United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
June 8, 2005.
ALICE BASTEMEYER AND HANK BASTEMEYER, Plaintiffs,
DOLLAR GENERAL CORPORATION, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge
Before the Court for disposition is Plaintiffs Alice and Hank
Bastemeyer's motion to remand. This matter has been briefed fully
and is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, we find
the Defendant has satisfied its burden of establishing federal
jurisdiction, and therefore, will deny the motion to remand.
On February 22, 2005, Plaintiffs Alice and Hank Bastemeyer
filed a two-count complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, advancing state law claims of
negligence and loss of consortium. Plaintiffs were and are
husband and wife. In the complaint, Count I states Plaintiff
Alice Bastemeyer suffered numerous injuries resulting from a slip
and fall in Defendant Dollar General Corporation's place of
business in Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs allege Defendant
caused the injuries by causing and allowing a dangerous condition
to exist on its premises, and by failing to warn customers of the
danger. Count II asserts Defendant's actions listed in Count I
caused Plaintiff Hank Bastemeyer's loss of consortium.
The complaint does not demand a specific damage amount.
Instead, Plaintiffs seek judgment in excess of $50,000 plus costs
and interest. On March 24, 2005, Defendant filed a timely Notice
of Removal with the Court. Defendant seeks removal to federal
jurisdiction based on complete diversity of citizenship and an
amount in controversy in excess of $75,000. On March 30, 2005,
Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand the case to the Luzerne
County Court of Common Pleas. The motion asserts Defendant failed
to establish complete diversity of citizenship, and failed to
establish the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
Federal district courts have "original jurisdiction of all
civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between
citizens of different states." 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332(a)(1). A
defendant may seek removal from state to federal court by
submitting to the district court a "short and plain statement of
the grounds for removal. . . ." Id. § 1446(a). To avoid remand
to state court, Defendant must establish the amount in
controversy exceeds $75,000, and the Plaintiffs and Defendant are
citizens of different states.
A. Amount in Controversy
The first issue raised by the Motion to Remand is whether the
amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Removal statutes should be
read narrowly, in favor of remand. Boyer v. Snap-On Tools
Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990). In removal cases, the
defendant has the burden to establish the amount in controversy.
Meritcare Inc. v. St. Paul Mercury Insurance Co., 166 F.3d 214, 222 (3d Cir. 1999). Where disputes over
factual matters must be resolved, the party claiming jurisdiction
must support its claim by a "preponderance of the evidence."
Samuel-Bassett v. KIA Motors America, Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 398
(3d Cir. 2004) (citing the standard used in McNutt v. General
Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana, 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936)).
Once these disputes are settled, the Court must determine
whether the amount in controversy threshold has been established.
The standard to determine whether the minimum amount in
controversy has been met was set out by the Supreme Court in St.
Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283 (1938),
as follows: "It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim
is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify
dismissal. . . . If, from the face of the pleadings, it is
apparent, to a legal certainty, that the plaintiff cannot recover
the amount claimed . . . the suit will be dismissed." Id. at
The Third Circuit has affirmed the legal certainty standard
several times. See, e.g., Packard v. Provident National Bank,
994 F.2d 1039, 1045-46 (3d Cir. 1993) (directly quoting the legal
certainty standard from Red Cab, 303 U.S. at 289). In
Meritcare, 166 F.3d 214 (3d Cir. 1999), the same court held
"[w]hen it appears to a legal certainty that the plaintiff was
never entitled to recover the minimum amount set by Section 1332,
the removed case must be remanded. . . ." Id. at 217 (citing
Red Cab, 303 U.S. at 289). Most recently, Samuel-Bassett
advised district courts to "adhere to the `legal certainty' test
cited in such cases as Meritcare, 166 F.3d 214, Packard,
994 F.2d 1039,. . . ." Samuel-Bassett, 357 F.3d at 398. Thus, a
removing defendant must demonstrate that the plaintiff's
inability to recover more than $75,000 falls short of a legal certainty.
The amount in controversy is determined by examining the
damages claimed at the time the complaint is filed.
28 U.S.C.A. § 1332(7). However, a complaint filed in Pennsylvania state court
is not required to allege a specific amount of damages
sought.*fn2 If damages are unspecified in the complaint,
"the amount in controversy is measured as of the date of
removal. . . ." Meritcare, 166 F.3d at 217. Damages pled in
non-monetary "categories" may be translated into "monetary sums."
Samuel-Bassett, 357 F.3d at 398-99.
In the present case, Plaintiffs' complaint asserts the amount
in controversy is "[m]ore than $50,000," but does not list a
specific amount. (Def.'s Notice of Removal Ex. A.) The amount in
controversy did not change between Plaintiffs' filing the
complaint and Defendant's petition for removal.*fn3 Using
the Samuel-Bassett test, we will remand if it appears to a
legal certainty that Plaintiffs cannot recover more than $75,000.
357 F.3d at 398.
Here, Defendant notes Plaintiffs' claim exceeds $50,000.
(Def.'s Notice of Removal ¶ 3.) Defendant next points out that
Plaintiff Alice Bastemeyer claims to have suffered a fractured
left hip and other painful injuries, possibly long-term
"disfigurement and loss of life's pleasures," and the same
Plaintiff states she may be forced to undergo medical treatment
and pay medical expenses for the rest of her life. (Id. ¶ 4,
citing Pls.' Compl., ¶¶ 9-11.) In response, Plaintiffs merely argue Defendant cannot prove the
minimum amount is met. (Pls.' Mot. to Remand ¶¶ 15-16.)
Angus v. Shiley, Inc., 989 F.2d 142 (3d Cir. 1993), found the
minimum amount in controversy was satisfied because there was "no
doubt that a reasonable jury likely could have valued [the
plaintiff's] losses at over [the jurisdictional minimum]." Id.
at 146. As in Angus, a reasonable jury in this case easily
could value the sum of Plaintiff's damages major surgery and
potentially permanent injuries and medical costs, already stated
by the Plaintiffs as exceeding $50,000 at more than $75,000.
Because it is less than a legal certainty that Plaintiffs
cannot recover more than $75,000, Defendant has established the
amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Remand to state court
based on the amount in controversy is not appropriate.
B. Diversity of Citizenship
Plaintiffs also argue Defendant failed to establish diversity
of citizenship between the parties. We disagree. "A corporation
shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has been
incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of
business." 28 U.S.C.A. § 1446(c)(1). A defendant's notice of
removal must contain a "short and plain statement of the grounds
for removal." Id. § 1446(a). No portion of the statute requires
the defendant to attach to its notice documentation of all
parties' citizenship. See generally 28 U.S.C.A. § 1446.
In the present case, Defendant asserts it is incorporated in
Kentucky and its principal place of business is Tennessee.
(Def.'s Notice of Removal ¶ 9.) Therefore, its citizenship is in both Kentucky and Tennessee. It notes Plaintiffs are
Pennsylvania citizens. Id. ¶ 8. These assertions, coupled with
the claim that the amount in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional minimum, are sufficient to create a "short and
plain statement" of the grounds for removal.
28 U.S.C.A. § 1446(a). By establishing Plaintiffs are Pennsylvania citizens and
Defendant is a Kentucky and Tennessee citizen, the Notice of
Removal clearly demonstrates complete diversity of citizenship.
For the above stated reasons, we find the Defendant has
established the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and
complete diversity of citizenship exists between the parties.
Therefore, we will deny Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. An
appropriate order follows. ORDER
AND NOW, to wit, this 8th day of June 2005, Plaintiffs'
motion to remand (Doc. 3) is hereby DENIED.