The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pollak, District Judge.
Removal of cases from state to federal court is governed by
28 U.S.C. § 1446, which provides, in pertinent part.
"(b) the notice of removal of a civil action or
proceeding shall be filed within thirty day after
the receipt by the defendant of a copy of the
initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief
upon which such action or proceeding is based
If the case stated by the initial pleading is
not removable, a notice of removal may be filed
within thirty days after receipt by the defendant
. . . of a copy 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. . . ."
Thus, § 1446 requires the filing of notice to remove within
thirty days of the receipt of a relevant filing from which it
can be ascertained that the case is removable. The present
dispute turns on the question of when, if ever, such a document
was received by the defendant, thereby alerting it to the fact
that the case was removable. For if the case was removable at
the time of the original filing, then defendant's removal was
clearly outside of the thirty-day time limit for such a filing.
If, on the other hand, neither the original filing nor the
filing of the complaint revealed the case to be removable, then
defendant would not be able to show the removability of the case
at any time. Only if the defendant's filing of the notice of
removal was within thirty days of the date on which removability
could first be ascertained was removal timely. Now, the most
important determinant of removability is whether federal
jurisdiction is available. Thus, for present purposes, only if
(1) the initial pleading was inadequate to establish federal
jurisdiction, and (2) the complaint was sufficient for that
purpose, will defendant be able to show that removal was timely.
The standards for determining the point at which § 1446's
thirty-day window begins to run were established by the Third
Circuit in Foster v. Mutual Fire, Marine & Inland Ins. Co.,
986 F.2d 48 (1993). The court there adopted a test with two
important components. First, the court rejected a subjective
test that would focus on when defendants became aware that each
of the elements necessary for federal jurisdiction were met.
Instead, courts are to confine their inquiry to "the four
corners" of a relevant document, determining "whether the
document informs the reader, to a substantial degree of
specificity, whether all the elements of federal jurisdiction
are present." Id. at 53. The second component of the Foster
inquiry concerns the determination of which documents are
eligible for such analysis. Any such document "must be something
of the type filed with a court." Id. at 54. Both of the
documents here at issue — the initial filing and the complaint —
are clearly eligible documents.
Thus, resolution of the present dispute turns on which of these
two documents, if either, "informs the reader, to a substantial
degree of specificity, whether all the elements of federal
jurisdiction are present."
Defendant removed this case on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction, which requires that the parties be citizens of
different states and that the amount in controversy exceed
$75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The diversity of citizenship
requirement is not in dispute. Each of the relevant documents
lists the address of plaintiffs, so defendant was clearly on
notice that diversity of citizenship obtained. The focus of the
present dispute is when the defendant was sufficiently notified
that the amount in controversy requirement had been met.
Defendant argues that the initial filing was inadequate to
inform it that requirement was met, whereas the complaint was
sufficient. Plaintiffs contend, against this, that the complaint
provided no more information than the writ of summons.
Accordingly, they argue that defendant was on notice at the
earlier date, or alternatively, that removability has never been
established. In either case, the notice of removal, contend the
plaintiffs, was not timely filed.
My analysis of the documents in question leads me to the
conclusion that defendant is correct that the thirty-day removal
window opened upon defendant's receipt of the complaint: the
writ of summons puts the reader on notice only that the amount
in controversy is greater than $50,000, whereas the complaint
puts the reader on notice that the amount in controversy is
greater than $100,000, which is, of course, sufficient to
satisfy the $75,000 amount required by § 1332.
Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a Praecipe to Issue
Writ of Summons. The initial filing provides only very general
information intended to put the defendant on notice that an
action of, a certain kind has been brought by the plaintiffs.
There is only one indicator of the amount in controversy
contained in the documents filed at that time. One of the forms
filed with the praecipe required the plaintiffs to indicate
whether the amount in controversy was greater then $50,000. The
plaintiffs did so indicate, but there is nothing that would
indicate how much more than $50,000 the plaintiffs expected to
be seeking. Thus, the document informs the reader of little more
than that this is a product liability action valued at greater
then $50,000. Clearly, this is inadequate to establish, to a
substantial degree of specificity, that the amount in
controversy is greater than $75,000.
The complaint, on the other hand, does provide the required
notice. The complaint lists four separate counts — three
involving plaintiff Richard Powers and one involving plaintiff
Mary Kay Powers — each with a prayer for relief that includes
"compensatory damages in excess of $50,000." Additionally, each
includes a request for punitive damages and attorneys fees.
(Complaint, ¶¶ 44, 51, 56, 61).
Defendant asserts that it follows that "the `four corners' of
the Complaint, if read in the aggregate, demand in excess of
$200,000 against the defendant." (Response of Defendant, at 3).
Plaintiffs respond that the separate prayers for relief cannot
be so aggregated. The separate prayers for relief are included,
they argue, only because the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil
Procedure require them to do so. Presumably, it is plaintiffs'
view that the separate counts are different bases for recovery
on the same underlying injury. Thus, aggregation is
With respect to the first three counts, plaintiffs are correct
that the aggregation
on which defendant relies is inappropriate. These three counts
assert three different theories — negligence, strict liability,
and breach of warranty — for the same set of injuries allegedly
suffered by Richard Powers. Thus, these three counts are
incapable of establishing with any certainty damages greater
than $50,000. The fourth count, however, is distinct. It claims
that Mary Kay Powers, not Richard Powers, is entitled to
compensatory damages in excess of $50,000 for loss of
consortium. Thus the injuries alleged in the fourth count — a
count derivative from and dependent on the first three counts,
but nonetheless different in kind and in person — are distinct
from the injuries alleged in the first three counts.
Accordingly, aggregation is appropriate with respect that count.
It follows that the complaint puts the reader on notice that at
least $100,000 is in controversy.
In sum, plaintiffs' initial filings did not adequately inform
defendant that the amount in controversy requirement of § 1332
federal diversity jurisdiction had been met. Thus, defendant was
not required to remove the case within thirty days after
receiving that document. Plaintiffs' complaint, on the other
hand, does provide such notice. Because defendant ...