Hubbell v. FEDEX Smartpost Inc.,
ORDER denying 6 plaintiff's Motion to Remand. Signed by District Judge George Caram Steeh (MBea)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-cv-12859
HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH
FEDEX SMARTPOST, INC.,
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND
Plaintiff was employed by defendant through December 15, 2014. Plaintiff
alleges that, beginning in 2010, defendant took adverse employment actions and
discriminated against her because of her gender. Plaintiff filed Case No. 14-cv-13897
against defendant in 2014 under Title VII. Thereafter, plaintiff filed this case on June
29, 2016 in Wayne County Circuit Court. The complaint states three claims under the
Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act: (1) gender discrimination, (2) retaliation, and (3) hostile
work environment – retaliation.
Defendant removed the case to this court on August 3, 2016 on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction. On August 25, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion to remand for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, alleging that the amount in controversy did not meet the
jurisdictional requirement of $75,000. The court held a hearing on this motion on
September 27, 2016.
To invoke removal jurisdiction, the defendant has the burden of demonstrating
that the court has original subject matter jurisdiction. Long v. Bando Mfg. of America,
Inc., 201 F.3d 754, 757 (6th Cir. 2000). Where removal is based on the court's diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), the defendant must prove that it is "more likely
than not," or by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75,000.00. Gafford v. Gen. Elec. Co., 997 F.2d 150, 158 (6th Cir. 1993)
(overruled on other grounds); 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). The determination of the amount
in controversy is made at the time of removal. Ahearn v. Charter Twp. of Bloomfield,
100 F.3d 451, 453 (6th Cir. 1996); Rogers v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 230 F.3d 868, 871
(6th Cir. 2000). The amount in controversy is viewed "from the perspective of the
plaintiff, with a focus on the economic value of the rights he seeks to protect."
Williamson v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 481 F.3d 369, 376 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Buckeye
Recyclers v. CHEP USA, 228 F.Supp.2d. 818, 821 (S.D. Ohio 2002)).
To meet its burden of proof on the amount in controversy, a defendant may rely
on an estimate of the potential damages from the allegations within the complaint.
McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d 947, 955 (10th Cir. 2008). “Beyond the complaint
itself, other documentation can provide the basis for determining the amount in
controversy – either interrogatories obtained in state court before removal was filed, or
affidavits or other evidence submitted in federal court afterward.” Id. at 956. Several
circuit courts have held that “a plaintiff’s proposed settlement amount ‘is relevant
evidence of the amount in controversy if it appears to reflect a reasonable estimate of
the plaintiff’s claim.’” Id. (quoting Cohn v. Petsmart, Inc., 281 F.3d 837, 840 (9th Cir.
2002)). See also Rising-Moore v. Red Roof Inns, Inc., 435 F.3d 813 (7th Cir. 2006).
While the Sixth Circuit has not addressed this issue, the Eastern District of Michigan
has permitted the use of an email containing settlement demands to prove the amount
in controversy. Santos-Tiller v. Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corp., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
112786 (E.D. Mich., Aug. 24, 2016).
In its complaint, plaintiff seeks “an amount well in excess of the jurisdictional amount
of $25,000, plus costs and interest, including past, current and future damages and
wage loss, 401k loss and other benefits, exemplary damages, punitive damages, and
attorney fees for the illegal acts of Defendant as stated herein.” The nature of these
claims and losses suggest an amount in controversy over $75,000.
Furthermore, defendant argues that at the time of removal, it met its burden to show
that it was more likely than not that the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000 based
on plaintiff’s proposed settlement offer of $180,000. On June 21, 2016, plaintiff’s
attorney emailed defendant’s attorney asking if plaintiff “will agree to pay the sum of
$180,000.00 to reasonably settle all claims. . . . If we cannot settle all claims within the
next 7 days, my Client has requested I file a complaint in State Court as to her State
claims in order to preserve and move forward upon those claims.” [Doc. 1-3 at 2].
Plaintiff argues that this settlement offer relates solely to the pending federal lawsuit
and does not encompass the proposed state law claims. Contrary to plaintiff’s
argument, it would defy common sense to conclude that a proposal to settle “all claims”
without any stated limitations would nevertheless exclude claims set forth in this case.
Moreover, principles of res judicata would preclude pursuit of these claims following
such a settlement.
The court finds that defendant’s showing of plaintiff’s offer to settle “all claims” for
$180,000 establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant has satisfied
its burden of demonstrating that the court has original subject matter jurisdiction under §
Plaintiff’s motion to remand is DENIED.
Dated: October 5, 2016
s/George Caram Steeh
GEORGE CARAM STEEH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
On October 5, 2016, copies of this Order were served by electronic
and/or ordinary mail upon attorneys of record.
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