Crutchfield et al v. Rick Hill Nissan Inc
ORDER granting 6 Plaintiffs' MOTION to Remand this matter to Circuit Court of Greene County, Arkansas. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 08/15/2012. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
DEBBIE CRUTCHFIELD; and
No. 3:12CV00183 JLH
RICK HILL NISSAN, INC., doing business
as National Auto Liquidation Center
Debbie and James Crutchfield filed a complaint against Rick Hill Nissan, Inc., in the Circuit
Court of Greene County, Arkansas. The Crutchfields allege that, during the course of an automobile
sale, Rick Hill Nissan charged them a document preparation fee of $299 in violation of Arkansas
law, Ark. Code. Ann. § 23-112-317. The Crutchfields also allege that Rick Hill Nissan’s conduct
violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Ark. Code Ann. § 4-88-107. The Crutchfields
seek to certify a class of similarly situated persons who were charged an administrative or
documentary fee by Rick Hill Nissan in relation to the sale of an automobile.
Rick Hill Nissan has removed the action based on diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
It is undisputed that the Crutchfields and Rick Hill Nissan are citizens of different states.
Nevertheless, the Crutchfields have filed a motion to remand on the basis that the amount in
controversy does not exceed $75,000. In opposing the motion, Rick Hill Nissan contends that the
Crutchfields’ claim for $299 plus statutory attorney’s fees satisfies the jurisdictional amount.
“The proponent of diversity jurisdiction has the burden of proving that the amount in
controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum.” Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir.
2009). Here, the Crutchfields seek attorney’s fees pursuant to subsection 4-88-113(f) of the
Arkansas Code Annotated. That subsection provides: “Any person who suffers actual damage or
injury as a result of an offense or violation as defined in this chapter has a cause of action to recover
actual damages, if appropriate, and reasonable attorney’s fees.” (emphasis added).
The Court has previously held that, because “the amount in controversy and the result
obtained in the case” are important in calculating reasonable attorney’s fees, it is “unlikely that a
court would award more than $33,000 on a claim of $41,000[.]” Toller v. Sagamore Ins. Co., 558
F. Supp. 2d 924, 928-29 (E.D. Ark. 2008). A fortiori, it is unlikely that a court would award more
than $74,701 in attorney’s fees on a claim of $299. Toller, like the instant action, involved a
diversity suit alleging violations of Arkansas law and seeking to certify a class. Because nothing
about the instant action indicates that it would require attorneys to expend significantly more effort
than in Toller, the Court concludes that Toller is not distinguishable in any meaningful way.1
Consequently, Rick Hill Nissan has not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See Bell, 557 F.3d at 956. Therefore, the Crutchfields’
motion to remand this matter to the Circuit Court of Green County, Arkansas, is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 15th day of August, 2012.
J. LEON HOLMES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rick Hill Nissan does not rely upon 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) to establish jurisdiction. Even if
Rick Hill Nissan did so, Rick Hill Nissan’s Office Manager’s affidavit, which is attached to the
Notice of Removal, states that 414 or 418 automobiles were sold by Rick Hill Nissan while
operating in Arkansas. Document #1-2. Consequently, there are only 418 potential claims for $299
which could be joined to any certified class. For similar reasons to those discussed above, it is
unlikely that a court would award more than $4,875,018 in attorney’s fees for class action claims
for damages totaling $124,982.
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