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Bell v. Dolgencorp, L.L.C.

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

December 20, 2019

DIANNA BELL
v.
DOLGENCORP, L.L.C.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          KAREN L. HAYES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion to remand [doc. # 17] filed by plaintiff Dianna Bell. The motion is opposed. [doc. # 19]. For reasons set forth below, the motion [doc. # 17] is GRANTED.

         Background

         On March 15, 2019, Dianna Bell filed the instant petition for damages against defendants, Dolgencorp, L.L.C.; Dollar General Corporation; and TLT&J Enterprises, L.L.C., in the 11th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Sabine, State of Louisiana. See Petition. Bell alleged that on March 27, 2018, she was shopping at the Dollar General Store in Zwolle, Louisiana, when she slipped/tripped and fell because of merchandise and/or items on the floor. Id., ¶¶ 3-4.

         On, or about April 22, 2019, DG Louisiana, L.L.C. (“DG-LA”) filed an answer to the suit whereby it effectively substituted itself as defendant in lieu of the “incorrectly sued” Dolgencorp, L.L.C. and Dollar General Corporation. (Answer; Notice of Removal, Exh. B). On May 16, 2019, on joint motion of plaintiff and DG-LA, the state court formally dismissed defendants, Dolgencorp, L.L.C.; Dollar General Corporation; and TLT&J Enterprises, L.L.C. [doc. # 6-1].

         On July 31, 2019, the lone remaining defendant, DG-LA, removed this matter to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Notice of Removal). On September 5, 2019, the court reviewed the record and noted that DG-LA had failed to properly allege the citizenship of its member(s). (Sept. 5, 2019, Order [doc. # 7]). Accordingly, the court granted defendant leave to file an amended notice of removal to establish diversity jurisdiction. On September 10, 2019, DG-LA filed an amended notice of removal, which established that plaintiff was a Louisiana citizen and that DG-LA was a limited liability company comprised of one member that was a Tennessee corporation, with its principal place of business in said state. (Amend. Notice of Removal [doc. # 8]). Accordingly, at the time of removal, the parties were completely diverse.

         Furthermore, in the absence of a timely challenge by plaintiff to the court's jurisdiction, the undersigned accepted defendant's allegation regarding amount in controversy, but noted that the finding was preliminary, and subject to reconsideration either sua sponte or by motion. See E-Jur. Review Finding [doc. # 9]. Indeed, “a defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 87, 135 S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014).

         On October 3, 2019, with the consent of all parties, the District Court referred this matter to the undersigned magistrate judge for the conduct of all further proceedings and the entry of judgment, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [doc. # 13].

         On October 31, 2019, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis that the amount in controversy does not exceed the jurisdictional minimum. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). In conjunction with her motion, plaintiff's attorney signed a “binding” stipulation on plaintiff's behalf stating that “[t]he damages she has suffered, and the amount in controversy in this matter does not exceed $75, 000 excluding interest and cost.” (Pl. Stipulation; M/Remand, Exh.). The stipulation also released defendant “from any and all damages and claim for other matters which arguably would create an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000.00 exclusive of interest and cost.” Id.

         Defendant filed its opposition to remand on November 21, 2019. [doc. # 19]. Plaintiff did not file a reply, and the time to do so has lapsed. See Notice of Motion Setting [doc. # 18].

         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). The removal statutes are strictly construed in favor of remand. Manguno, supra.

         In this case, DG-LA invoked the court's subject matter jurisdiction via diversity, which requires complete diversity of citizenship between plaintiff and defendant, and an amount in controversy greater than $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiff does not dispute that the parties are completely diverse; rather, she contests that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

         Pursuant to the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011 (“JVCA”), the ...


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