United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE JUDGE.
moving to remand this removed personal injury action,
plaintiff Stacie Evans contends that the removing defendant
has not shown that the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,
000.00 jurisdictional threshold necessary for subject matter
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. We agree.
Therefore, we shall grant the motion.
district court has subject matter jurisdiction based on
diversity when “the matter in controversy exceeds the
sum or value of $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and
costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). A defendant removing
a case from state court bears the burden of demonstrating
that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
threshold. Kaufman v. Allstate New Jersey Ins. Co.,
561 F.3d 144, 151 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Frederico v.
Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007)).
Additionally, removal statutes are to be strictly construed
against removal, and all doubts are resolved in favor of
remand. A.S. ex rel. Miller v. SmithKline Beecham
Corp., 769 F.3d 204, 208 (3d Cir. 2014) (citation
omitted); Brown v. JEVIC, 575 F.3d 322, 326 (3d Cir.
2009); Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors Am., Inc., 357
F.3d 392, 396, 403 (3d Cir. 2004).
“sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading
shall be deemed to be the amount in controversy.” 28
U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2). However, where “the State
practice either does not permit demand for a specific sum or
permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount demanded,
” removal is proper only if the court finds, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(A)(ii)-(B).
Because Pennsylvania does not allow a demand for a specific
sum of money where damages are not liquidated, see
Pa. R. Civ. P. 1021(b), the removing defendant must show, by
a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2);
Frederico, 507 F.3d at 193.
support of his assertion that the “potential
amount in controversy in this matter exceeds $75, 000.00,
” the defendant cites the nature of the
plaintiff's injuries, her medical expenses, and the cost
of repairing her vehicle. The defendant also relies upon the
plaintiff's refusal to stipulate that her damages do not
exceed $75, 000.00,  and her earlier $85, 000.00 settlement
defendant refers to the plaintiff's injuries as lumbar,
thoracic and cervical spine sprain and strain, and
post-traumatic myofascial pain of the trapezius. He neglects
to include the adjective “acute” the plaintiff
used in describing her injuries in the complaint. The
injuries are simply sprain and strain and myofascial pain of
the trapezius. Additionally, the defendant points to a
note by one of plaintiff's healthcare providers that her
symptoms will likely “persist and flare-up in the
future, and may require further invasive
intervention.” This is not a prognosis, but only a
possibility. The claimed injuries are not chronic or serious.
defendant includes the plaintiffs medical expenses of $13,
567.00 as a component of the amount in controversy. Because
those expenses were paid by the plaintiff's automobile
insurance carrier under her personal injury protection
benefits coverage,  they are not recoverable in this action.
Like the medical expenses, the $2, 373.58 cost to repair the
plaintiffs vehicle is irrelevant. There is no claim for
property damage in the complaint. Hence, the medical expenses
and the property damage are not included in the amount in
complaint, the plaintiff limited the amount in controversy to
an amount less than the jurisdictional threshold. In the
ad damnum clause of her complaint, the plaintiff
demands damages in "an amount not in excess of $50,
000." Additionally, on the Civil Cover Sheet
filed with her complaint, she checked the box “$50,
000.00 or less” under “Amount in Controversy,
” and designated the action as an arbitration matter,
where an award of damages cannot exceed $50, 000.00.
See 42 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. §7361 (a), (b)(2);
Not. of Removal, Ex. A at 1.
defendant argues that “the plaintiffs damages are not
capped at $50, 000.00” because either party could take
a de novo appeal from an arbitration award pursuant
to 42 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. § 7361(d). Admittedly,
if there is an appeal from arbitration, there is no bar to
the plaintiff's recovering damages beyond that amount.
However, that possibility does not alter the analysis of the
amount in controversy based on the current status of the
plaintiff's injuries and her designating her case as
within the arbitration limit. A potential appeal from a
future arbitration award is speculative. At this point, the
plaintiff cannot recover more than $50, 000.00 in the state
defendant also relies on the plaintiff's refusal to
stipulate that her damages do not exceed $75, 000.00. Before
removing the case, defense counsel asked plaintiff's
counsel to stipulate to cap damages at $75, 000.00 because,
in his words, the plaintiff's “potential damages
are actually unlimited.” Plaintiff contends it was
unnecessary to stipulate to limit her damages because the
case was designated as an arbitration matter, limiting a
maximum damages award at $50, 000.00.
Plaintiff's counsel did not want to preclude the
possibility of recovering damages in excess of $50, 000.00 in
the event of an appeal from an arbitration
award. Still, that does not mean the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 at this time.
plaintiff's refusal to stipulate to cap damages at $75,
000.00 does not establish that the amount in controversy
exceeds that amount. Martino v. Hartford Ins. Co.,
Civ. No. 14-1953, 2014 WL 1652224, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 23,
2014) (finding that “[t]he lack of stipulation does not
undermine the limited damages apparent in Plaintiff's
complaint.”); see also Stevenson v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., No. 14-4073, 2015 WL 158811, at *2 (E.D.
Pa. Jan. 13, 2015); Lewis-Hatton v. Wal-Mart Stores East,
LP, No. 13-7619, 2014 WL 502367, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 7,
2014). The mere possibility that the plaintiff could recover
more than $75, 000.00 on a de novo appeal of the
arbitration award does not override the plaintiff's
limiting her damages in the complaint to $50, 000.00. Future
awards on appeal are speculative. Martino, 2014 WL
1652224, at *2; Mazza v. Peerless Indem. Ins. Co.,
No. CIV.A. 13-3225, 2013 WL 4014569, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 7,
2013) (citations omitted). Consequently, the plaintiff's
refusal to stipulate that her damages do not exceed $75,
000.00 is not enough to demonstrate that the jurisdictional
threshold has been met.
a settlement demand does not establish that the amount in
controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. Making a
demand that is higher than the actual amount in controversy
is a common negotiating tactic to instigate settlement talks.
A settlement “demand is best seen as posturing for
settlement negotiations and cannot override . . . the
complaint that unequivocally states that the damages do not
exceed the jurisdictional threshold.” Ferguson v.
Nobles, No. CIV. 14-1439, 2014 WL 1492266, at *2 (E.D.
Pa. Apr. 15, 2014) (citation omitted). Because the plaintiff
limited her damages to $50, 000.00 in her complaint, her
settlement demand, which was only $10, 000.00 more than the
jurisdictional threshold, does not demonstrate that the
damages in this case exceed $75, 000.00.
the removing defendant has not proven, by a preponderance of
the evidence, that “the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and
costs, ” ...