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Matute v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

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

May 21, 2019

ABIGAIL MATUTE
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., ET AL.

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY, MAG. JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAREN L. HAYES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the District Court, is a motion to remand [doc. # 7] filed by plaintiff Abigail Matute. The motion is opposed. For reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the motion to remand be DENIED.

         Background

         Abigail Matute filed the instant suit on May 24, 2018, against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Franklin, State of Louisiana. (Petition). Plaintiff seeks recovery for injuries to her knees, ankles, right hip, shoulder, and body that she sustained in the wake of a May 30, 2017, slip and fall accident while shopping at the Winnsboro, Wal-Mart store. Id.

         On August 16, 2018, Matute perfected service on defendant, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Notice of Removal). On September 28, 2018, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. filed its answer to the suit, which Wal-Mart Louisiana, L.L.C., also joined in, on the basis that the latter entity was the actual owner and operator of the Winnsboro store where plaintiff sustained her injury. (Answer).

         On February 1, 2019, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Louisiana, L.L.C. (collectively, “Wal-Mart”) removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Notice of Removal). On February 19, 2019, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand the case to state court because she contends that removal was untimely. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Wal-Mart filed its opposition brief on March 12, 2019. [doc. # 9]. Plaintiff filed her reply on March 19, 2019. [doc. # 10]. Thus, the matter is ripe.

         Law and Analysis

         A defendant may remove an action from state court to federal court, provided the action is one in which the federal court may exercise original jurisdiction. Manguno v. Prudential Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)). The removing defendant bears the burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction and ensuring compliance with the procedural requirements of removal. Id. Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a suit is presumed to lie outside this limited jurisdiction unless and until the party invoking federal jurisdiction establishes to the contrary. Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).

         To determine whether jurisdiction is present, courts consider “the claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal.” Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723 (citing Cavallini v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 44 F.3d 256, 264 (5th Cir. 1995)). “Any ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand.” Id. (citing Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000)).

         I. The Court Enjoys Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Wal-Mart invoked this court's subject matter jurisdiction, via diversity, which contemplates complete diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy that exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Both requirements are satisfied here. First, the parties are completely diverse: plaintiff is a Louisiana domiciliary and citizen; defendants ultimately are citizens of Arkansas and Delaware. (Notice of Removal, ¶¶ 4-5). Second, Wal-Mart has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000 at the time of removal.

         Pursuant to the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011

(“JVCA”), the removal statute now specifies that [i]f removal of a civil action is sought on the basis of the jurisdiction conferred by section 1332(a), the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed to be the amount in controversy, except that-
(A) the notice of removal may assert the amount in controversy if the initial pleading seeks--
***
(ii)
a money judgment, but the State practice either does not permit demand for a specific sum or permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount demanded . . .

28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(A)(ii).

         When, as permitted above, the amount in controversy is derived from the notice of removal, the removing defendant must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B); De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, ...


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