Allen Jr. v. Santander Bank
Judge Richard G. Stearns: ORDER entered. This action is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This dismissal does not prevent Mr. Allen from pursuing his claims in the appropriate state court. [Copy of order sent to plaintiff by first-class mail on 2/14/2017.] (PSSA, 3)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-12527-RGS
JAMES ALLEN, JR.
February 14, 2017
For the reasons stated below, the court dismisses this action.
In a memorandum and order dated December 16, 2016 (Dkt. #4), the
court directed plaintiff James Allen, Jr. (“Mr. Allen”) to show cause why
this case should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Mr. Allen alleged that the defendant, Santander Bank (“Santander”), had,
wrongfully and without Mr. Allen’s consent, allowed his bank account to go
into overdraft status. Mr. Allen asserted that this occurred after a teller at a
Santander branch mistakenly or purposefully did not acknowledge the
amount of cash that Mr. Allen had given to the teller for purposes of
procuring a money order. Mr. Allen sought $20,000 in damages. The
court explained that the complaint did not state a claim over which it could
exercise subject matter jurisdiction.
In response to the show cause order, Mr. Allen timely filed an
amended complaint (Dkt. #6) and later provided additional documents
regarding his account with Santander (Dkt. #7).
While the amended
complaint sets forth the alleged facts in a slightly more cogent manner than
the original complaint, which the court takes as true for present purposes, it
does not cure the subject matter jurisdictional bar raised by the court in its
earlier memorandum and order.
Mr. Allen does not identify a claim
arising under federal law, thus precluding federal question subject matter
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Mr. Allen does allege that “$75,000 can be attached to [his] claim
civil action,” Amend. Compl. ¶ 6, suggesting that he is invoking the court’s
diversity subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). 1 This bare
allegation is, however, insufficient. For purposes of diversity subject matter
jurisdiction, “[t]he burden is on the federal plaintiff to establish that the
minimum amount in controversy has been met.”
CE Design Ltd. v.
To invoke the court’s diversity subject matter jurisdiction, a plaintiff must
allege that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). Here, Mr. Allen has not explicitly alleged that the amount in
controversy is over $75,000. For purposes of this order, the court will
disregard that that deficiency.
American Economy Ins. Co., 755 F.3d 39, 43 (1st Cir. 2014). While a
plaintiff’s “good faith allegation of damages meeting the required amount in
controversy is usually enough,” id. at 43, in this context, “good faith is
measured objectively,” Abdel-Aleem v. OPK Biotech LLC, 665 F.3d 38, 41
(1st Cir. 2012). The question is “‘whether to anyone familiar with the
applicable law this claim could objectively have been viewed as worth’ more
than the jurisdictional minimum.” Abdel-Aleem, 665 F.3d at 41 (quoting
Coventry Sewage Assoc. v. Dworkin Realty Co., 71 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir.
1995)). Once the assertion of the amount in controversy is challenged, it is
the plaintiff’s burden to allege with “‘sufficient particularity’ facts that in
some way support the contention that there is more than $75,000 at stake.”
Given the alleged facts of his case, Mr. Allen’s bare allegation that his
claim meets the amount in controversy requirement for diversity subject
matter is insufficient.
The court cannot infer that Santander’s act of
wrongfully causing Mr. Allen’s account to go into overdraft status in the
amount of $96 (plus associated fees) can support a claim of over $75,000.
While the court does not question Mr. Allen’s intent, sincerity, or his factual
allegations, it cannot “accept every claim of damages at face value.” Id. at
43 (quoting Diefenthal v. Civil Aeronautics Board, 681 F.2d 1039, 1052
(5th Cir. 1982)).
Acknowledging that “[i]t must appear to a legal certainty that the
claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify a dismissal,”
St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 2889
(1938), the court finds that Mr. Allen has not pled a claim over which the
court has subject matter jurisdiction. Having made this finding, the court
has no choice but to dismiss this case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the
court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the
court must dismiss the action.”).
Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
This dismissal does not prevent
Mr. Allen from pursuing his claims in the appropriate state court.
/s/ Richard G. Stearns
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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