Jennings v. Powermatic
ORDER granting 4 Motion to Remand to State Court; remanding case to Circuit Court for the Third Circuit in and for Columbia County, Florida; directing Clerk to close the file. Signed by Judge Timothy J. Corrigan on 11/13/2013.(SRW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 3:13-cv-921-J-32JBT
This case is before the Court on plaintiff Martin Jennings’ Motion to Remand (Doc. 4)
and defendant Powermatic’s Response to the Motion (Doc. 9). Plaintiff contends this case
should be remanded because defendant has not established that the amount in controversy
meets the requirements for federal diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant on June 3, 2013, in the Circuit Court of
the Third Judicial Circuit for Columbia County, Florida. (Doc. 2). Defendant was served with
the Complaint on July 10, 2013. (Doc. 1). According to the Complaint, Plaintiff suffered
severe injury to his right hand when operating a table saw manufactured by defendant,
leading to the amputation of his right index finger. (Doc. 2 p. 2-3). Plaintiff asserts three
causes of action: negligence, strict products liability, and breach of implied warranty. (Doc.
2). The Complaint does not specify the amount of damages but provides that plaintiff’s
injuries have resulted in expenses for medical care and hospitalization that will continue in
the future, “other economic losses,” great physical and emotional distress, permanent
disability, disfigurement, lost wages, “general damages,” and an adverse effect on his ability
to engage in “normal and usual activities.” (Doc. 2 p. 3-5). Defendant filed a Notice of
Removal on July 31, 2013, (Doc. 1), after which plaintiff timely filed the present Motion to
Remand (Doc. 4).
A defendant may remove a civil case from state to federal court if the federal court
has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). To have original jurisdiction in this case there
must be complete diversity between the parties and an amount in controversy exceeding
$75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Because the parties do not dispute that they are citizens of
different states, the only relevant issue is whether the amount in controversy exceeds
As the party seeking removal, defendant bears the burden of establishing
jurisdiction. See Lowery v. Alabama Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1207 (11th Cir. 2007).
“Where, as here, the plaintiff has not pled a specific amount of damages, the removing
defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional requirement.” Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319
(11th Cir. 2001). Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, “[t]he
removal statute should be construed narrowly with doubt construed against removal.” Diaz
v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v.
Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 107-09 (1941)).
Defendant removed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1), which allows a
defendant to file a notice of removal within thirty days of receipt of the initial pleading.1 In
assessing the propriety of removal under § 1446(b)(1), the Court should first look to the
Complaint. Leon v. First Liberty Ins. Corp., 903 F. Supp. 2d 1319, 1321 (M.D. Fla. 2012)
(citing Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 754 (11th Cir. 2010)). If the amount
in controversy is indeterminate based on the Complaint then the Court may look to the
Notice of Removal, along with other relevant evidence such as affidavits or declarations. Id.
“If the jurisdictional amount is not clear from the face of or readily deducible from the
removing documents, the court must remand the matter.” Evans v. Zurich American Ins.
Co., No. 3:12-cv489/MCR/EMT, 2012 WL 6061061, at *1 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 5, 2012).
Defendant relies solely on plaintiff’s Complaint in asserting that the amount in
controversy is “reasonably believed to exceed $75,000" because of the severity of plaintiff’s
injuries and the type of damages plaintiff seeks.2 (Doc. 1 p. 3; Doc. 9 p. 5-6). While
Defendant incorrectly asserts removal based on receipt of a “paper from which it may
first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable,” which falls
under § 1446(b)(3) rather than § 1446(b)(1). Defendant may have invoked that provision
thinking it could not assert removal under § 1446(b)(1) because defendant received the
Complaint more than thirty days after plaintiff had filed it. However, the thirty-day period
under § 1446(b)(1) is triggered when the defendant receives the Complaint by formal
service, not when it is filed. Murphy Bros., Inc. V. Michetti Pipe Stringing, Inc., 526 U.S. 344,
351-56 (1999). Thus, the Complaint is not an “other paper” under 1446(b)(3), and instead
defendant removed the case within thirty days of service.
In the Notice of Removal defendant states that “[a]lthough no specific dollar amount is
alleged, Plaintiff claims damages are in excess of $75,000.” (Doc. 1 p. 3). Defendant
asserts this as fact but provides no supporting citation. In the Motion to Remand plaintiff
responds that “Jennings has come to realize that his original state court Complaint dropped
reference to money damages. That’s a mistake; for purposes of this motion, Jennings
acknowledges that his Complaint’s ‘amount in controversy’ exceeds $15,000.” (Doc. 4 p. 3).
defendant correctly points out that a court may use reasonable deductions and common
sense in determining whether the jurisdictional threshold has been met, there must first be
supporting evidence to do so, and a court may not speculate or guess. Harper v. Marriot
Hotel Serv. Inc., No. 3:12-cv-1098-J-12MCR, 2012 WL 6061726, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 6,
Here, the Court has nothing on which to base its determination except a brief
description of the injury and a general statement of resulting harms. As other courts in this
District have noted, “[R]esultant pain, medical expense, loss of earning, loss of the
enjoyment of life, and other vague assertions do not convince the Court that the jurisdictional
requirements have been met . . . . [T]hese categorical assertions of loss inhere in almost
every tort complaint, convey no fact, and certainly establish no amount in controversy.”3
Bienvenue v. Wal-Mart Stores, East, LP, No. 8:13-cv-1331-T-33TGW, 2001 WL 36518834,
at *2 (M.D. Fla. June 19, 2013) (citations and internal quotations omitted); see Castro v. BP
Products of North America, Inc., 8:11-cv-2188-T-23TBM, 2011 WL 9134010, at *1 (M.D. Fla.
Oct. 7, 2011) (“[A] conclusory listing of diverse harms fails to overcome the presumption
against federal jurisdiction.”); Beal v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 3:12-cv-703-K12JBT, 2012 WL 4049516, at *3 (M.D. Fla. 2012) (noting that two car accident victims’
claims including bodily injury, disability, disfigurement, expense of medical care, loss of
Nowhere in the Complaint, however, does plaintiff ever state that damages are in excess of
$75,000, despite plaintiff seemingly admitting to doing so. Defendant also does not raise this
point again in its Response to plaintiff’s Motion. The Court thus accords it no weight.
The three District Court cases defendant cites to support its position are not binding on
this Court and are not persuasive given the precedent cited herein. (Doc. 9 p. 6).
ability to earn money, and aggravation of a previously existing condition were “nothing more
than a general description of the types of damages Plaintiffs claim to have suffered” and did
not establish an amount in controversy).
The Court acknowledges that plaintiff has alleged a serious injury, but in this case that
injury, in and of itself, does not establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
See Lambertson v. Go Fit, LLC, 918 F. Supp. 2d 1283, 1285 (S.D. Fla. 2013) (“Plaintiff’s
Complaint alleges . . . near complete blindness in one eye and partial vision loss in his other
eye. This Court will not speculate as to the amount of damages . . . and cannot expect
Defendant to have done so where the pleading itself states only that the amount in
controversy exceeds $15,000.”); Mullaney v. Endogastric Solutions, Inc., No. 11-62056-CIV,
2011 WL 4975904, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 19, 2011) (noting that defendant could not establish
the amount in controversy by only pointing to allegations of “surgical intervention that
required additional life saving medical treatment” and “serious, permanent, and disabling
injuries” in the complaint).
In some cases it may be “facially apparent” that a complaint meets the amount in
controversy, even when the amount of damages is not specified. See Roe v. Michelin N.
Am., Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).4 Where, as the Court
Roe, which defendant cites in its Response, involved a wrongful death action seeking
punitive damages under Alabama’s Wrongful Death Act. Roe, 613 F.3d at 1059. Though
Roe’s directive to use “judicial experience or common sense in discerning whether the
allegations in a complaint [are] facially establish[ed]” is not limited to wrongful death actions,
the facts of that case are certainly more indicative of meeting the jurisdictional threshold than
the facts of this case. Id. at 1065; see Angrignon v. KLI, Inc., No. 08-81218-CIV, 2009 WL
506954, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 27, 2009) (“[C]omplaints in wrongful death actions are more
probative than those involving severe injuries in evaluating the amount in controversy. In a
finds here, the amount in controversy is not facially apparent from the Complaint, the nature
of plaintiff’s injury and resulting harms may still provide some evidence of the amount in
However, when concluding that removal is appropriate, courts rely on
substantiating evidence in addition to such allegations. See, e.g., Diaz v. Big Lot Stores,
Inc., No. 5:10-cv-319-Oc-32JBT, 2010 WL 6793850, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 5, 2010) (finding
that allegations including disfigurement, disability, and loss of ability to earn money were not
dispositive of the amount in controversy but were enough to deny remand when considered
with a settlement letter specifying over $75,000 worth of medical expenses); Yetter v. Amica
Mut. Ins. Co., No. 6:13-cv-972-Orl-31DAB, 2013 WL 3837185, at *2 (M.D. Fla. July 24, 2013)
(concluding that defendant had satisfied the evidentiary burden by considering plaintiff’s
categorical list of damages in conjunction with plaintiff’s repeated demands for $100,000 and
her Civil Remedy Notice filed with the state detailing a future need for spinal surgery). Here,
there is no substantiating evidence, and the bare allegations of the Complaint do not support
defendant’s jurisdictional burden. See Beal 2012 WL 4049516, at *3.5
With all doubts resolved in favor of remand, the Court finds that defendant has not
proven the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence.
case involving injury a court will be forced to speculate regarding the duration, extent or
severity of the harms alleged when a defendant removes on the basis of nothing more than
There appears to be some confusion over defendant’s name. In the Notice of Removal
defendant asserts that plaintiff has improperly named it as Powermatic Corp., and states that
defendant’s proper name is Walter Meier (Manufacturing) Inc. (Doc. 1). The parties should
resolve this matter in state court after remand has been effected.
Accordingly, it is hereby
Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand (Doc. 4) is GRANTED. The case is remanded to the
Circuit Court of the Third Judicial Circuit for Columbia County, Florida. After remand has
been effected the Clerk shall terminate all pending motions and close the file.
DONE AND ORDERED at Jacksonville, Florida this 13th day of November, 2013.
counsel of record
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