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Sharawi v. WWR Premier Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 7, 2020

AHMED SHARAWI
v.
WWR PREMIER HOLDINGS, LLC

          MEMORANDUM

          R. BARCLAY SURRICK, J.

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand to State Court. (ECF No. 3.) For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a premises liability action against Defendant in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiff alleged that on January 13, 2018, a hole in the ground on Defendant's property caused him to trip, which in turn caused him to sustain certain bodily injuries and the aggravation of pre-existing conditions, including bilateral knee sprain, bilateral knee hypertension, and left ankle sprain. Plaintiff asserted one count seeking damages “in an amount not in excess of Fifty Thousand ($50, 000.00) Dollars.” (Compl., ECF No. 1 Ex. A.) Plaintiff did not request punitive damages or attorney's fees. (Id.) The amount requested was within the court's arbitration limit, thus rendering the case subject to mandatory, court-administered arbitration. (Id.; Notice of Removal ¶ 4, ECF No. 1.) See also 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 7361 (governing compulsory arbitration); Pa.R.C.P. 1301-13 (same); Punzak v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 07-1052, 2007 WL 1166087, at *3 n.3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 16, 2007) (explaining compulsory arbitration process in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas).

         On April 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. It appears that the only substantive change from the original Complaint was the addition of several photographic exhibits that were not attached to the original Complaint. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 1 Ex. C.)

         On May 21, 2019, in response to Defendant's discovery requests, Plaintiff served various medical records on Defendant. (ECF No. 3 Ex. D.) Among these records was an orthopedic progress report by Dr. Mark D. T. Allen, dated June 11, 2018. According to the report, Plaintiff had two MRIs done on April 25, 2018. An MRI of his lumbar spine revealed several disc protrusions and a disc bulge. An MRI of his right knee showed a torn medial meniscus. (Id.) Based on his physical examination, Dr. Allen also indicated: decreased range of motion and pain in the lumbar spine; tenderness at the left ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament); posttraumatic lumbosacral spine sprain and strain; lumbar radiculopathy; left ankle sprain; and left knee contusion. (Id.) Dr. Allen's report states that “[i]t remains my opinion, based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that these conditions are a direct result of the accident of January 12, 2018.” (Id.)[1] He recommended continued therapy, arthroscopic knee surgery, and prescription medication for the pain. (Id.)

         On August 14, 2019, during his deposition, Plaintiff asserted that he was seeking $15, 000.00 in lost wages. (Plaintiff's Dep. 74, ECF No. 3 Ex. E.) He also testified that he was expecting to undergo a knee replacement. (Id. at 165-66.) This deposition testimony suggests that the knee replacement would be in lieu of arthroscopic knee surgery. On August 16, 2019, Plaintiff served additional medical records on Defendant. (ECF No. 3 Ex. F.)

         An arbitration was held on September 12, 2019. (Report & Award of Arbitrators, ECF No. 1 Ex. E; Notice of Removal ¶ 9.) According to the materials that Plaintiff submitted at the arbitration, he was seeking $8, 271.15 in lost wages and $11, 168.39 for medical expenses. (ECF No. 3 Ex. G.) The arbitration panel found in favor of Defendant. (Report & Award of Arbitrators, ECF No. 1 Ex. E; Notice of Removal ¶ 9.) On October 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal of the arbitration panel's decision and demanded a trial by jury. (Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 1 Ex. F.)

         On October 25, 2019, Defendant asked the Plaintiff to sign a stipulation confirming that the total damages at issue in the suit were limited to $75, 000.00. (October 25, 2019 Correspondence, ECF No. 1 Ex. G; November 1, 2019 Correspondence, ECF No. 4 Ex. A.) Defendant advised that he would seek to remove the matter to federal court if Plaintiff did not execute and return the stipulation by October 31, 2019. (October 25, 2019 Correspondence.) On November 1, 2019, Plaintiff rejected Defendant's request. In so doing, Plaintiff advised Defendant that in light of the discovery exchanged months prior, Plaintiff's medical records, Plaintiff's August 14, 2019 deposition, Plaintiff's arbitration materials, and the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing, the time to remove under 28 U.S.C. § 1446 had passed. (November 1, 2019 Correspondence.)

         That same day, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal, asserting diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Notice of Removal.) According to Defendant, “Plaintiff's failure to execute the [stipulation] along with Plaintiff's amendment to discovery responses setting forth a claim for lost wages as well as the need for a future surgical procedure confirm that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75, 000.00.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand on November 12, 2019 (ECF No. 3), and Defendant filed a response on November 26, 2019. (ECF No. 4.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Statutory Framework Governing Removal in Diversity Actions

         “The district courts shall 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. § 1332(a)(1).[2] “[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “A defendant or defendants desiring to remove any civil action from a State court shall file in the district court of the United States for the district and division within which such action is pending a notice of removal….” 28 U.S.C. § ...


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