Johnson-Lang v. Family Dollar Stores of Florida, LLC
ORDER: The Clerk is directed to remand this case to state court because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. After remand, the Clerk shall close this case. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 4/27/2021. (AR)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No. 8:21-cv-902-VMC-CPT
FAMILY DOLLAR STORES OF
This cause comes before the Court sua sponte. For the
reasons set forth below, this case is remanded to state court
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
jurisdiction.” Morrison v. Allstate Indem. Co., 228 F.3d
1255, 1260-61 (11th Cir. 2000). As such, “[a] federal court
not only has the power but also the obligation at any time to
jurisdiction does not exist arises.” Fitzgerald v. Seaboard
Sys. R.R., Inc., 760 F.2d 1249, 1251 (11th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff Paula Johnson-Lang initiated this slip-andfall action in state court on February 11, 2021. (Doc. # 1 at
¶ 1). On March 16, 2021, Johnson-Lang
filed an amended
complaint, and Defendant Family Dollar Stores of Florida,
LLC, answered on March 26, 2021. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). On April
15, 2021, Family Dollar Stores removed the case to this Court
on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at ¶ 6).
things, that “the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.” If “the
complaint, the court should look to the notice of removal and
may require evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at
the time the case was removed.” Williams v. Best Buy Co., 269
establishing the jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of
the evidence.” Lowery v. Ala. Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1208
(11th Cir. 2007).
Here, the amended complaint does not state a specified
damages claim. (Doc. # 1-1 at ¶ 1) (“This is an action for
damages in excess of $30,000.00, exclusive of costs and
fees.”). Instead, in its notice of removal, Family Dollar
Stores relied upon a pre-suit demand letter for $225,000 to
establish the amount in controversy. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 10). The
demand letter included past medical expenses of $30,274.24,
a “conservative” estimate of future medical expenses in the
unspecified damage claims. (Id.).
Upon review of Family Dollar Stores’ notice of removal,
the Court was “unable to determine whether the amount in
controversy has been met by Johnson-Lang’s damages claim
Specifically, the Court concluded that the pre-suit demand
$30,274.24 in past medical expenses, falling well below the
jurisdictional threshold. (Id.). The Court then gave Family
information to establish the amount in controversy. (Id.).
Family Dollar Stores has now responded to the Court’s
order in an attempt to establish this Court’s diversity
jurisdiction. (Doc. # 9). But Family Dollar Stores still fails
to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75,000. In its response, Family Dollar
letter, combined with Johnson-Lang’s past and future medical
expenses, and Johnson-Lang’s allegation “that she suffered
permanent or continuing . . . bodily injury” establishes that
the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-9).
Additionally, Family Dollar Stores supplements its notice of
removal with “uncovered additional information demonstrating
that [Johnson-Lang’s] past medical expenses actually total
$50,173.66.” (Id. at ¶ 8).
However, demand letters do not automatically establish
the amount in controversy. See Lamb v. State Farm Fire Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., No. 3:10-cv-615-TJC-JRK, 2010 WL 6790539, at
*2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 5, 2010) (explaining that demand letters
and settlement offers “do not automatically establish the
jurisdiction”); Piazza v. Ambassador II JV, L.P., No. 8:10cv-1582-SDM-EAJ, 2010 WL 2889218, at *1 (M.D. Fla. July 21,
Johnson-Lang’s medical provider’s opinion that she “will
require an acromioplasty to treat her condition,” and that
steroid injections, TENS unit, and possible surgery,” as well
as the pre-suit demand letter’s estimate of $24,000 to $40,000
in future medical expenses, the mere possibility of future
future medical expenses of $24,000 to $40,000. See Favors v.
Dolgencorp, LLC, No. 14-cv-60267-KMM, 2014 WL 11775522, at *2
(S.D. Fla. Nov. 3, 2014) (“While Defendant contends that
$114,000 to $154,000, the Court finds these estimates to be
too speculative to establish the amount in controversy by a
preponderance of the evidence.”); Pennington v. Covidien LP,
No. 8:19-cv-273-VMC-AAS, 2019 WL 479473, at *1-2 (M.D. Fla.
Feb. 7, 2019) (finding the cost of a $110,000 surgery too
speculative as it had not yet been scheduled).
Family Dollar Stores
does not provide
sufficient detail about Johnson-Lang’s pain and suffering or
the other unspecified damages she has allegedly experienced.
See Nelson v. Black & Decker (U.S.), Inc., No. 8:16-cv-869SCB-JSS, 2015 WL 12259228, at *3-4 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 31, 2015)
(“[T]he Court will not engage in speculation regarding the
value of [the plaintiff’s] pain and suffering damages.”).
Thus, these categories of damages remain too speculative
to include in the amount in controversy calculation and do
not support the contention that the pre-suit demand letter
was more than a mere negotiation tactic. See Rodriguez v.
Family Dollar, No. 8:17-cv-1340-VMC-JSS, 2017 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 88594 (M.D. Fla. June 9, 2017) (remanding the case to
state court where the amount in controversy was based on
hypothetical future medical damages and reasoning that the
pre-suit settlement offers were mere negotiation tactics).
In short, Family Dollar Stores has failed to persuade
the Court that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. The
only concrete damages in this case fall below $51,000 and
categories of damages. Thus, Family Dollar Stores has not
carried its burden of establishing this Court’s diversity
jurisdiction. The Court, finding that it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, remands this case to state court.
Accordingly, it is now
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED:
The Clerk is directed to REMAND this case to state court
because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. After
remand, the Clerk shall CLOSE this case.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers in Tampa, Florida, this
27th day of April, 2021.
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