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Ryder v. Hanna

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

July 22, 2019

TOBY RYDER
v.
NORTHLAND INSURANCE CO ET MAGISTRATE JUDGE HANNA AL

          JUDGE JUNEAU

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PATRICK J. HANNA JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion to Remand filed on behalf of Plaintiff, Toby Ryder. (Rec. Doc. 5). Defendants, Northland Insurance Company, Rowland Truck Lines, Inc., and Bunny Thompson Walker, oppose the Motion (Rec. Doc. 8). The Motion was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636 and the standing orders of this Court. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Motion be denied.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff filed this suit for injuries allegedly sustained in an automobile accident on May 21, 2018 in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana. Plaintiff (a Louisiana citizen[1]) alleged the accident was caused by Bunny Thompson Walker (a Florida citizen[2]), who was employed by Rowland Truck Lines (a Florida corporation with its principal place of business therein[3]) and insured by Northland Ins. Co. (a Connecticut corporation with its principal place of business therein[4]). (Rec. Doc. 1-2). Plaintiff alleged generally that he “sustained injuries to his mind and body, including but not limited to neck and back, together with mental anguish and physical suffering; loss of enjoyment of life; expenses for medical care; and loss of earnings.” (Rec. Doc. 1-2, ¶VI). Plaintiff did not allege a specific monetary amount he was seeking to recover.

         Defendants removed the case on the basis of diversity jurisdiction on June 3, 2019. (Rec. Doc. 1). In support of their removal, Defendants included an October 29, 2018 settlement demand from Plaintiff for $15, 000 plus medical expenses of $4, 831.00 and indicating medical treatment including chiropractic treatment and radiological exams of Plaintiff's neck and back. (Rec. Doc. 1-6). Defendants' Notice of Removal further stated that Plaintiff's counsel “advised” on March 6, 2019 that Dr. William Brennan had recommended cervical surgery and provided a surgical estimate of $56, 810.00. (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶15; 1-7).

         Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Remand on the grounds that Defendants did not meet their burden of proof to show that the amount in controversy exceeds this Court's jurisdictional threshold of $75, 000.

         Applicable Law

         The federal district courts have original jurisdiction over cases involving a federal question, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331, and those in which the parties are diverse in citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332. Courts may also exercise, or decline to exercise, supplemental jurisdiction over certain cases. 28 U.S.C. §1367; Preston v. Tenet Healthsystem Mem'l Med. Ctr., Inc., 485 F.3d 804, 810 (5th Cir. 2007). 28 U.S.C. §1441 and §1446 provide the procedural mechanism by which a party may remove a matter from state court to a federal district court.

         Generally, upon the filing of a motion to remand, the removing party bears the burden to prove that federal jurisdiction exists. De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir.1995). Thus, Defendants, as the party seeking to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction under §1332, bear the burden of establishing both that the parties are diverse and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Garcia v. Koch Oil Co. of Texas Inc., 351 F.3d 636, 638 (5th Cir.2003).

         Diversity of the parties is not an issue in this case. Rather, Plaintiff challenges Defendants' removal on the grounds of amount in controversy. The Court must determine whether Defendants have met their burden of proof to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

We ordinarily consult the state court petition to determine the amount in controversy. St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir.1998). However, Louisiana prohibits plaintiffs from petitioning for a specific monetary amount. See La.Code Civ. P. art. 893(A)(1). Therefore, where, as here, the petition does not include a specific monetary demand, Prudential must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See De Aguilar, 47 F.3d at 1412 (5th Cir.1995). This requirement is met if (1) it is apparent from the face of the petition that the claims are likely to exceed $75, 000, or, alternatively, (2) the defendant sets forth “summary judgment type evidence” of facts in controversy that support a finding of the requisite amount.

Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.2002).

         “[O]nce a defendant is able to show that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount, removal is proper, provided plaintiff has not shown that it is legally certain that his recovery will not exceed the amount stated in the state complaint.” De Aguilar, 47 F.3d at 1412. The plaintiff may establish that his claims will not exceed the jurisdictional threshold to a legal certainty “by ...


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