United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
June 6, 2005.
JAMES L. BROWN a/k/a J. LAWRENCE BROWN, JR., Plaintiff,
GREAT NORTHERN INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge
Before me is Plaintiff's Motion for Remand. (Doc. 5.) The
motion alleges that the Court has no jurisdiction because the
amount in controversy does not exceed $75,000. The Plaintiff
filed an Affidavit with his motion. (Doc. 14.) The affidavit
states that Plaintiff intends to be bound by his representation
that he seeks less than $75,000 in this action. Defendant
presented no extrinsic evidence and confines its arguments on the
pleadings and the fair inference therefrom.
Because Defendant has met its burden to establish that
jurisdiction exists by a preponderance of the evidence, see
Bassett v. Kia Motors America, Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 397 (3d Cir.
2004), the motion will be denied.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and "in
order to carry out the Congressional intent to limit jurisdiction
in diversity cases, doubts must be resolved in favor of remand."
Id. at 403 (citing cases). The burden is upon the defendant in
a removal case to establish to a legal certainty that there is
federal jurisdiction when the relevant facts are not in dispute. Id. at 398. When there are disputes over
factual matters, the preponderance of the evidence standard is
The Defendant argues that the Complaint contains two counts,
breach of contract and bad faith, and each seeks damages in
excess of $50,000. In addition, there is a counterclaim in which
the Defendant seeks a declaration that the policy in question
does not cover the Plaintiff's claim. That, says Defendant,
citing case law, implicates the entire or full value of the
policy for jurisdictional purposes. The policy is well in excess
The Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit in which the Plaintiff
states in part:
2. The Complaint filed sought payment of unpaid
medical bills and services which amount to less than
$2,000.00 at the present time.
3. The action requests an award of the unpaid medical
bills together with reasonable attorney's fees,
interest and punitive damages.
4. I do not seek damages in excess of $75,000.00, at
the present time, based upon the Defendant's conduct
at the time the Complaint was originally filed.
5. I acknowledge and agree that the damages sought in
the above captioned matter are less than $75,000.00
and intend to be bound by my representations herein.
Thus, the Plaintiff has submitted a sworn statement that he seeks
less than $75,000 in this action, and he is willing to be bound
by his statement of limitations. The Defendant counters this
statement with Angus v. Shiley, 989 F.2d 142
(3d Cir. 2002) and
Werwinski v. Ford Motor Co., 286 F.3d 661
(3d Cir. 2002) where,
in each case, the Court held that a Plaintiff's stipulation that
his or her damages do not exceed the jurisdictional amount is of
no legal significance. 989 F.2d at 145 and 286 F.3d at 667.
A further component of the analysis in determining whether
jurisdiction exists in a removal case is that courts decide the amount in controversy from
the complaint. 989 F.2d at 145 (citing Horton v. Liberty Mut.
Ins. Co., 367 U.S. 348, 353, 81 S.Ct. 1570, 1573 (1961)). Here
the complaint contains two counts, one for breach of contract and
one for bad faith. Each count seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
In combination, the two counts would establish the jurisdictional
amount. Plaintiff asserts that the Plaintiff's Affidavit
acknowledging his total claim is less than $75,000 demonstrates
the true amount in controversy and, in essence, nullifies the ad
damnum clauses in the two counts of the Complaint. Plaintiff
likens this case to Wilbur v. H & R Block, 170 F.Supp.2d 480
(M.D. Pa. 2000) where I held that a complaint claiming in excess
of $25,000 in one count did not, in the face of an unsworn
statement of plaintiff that her damages did not exceed $75,000,
without more, meet the defendant's burden of establishing removal
jurisdiction. The Wilbur case is distinguishable. There, one
claim was in excess of $25,000. The plaintiff's statement can be
said to have explained or clarified her clause. See Angus v.
Shiley Inc. 989 F.2d 142, 145 n. 3. In the instant case, the
Complaint satisfies the jurisdictional amount. Each claim is
separate and apart from the other, each seeks in excess of
$50,000, and in combination, they exceed the jurisdictional
amount of in excess of $75,000. The Plaintiff's affidavit in this
context is not a clarification, but is rather akin to an
amendment to the Complaint. It is like the stipulation in Angus
in that it seeks to reduce the claim below the jurisdictional
amount where the Complaint, as filed, establishes the
jurisdictional amount. Thus, the Affidavit is without
significance. See 989 F. 2d at 745.
The motion for remand will therefore be denied. An appropriate Order follows. ORDER
NOW, this 6th day of June, 2005, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that
Plaintiff's Motion for Remand (Doc. 5) is DENIED.
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