Marchant v. Mane et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that Plaintiff's Motion for Remand 6 is DENIED. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 6/25/2012. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist)(jg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MICHAEL MARCHANT, as Personal
Representative of the Estate of C.L.B.,
TONY MANE and ANGELA MANE,
aka ANGELA STARLING,
) CASE NO. 3:11-CV-1107-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Remand (Doc. # 6), to which
Defendants responded (Doc. # 10) and filed an evidentiary submission (Doc. # 9), and
Plaintiff replied (Doc. # 11). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s Motion for
Remand is due to be denied.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
“[F]ederal courts have a strict duty to exercise the jurisdiction that is conferred
upon them by Congress.” Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 716 (1996).
However, “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Burns v. Windsor Ins.
Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994); see also Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 379 (1994). Thus, with respect to cases removed to this court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, the law of the Eleventh Circuit favors remand where
federal jurisdiction is not absolutely clear.
“[R]emoval statutes are construed
narrowly; where plaintiff and defendant clash about jurisdiction, uncertainties are
resolved in favor of remand.” Burns, 31 F.3d at 1095.
This case is brought under Alabama’s Wrongful Death Act, Ala. Code § 6-5410. Plaintiff alleges that “Defendants negligently and or wantonly allowed a pack
of dogs owned by Defendants to which Defendants knew to be vicious and dangerous
to go at large and enter upon the property” where the decedent, a minor child, was
playing. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff further alleges that the decedent was mauled to death
by Defendants’ pack of dogs. (Compl. ¶ 3.) The complaint does not specify the
amount of damages sought.
Plaintiff originally filed suit in the Circuit Court of Russell County, Alabama.
Defendants removed this case pursuant to § 1441 and the first paragraph of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(b), seeking to invoke this court’s diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. (Doc. # 1, ¶ 6.) The procedural requirements of § 1446(b) have been met as
Defendants removed this case within thirty days of receiving the initial pleading.1 The
Defendants were served with the complaint on November 28, 2011, and they removed
this case on December 27, 2011. (See Doc. # 1.) Section 1441(b) was amended in 2011, and
those amendments became effective on January 6, 2012. See Federal Courts Jurisdiction &
Venue Clarification Act of 2011, Pub.L. No. 112–63, 125 Stat. 758. Because this action was
issue is whether Defendants have met their burden to establish complete diversity of
citizenship and the jurisdictional amount in controversy.
The removing defendant has the burden of establishing the existence of federal
jurisdiction. Leonard v. Enter. Rent a Car, 279 F.3d 967, 972 (11th Cir. 2002). With
respect to diversity jurisdiction, a federal court has original jurisdiction over an action
where there is complete diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy
exceeds $75,000. There must be complete diversity, meaning that “the citizenship of
every plaintiff must be diverse from the citizenship of every defendant.” Legg v.
Wyeth, 428 F.3d 1317, 1320 n.2 (11th Cir. 2005). The removing defendant must
demonstrate that complete diversity exists by a preponderance of the evidence. See
Molinos Valle Del Cibao, C. por A. v. Lama, 633 F.3d 1330, 1340 (11th Cir. 2011)
An individual is a citizen of the state in which he is domiciled. McCormick v.
Aderholt, 293 F.3d 1254, 1257 (11th Cir. 2002). “A person’s domicile is the place of
his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment, and to which he has
the intention of returning whenever he is absent therefrom.” Id. at 1257–58 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). For a person’s domicile to change, “a
concurrent showing of (1) physical presence at the new location with (2) an intention
commenced prior to the Act’s effective date, the Act does not apply to this action. See id.
to remain there indefinitely” is required. Id. at 1258 (internal quotation marks and
Furthermore, because Plaintiff has made an unspecified claim for damages,
Defendants must show “by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in
controversy more likely than not exceeds the $75,000 jurisdictional requirement.”
Tapscott v. MS Dealer Serv. Corp., 77 F. 3d 1353, 1357 (11th Cir. 1996), abrogated
on other grounds by Cohen v. Office Depot, Inc., 204 F.3d 1069 (11th Cir. 2000).
However, even if there is no specified claim for damages in the complaint, it may be
“‘facially apparent’ from the pleading itself that the amount in controversy exceeds
the jurisdictional minimum.” Roe v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th
Cir. 2010) (citing Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 754 (11th Cir.
2010)). In the § 1446(b) first paragraph removal context, “when a district court can
determine, relying on its judicial experience and common sense, that a claim satisfies
the amount-in-controversy requirements, it need not give credence to a plaintiff’s
representation that the value of the claim is indeterminate.” Roe, 613 F.3d at 1064.
With these principles in mind, the arguments of the parties are now considered.
Diversity of Citizenship
Defendants assert in their Notice of Removal that there is complete diversity
because Plaintiff is a citizen of Alabama, and Defendants are citizens of Georgia.
(Doc. # 1, ¶ 6.) Plaintiff argues that Defendant Angela Mane is actually a citizen of
Alabama, which destroys complete diversity. (Doc. # 6, at 3.) As evidence of Mrs.
Mane’s Alabama citizenship, Plaintiff points to the fact that Mrs. Mane claimed her
Alabama property as her homestead for the 2011 and 2012 tax years. (Doc. # 6, at 3;
see also Pl.’s Exs. A, B, & C.)
Defendants, on the other hand, argue that Mrs. Mane changed her domicile from
Alabama to Georgia before the suit was filed. (Doc. # 10, at 4.) Defendants provide
evidence establishing that, prior to the filing of the suit, Defendant Tony Mane (Mrs.
Mane’s husband) bought a house in Georgia. (Doc. # 10, at 4–5; Defs.’ Ex. F.)
Defendants also provide evidence showing that, prior to the filing of the suit, Mrs.
Mane registered to vote in Georgia, obtained a Georgia driver’s license, listed on her
driver’s license the Georgia address where she and her husband reside, and registered
her vehicle in Georgia. Defendants’ evidence also shows that Mrs. Mane notified the
United States Postal Service of a change in address from Alabama to Georgia, has
family members who live near her home in Georgia, and has been employed in
Georgia. (Doc. # 10, at 4–7; Defs.’ Exs. E, 1, 3, & 4.) Furthermore, Mrs. Mane listed
her Alabama property for sale with Remax on September 1, 2011, and the listing
described the property as vacant. (Doc. # 10, at 6; Defs.’ Ex. 5.) Based on the totality
of this evidence, the court finds that Defendants have established by a preponderance
of the evidence, that at the time the action was filed and at the time of removal, Mrs.
Mane was a Georgia citizen because she was physically present in Georgia with the
intention to remain there indefinitely. Thus, complete diversity exists among the
Amount in Controversy
Plaintiff also argues that Defendants have not met their burden of proving the
jurisdictional amount in controversy because Plaintiff made no demand for specific
damages and because the jury may award damages less than the jurisdictional
amount.2 (Doc. # 6, at 3.) Defendants argue that it is readily apparent from the
allegations of the complaint that the amount in controversy is met. (Doc. # 10, at 9.)
Upon review of Defendants’ analysis of the factors considered in Roe, Doc. # 10, at
12–13, and upon application of judicial experience and common sense, the court finds
that the value of Plaintiff’s claim as pled more likely than not exceeds the minimum
jurisdictional requirement. See Roe, 613 F.3d at 1066; Nelson v. Whirlpool Corp., 668
F. Supp. 2d 1368, 1381 (S.D. Ala. 2009) (finding amount in controversy was met in
Plaintiff’s arguments based on Lowery v. Alabama Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184 (11th
Cir. 2007), are unpersuasive. Furthermore, as the Eleventh Circuit made clear in Roe, “[w]hile
some of the language [of Lowery] sweeps more broadly, it is dicta insofar as a § 1446(b) first
paragraph case, like this one, is concerned.” 613 F.3d at 1061 n.3 (quoting Pretka, 608 F.3d at
747) (alterations in original).
an Alabama wrongful death suit because “wantonly causing the death of a human
being . . . places more than $75,000 in controversy”).
Because there is diversity of citizenship and the jurisdictional amount in
controversy is met, Defendants have carried their burden to establish this court’s
jurisdiction under § 1332. Defendants also have satisfied the procedural requirements
of § 1446(b). Accordingly, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Remand (Doc.
# 6) is DENIED.
DONE this 25th day of June, 2012.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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