Martin v. Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc
ENTERED IN ERROR: ORDER denying 48 Motion for Cost and Fees and denying 49 Cross-Motion for Sanctions. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 3/11/2019. (Mattessich, William) Modified on 3/11/2019 (Shafer, J.).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
Harbor Freight Tools USA, Inc.
September 24, 2018
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT
Plaintiff, a resident of Connecticut, claims he purchased a water pump from
Defendant, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Delaware. [Dkt.
1-2, Exhibit B (Complaint) ¶ 3]. Plaintiff alleges that the water pump was
defective, and that this defective water pump caused flooding in his basement
and damage to his home and property. [Dkt. 1-2, Exhibit B, ¶ 4]. Plaintiff
originally filed his complaint in Connecticut Superior Court on March 2, 2018.
[Dkt. 1-2, Exhibit B, at 7]. Defendant timely removed on March 30, 2018, invoking
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1332(a). [Dkt. 1 (Notice of Removal)].
The Court held a Rule 16 teleconference on April 25, 2018, for the primary
purpose of ascertaining whether the amount in controversy requirement was
satisfied. [Dkt. 16]. In response to the Court’s inquiry, Plaintiff identified the
property he claims was damaged and its value. Shortly thereafter, on May 20,
2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand to State Court, stating that “if this case is
remanded back to State court; the plaintiff will not seek or accept a judgment in
excess of $75,000.” [Dkt. 18 (Plaintiff’s Mot. to Remand) ¶ 7(A)]. Defendant
responded in support of the Motion to Remand, requesting that the Court issue
an Order stating that the Defendant “may not seek or recover judgment in excess
of $75,000” in state court. [Dkt. 21 (Defendant’s Response to Plaintiff’s Mot. to
Remand) ¶ 8]. Plaintiff then withdrew his Motion to Remand, stating that he “no
longer is willing to limit his potential Judgement in this matter to $75,000.” [Dkt.
22 (Notice of Withdrawal of Mot. to Remand) ¶ 1]. For the reasons described
below, this case is REMANDED sua sponte to state court.
The Court must remand a case if, at any time during the course of litigation,
it determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The party
invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing the existence of a
sufficient amount in controversy. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298
U.S. 178, 189 (1936); United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 919, AFLCIO v. CenterMark Properties Meriden Square, Inc., 30 F.3d 298, 304-05 (2d Cir.
1994). The party must prove to “a reasonable probability” that the claim meets the
jurisdictional amount. United Food, 30 F.3d at 305. The party must prove those
allegations by the preponderance of the evidence. Id. If the court finds it lacks
jurisdiction for removal, “remand may take place without motion and at any time.”
Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 392 (1998). Courts may
remand where the amount in controversy requirement appeared satisfied at the
outset of the action but subsequent evidence disproved the amount. Tongkook
America, Inc. v. Shipton Sportswear Co., 14 F.3d 781, 786 (2d Cir. 1994).
Plaintiff originally claimed he would ask the jury for “several hundreds of
thousands” of dollars. [Dkt. 1 (Notice of Removal) ¶ 9; Dkt. 1, Exhibit C (Email from
Harbor Freight noted that “Plaintiff’s Complaint seeks recovery of
replacement costs for loss of tools, windows, doors and for damage to the
basement’s structure.” [Id.]. Martin’s Complaint also claimed “mold and insect
infestation” and “appears to claim non-economic damages related to the loss of
several paintings made by his mother and grandmother.” [Id. ¶ 8].
At the parties’ Rule 16 teleconference, the Plaintiff alleged that the most he
would ask for is $60,000. [Dkt. 17 (Minute Entry – Rule 16 Teleconference)]. Plaintiff
also told the Court that he was unsure how much of the damage to his basement
was the direct result of the flooding allegedly caused by Defendant’s pump. [Id.].
Plaintiff admitted three additional facts which militate against more than a nominal
jury award for the damaged paintings. First, he admitted that neither his mother’s
painting nor his grandmother’s painting had any pecuniary value. [Id.]. Second,
he admitted he did not display any of the paintings in his home where he could see
them. [Id.]. Third, he admitted he kept the paintings in the mold and insect infested
basement. These three facts suggest a reasonable jury would not be inclined to
award more than nominal damages for any emotional distress, if any, Plaintiff was
able to prove he suffered as a result of the damage done to the paintings. Finally,
in his withdrawn Motion to Remand, he makes a demand of only $20,000. [Dkt. 18
(Pl.’s Mot. to Remand) ¶ 4].
Based on the facts that have come to the Court’s attention since the Notice
of Removal, the Court finds that there is less than $75,000 in controversy and
therefore it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. This case is hereby REMANDED to
Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven at Meriden.
IT IS SO ORDERED
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: September 24, 2018.
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