fear losing their removal right on the basis
of equivocal facts being introduced into the record which
might trigger the removal period. Id.
Plaintiffs point out that as early as October 16, 2018,
Defendant was aware that Plaintiffs' claim for special
damages amounted to at least $32, 041.56. Plaintiffs allege
that Waters' general damages claims for his fractured
and back injuries resulting from the accident “clearly
establishes a claim for general damages exceeding $42,
958.44, ” the amount necessary to push the case
beyond the minimum threshold when accounting for special
damages. Plaintiff cites to handful of cases in which
plaintiffs were awarded damages in excess of $50, 000 for
fibula fractures as evidence that Defendant should have known
that the jurisdictional threshold was met in this case.
See, e.g., McClain v. Southern Scrap Material
Co., No. 2005-5079, 2009 WL 6057426 (La. Civil D. Ct.,
Orleans Par., Dec. 15, 2019) (Verdict and Settlement
Summary). However, to ask the Defendant to comb through jury
awards to estimate the value of a specific injury is to
violate the Fifth Circuit's admonition that defendants
are under no due diligence requirement with respect to
removing diversity cases. Id. at 210.
the rules governing removal exist to provide certainty to
parties and to ensure that removal is achieved efficiently
and economically. They are not intended to function as an
unseen trap, suddenly springing shut to cut off a
defendants' removal rights as soon as the cumulative
evidence in the record tips the conceivable value of the
plaintiff's claims a few dollars in excess of the
jurisdictional threshold. If Plaintiffs wished to keep this
case in state court, they were free to stipulate that Waters
estimated in his own responses that he suffered $13, 500 in
lost future wages and $15, 000 in lost wages for missing 20
weeks of work. (Rec. Doc. 7-3).
do not exceed the jurisdictional threshold. See Pollet v.
Sears Roebuck & Co., 46 Fed.Appx. 226 (5th Cir.
2002) (unpublished). If Plaintiffs wished to trigger the
30-day removal period, they need only have provided
unequivocal documentation to opposing counsel indicating the
amount in controversy exceeds the threshold. They did not do
this until November 6, 2018, when Plaintiffs sent opposing
counsel a detailed, 14-page settlement letter demanding
damages in the amount of $166, 508.29
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to
Remand (Rec. Doc. 7) is
 (Rec. Doc. 14- at 4).
 On the basis of the facts set forth in
this case and the Plaintiffs' own estimations as to the
value of their claims, the Court finds by a preponderance of
the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the