Reeder v. NPC International, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING 10 MOTION to Remand and the Court hereby REMANDS this case to the Circuit Court of Colbert County, Alabama. Signed by Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre on 10/10/2018. (JLC)
2018 Oct-10 PM 01:25
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LEONARD C. REEDER,
NPC INTERNATIONAL, INC., D/B/A
Case No. 3:18-CV-01233-UJH-KOB
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the court on Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand. (Doc. 10). Plaintiff
Leonard Reeder filed this premise liability lawsuit against Defendant NPC International, Inc.
(“NPC”) in the Circuit Court of Colbert County, Alabama. NPC filed a Notice of Removal to this
court on August 6, 2018, asserting diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1). Mr. Reeder filed a motion to
remand back to state court on August 14, asserting NPC failed to establish damages exceeding
$75,000, the requisite amount-in-controversy for federal diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 10). Then,
this court ordered NPC to show cause why remand was not appropriate for failure to establish
damages exceeding $75,000. For the reasons stated below, this court concludes that Defendant
NPC has not met its burden of establishing an amount-in-controversy in excess of $75,000. Thus,
this court GRANTS Plaintiff Reeder’s Motion to Remand and REMANDS this case back to the
Circuit Court of Colbert County, Alabama.
I. Factual Background
Mr. Reeder alleges that he visited NPC’s Pizza Hut restaurant in Muscle Shoals, Alabama
and tripped over a damaged floor mat on the premises and fell, striking a door and catching his
arm in the door. Mr. Reeder has produced medical bills he alleges are related to the injury in the
amount of $2,921 but has not otherwise alleged any specific amount in damages. Mr. Reeder
brings this action under both a negligence theory and a wantonness theory, requesting relief to
the full extent allowed under Alabama law for both.
II. Standard of Review
Consistent with the limited nature of federal jurisdiction, the party seeking a federal
venue must establish federal jurisdictional requirements. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555, 561 (1992). In the removal context, the removing defendant must establish the court’s
jurisdiction. Miedema v. Maytag Corp., 450 F.3d 1322, 1328 (11th Cir. 2006). When the plaintiff
has not specified the amount of damages in the complaint, the removing defendant must establish
the jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of the evidence. See Dart Cherokee Basin
Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S. Ct. 547, 554 (2014).
NPC removed this case on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Mr. Reeder concedes
complete diversity, so the sole question before the court is whether the value of Mr. Reeder’s
claims exceeds $75,000, the jurisdictional threshold under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
In determining amount in controversy for jurisdictional purposes, the court may not
“engage in impermissible speculation.” Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1220 (11th
Cir. 2007). But, where the pleadings are bare, applying the preponderance of evidence burden
meaningfully can be especially difficult. Id., at 1212. Nevertheless, courts may use “judicial
experience and common sense” to determine if a plaintiff’s unspecified damages could plausibly
satisfy the jurisdictional amount, keeping in mind the defendant’s burden. See Roe v. Michelin
North Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1064 (11th Cir. 2010).
The only specified amount of damages is a $2,921 medical bill, an amount well short of
the jurisdictional requirement. (See Doc. 15, at 7). Beyond that, Plaintiff Reeder has requested an
unspecified amount for serious bodily injuries, consequential and incidental damages, and past
and continuing medical expenses. Mr. Reeder’s also seeks exemplary damages for his
In support of its motion, Defendant NPC notes Mr. Reeder’s claim of wantonness and
request for exemplary damages. (Doc. 15, at ¶ 7). NPC cites Roe v. Michelin North Am., Inc. to
support its position that wantonness claims involve “a high degree of culpability, making the
need for punishment and deterrence all the more exigent.” 637 F. Supp. 2d 995, 998. (M.D. Ala.
2009). However, the claim in Roe was for wrongful death, as compared to Mr. Reeder’s claim,
which is pursuant to his allegedly tripping and falling on an allegedly damaged floor mat at
NPC’s premises. See id. Thus, the Roe court’s analysis is unpersuasive in determining the value
of Mr. Reeder’s wantonness claim.
The court acknowledges this case is a close call, but Defendant bears the burden to prove
by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff’s claim is worth more than $75,000. Pursuant to
judicial experience and common sense, this court concludes Defendant failed to meet its burden.
For the reasons discussed above, this court GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand and
REMANDS this case to the Circuit Court of Colbert County, Alabama.
DONE and ORDERED this 10th day of October, 2018.
KARON OWEN BOWDRE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?