Worley v. Wal-Mart Stores East L.P.
ORDER: This action is remanded under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. The Clerk is directed to remand this case to state court. After remand has been effected, the Clerk shall CLOSE THIS CASE. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 11/29/2017. (KAK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 8:17-cv-2827-T-33JSS
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP,
Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP removed this slip-andfall
jurisdiction have been satisfied.
As discussed below, the
Court sua sponte determines that it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this action and remands this case to state
Before delving into the merits of any case, this Court
must determine “whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists,
even in the absence of a challenge from any party.” Arbaugh v.
Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006). Indeed, “it is well
settled that a federal court is obligated to inquire into
subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be
lacking.” Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405,
410 (11th Cir. 1999). “Without jurisdiction the court cannot
proceed at all in any cause.” Id.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant can remove an action
to a United States District Court if that court has original
jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). United
States District Courts have original jurisdiction over all
civil actions between parties of diverse citizenship where the
“facially apparent” that the amount in controversy exceeds
$75,000. Williams v. Best Buy, Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th
Removal is also appropriate when an amended
In removed cases, 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) specifies, “If at
any time before final judgment it appears that the district
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be
Removal statutes are strictly construed against
removal. Shamrock Oil & Gas Co. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108
Any doubt as to propriety of removal should be
resolved in favor of remand to state court.
592 F.2d 1293, 1296 (5th Cir. 1979).
Butler v. Polk,
In the Notice of Removal, Wal-Mart predicates federal
jurisdiction on the diversity provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
“For federal diversity jurisdiction to attach, all parties
must be completely diverse . . . and the amount in controversy
Although Wal-Mart has made an adequate showing concerning
complete diversity of citizenship between the parties, the
jurisdictional amount has been satisfied.1
Complaint sheds little light on the amount in controversy.
In her Complaint, Worley maintains, “This is a cause of
action for damages in excess of $15,000.00.” (Doc. # 2 at ¶
1). Worley claims that as a result of Wal-Mart’s alleged
negligence, she suffered:
bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering,
disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of
capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of
hospitalization, medical and nursing care and
treatment, and aggravation of a previously existing
The losses are either permanent or
continuing and Plaintiff will suffer the losses in
In the Notice of Removal, Wal-Mart explains that it is
a citizen of both Delaware and Arkansas while Worley is a
citizen of Florida. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 8-9).
(Id. at ¶ 12).
Absent from the Court’s file are any medical reports or
other evidence bearing on the nature and extent of Worley’s
Instead, Wal-Mart’s sole basis for the
removal of this slip and fall case is Worley’s responses to
Requests for Admissions regarding the extent of Worley’s
damages. There, Worley “admits” that she “is alleging damages
in excess of $75,000.00.” (Doc. # 1-2 at 11-15).
In the same
“provide an itemized breakdown of the damages that Plaintiff
is seeking.” (Id. at 12). Without providing any breakdown or
explanation, Worley simply responds: “Plaintiff’s medical
bills alone exceed $75,000 at this time.” (Id. at 15).
As previously stated, the Complaint alleges damages “in
excess” of $15,000 dollars. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 1). Without any
further specificity on damages, Wal-Mart, as the removing
party, bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the
evidence, that the amount in controversy is in excess of
$75,000. See Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1208
(11th Cir. 2007).
The removing defendant bears the burden of
See Allen v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., 155 Fed. App’x
480, 481 (11th Cir. 2005).
“A conclusory allegation in the
notice of removal that the jurisdictional amount is satisfied,
without setting forth the underlying facts supporting such an
assertion, is insufficient to meet the defendant’s burden.”
Williams, 269 F.3d at 1319-20.
Here, Wal-Mart postulates that Worley’s admissions made
in response to discovery establish the amount in controversy.
Such admissions certainly can carry the day when they are
However, the admissions and denials before the Court are
devoid of the kind of factual information that is necessary to
make a jurisdictional finding.
Worley’s responses do not satisfy the Court that the
amount in controversy is satisfied because “a plaintiff’s mere
concession that the amount-in-controversy exceeds $75,000 is
insufficient.” Eckert v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 8:13-cv2599-T-23EAJ, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149561, *3 (M.D. Fla. Oct.
There, the court explained:
The court has an obligation to determine that the
requisite jurisdictional amount is satisfied and
that inquiry is independent of the parties’
assertions or desires to litigate in federal court.
Allowing the parties to invoke jurisdiction by
merely claiming in concert that the amount-incontroversy exceeds the jurisdictional requirement
is tantamount to allowing the parties to consent to
removal jurisdiction. Thus, although a plaintiff
may stipulate to an amount less than the
jurisdictional minimum to avoid removal, the
converse is not true.
Jurisdiction cannot be
assumed without further inquiry based on the
plaintiff’s stipulation that the plaintiff is
Id. at *3-4 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Here, as in Eckert, Worley’s responses to requests for
admissions (1) offer no factual basis to support that the
nothing more than legal conclusions; and (3) fail to relieve
the removing defendant of the obligation to demonstrate facts
jurisdiction. Accord Wood v. Wal-Mart Stores, E. LP, No. 8:16cv-3477-T-33AAS, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178524, at *2 (M.D.
Fla. Dec. 27, 2016)(remanding slip and fall action when
removal was predicated upon plaintiff’s “admission” that she
alleged damages in excess of $75,000 because “jurisdictional
objections cannot be forfeited or waived”)(citing Eckert, 2013
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149561, at *3); Younkman v. Dillard’s, Inc.,
No. 2:15-cv-361-FtM-99DNF, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99734, at *6
(M.D. Fla. July 30, 2015)(noting that “a Notice of Removal
must plausibly allege the jurisdictional amount, and the mere
refusal to admit that the amount is less than $75,000 is
insufficient.”)(internal citation omitted); Martinez v. First
Liberty Ins. Corp., No. 8:14-cv-3148-T-23AEP, 2015 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 69001, at *3 (M.D. Fla. May 28, 2015)(remanding breach
of contract action when notice of removal was predicated on
plaintiff’s admission that the amount in controversy exceeded
$75,000 and provided no factual basis in support of that legal
Wal-Mart, as the removing party, has not shown by a
preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy
plausibly exceeds $75,000. Therefore, the Court remands the
case to state court because “it appears that the district
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
This action is remanded under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) for
lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. The Clerk is
directed to remand this case to state court. After remand has
been effected, the Clerk shall CLOSE THIS CASE.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, in Tampa, Florida, this
29th day of November, 2017.
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