Turnage v. General Motors LLC et al
ORDER confirming subject-matter jurisdiction. Signed by Honorable David C. Bramlette, III on November 20, 2017 (JBR)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CAUSE NO. 3:17-cv-373-DCB-MTP
GENERAL MOTORS LLC
OPINION AND ORDER
This Cause is before the Court on the Court’s Order [Doc. No.
25] that the Defendant, General Motors LLC (“GM”), show cause to
the Court why it has subject-matter jurisdiction, and why the case
should not be remanded to the Circuit Court of Rankin County,
memoranda, applicable statutory and case law, and being otherwise
fully informed in the premises, the Court finds as follows:
The airbags in Plaintiff Eleanor Turnage’s GM-manufactured
Chevrolet Traverse failed to deploy when her car collided with
another. Turnage sued GM in the Circuit Court of Rankin County for
personal injury and property damages caused by the car’s defective
diversity jurisdiction. After reviewing Turnage’s Complaint and
GM’s Notice of Removal, the Court
ruled that the amount-in-
controversy was unclear, and ordered the parties to brief the
First, the Court ordered Turnage to state whether she intends
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA” or “Act”) jurisdiction. See St.
Paul Reinsurance Co. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1254 n. 18 (5th
Cir. 1998). Turner replies that she will not submit an affidavit
limiting her recovery. [Doc. No. 29]
Second, the Court ordered Turnage to outline her damages.
[Doc. No. 25, p. 8] In response, Turnage explains that she asks
for “all damages to which she is entitled” under the MMWA, $3,000
in medical expenses, $150,000 in lost income, and $1 million in
“other damages.” [Doc. No. 35, ¶¶4-7]
Third, the Court ordered GM to explain why the Court has
And more specifically, the Court
asked GM for evidence that Turnage claims damages exceeding the
jurisdictional thresholds of the diversity statute and of the MMWA.
In reply, GM points to Turnage’s initial disclosures as evidence
that the amount-in-controversy is met —— at least as to Turnage’s
state-law claims. [Doc. No. 36, ¶5]
Turnage’s request for $150,000 in lost wages and $1 million in
“other damages.” [Doc. No. 35, ¶¶4-6]
Turnage’s MMWA claim is more difficult to value. And on that
controversy is met. GM relies on Turnage’s vague request for “all
damages to which she is entitled” under the Act. [Doc. No. 35,
¶11] But if the Court finds less than $50,000 is in controversy on
jurisdiction over it. [Doc. No. 35, ¶12]
The Court has jurisdiction of civil suits between parties of
controversy. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Turnage and GM are diverse,
so jurisdiction turns on the amount-in-controversy.
The amount-in-controversy is what Turnage claims, not what
she is “likely to win or be awarded.” Robertson v. Exxon Mobil
Corp., 814 F.3d 236, 240 (5th Cir. 2015). And the Court views the
amount-in-controversy as of the time GM removed this case from the
Rankin County Circuit Court. Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores, 233 F.3d
880, 883 (5th Cir. 2000); Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d
1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995).
complaint asks for sum that exceeds it. In such cases, that sum
controls unless it appears to a legal certainty that the claim is
for a lesser amount. St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co.,
303 U.S. 283, 287-88 (1938).
But Turnage’s Complaint does not ask for a specific sum.
Thus, GM must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the
Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 11 F.3d 55, 58 (5th Cir. 1993). It may do
so two ways.
First, GM may direct the Court to the Complaint —— asking the
Court to find the amount-in-controversy “facially apparent.” White
v. FCI USA, Inc., 319 F.3d 672, 675 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal
controversy is met. Scarlott v. Nissan North America, Inc., 771
F.3d 883, 888 (5th Cir. 2014).
The Court has already ruled that the amount-in-controversy
is not clear from Turnage’s Complaint. [Doc. No. 25, p. 4] The
Court therefore relies on the “summary-judgment-type” evidence
offered by Turnage and GM. Scarlott, 771 F.3d at 888.
For analytical purposes, the Court sets Turnage’s state-law
claims apart from her MMWA claims. The distinction is artificial
but necessary: The Act has its own $50,000 amount-in-controversy
recoverable under the MMWA, and so counting towards its amountin-controversy requirement, differ from the damages recoverable
under Turnage’s state-law theories. See, e.g., Boelens v. Redman
Homes, Inc., 748 F.2d 1058, 1069 (5th Cir. 1984) (personal injury
damages not recoverable under MMWA). The Court therefore addresses
A. State-Law Claims
Turnage complains that the airbags in her Chevrolet Traverse
were defective, that GM negligently designed them, and that GM
knowingly concealed the defect. She alleges negligence (Count I),
fraudulent concealment (Count II), products liability (Count III),
and breach of implied warranty (Count IV). [Doc. No. 1-1]
The parties point to Turnage’s initial disclosures as proof
that Turnage’s state-law claims exceed $75,000. The Court may
consider Turnage’s initial disclosures to determine whether the
amount-in-controversy is met. See, e.g., Hitchens v. Doll, 2017 WL
2306411, at *5 (D.N.M. Jan. 25, 2017); Paulmann v. Hodgdon Powder
Co., 2014 WL 1664229, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 25, 2014); Evans & Clesi
v. Hartford Ins. Co. of Southeast, 2006 WL 1999201, at *2 (E.D.
La. July 17, 2006).
medical bills, $150,000 in lost wages, and $1 million in “other
damages.” [Doc. No. 30-1, ¶(iii)] The Court accordingly finds that
the amount-in-controversy on Turnage’s state-law claims exceeds
jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
B. MMWA Claim
For starters, Turnage alleges that the MMWA applies because
the Chevrolet Traverse is a “consumer product,” she is a “consumer,”
and GM is a “supplier” and a “warrantor” under the Act. [Doc. No.
1-1, ¶¶62-64] Turnage also states that GM impliedly warranted that
the Traverse was “fit for its ordinary purpose as a safe passenger
motor vehicle.” [Doc. No. 1-1, ¶65] And GM breached the implied
warranty, Turnage concludes, by placing the Traverse on the market
with knowledge of the airbag system defect.
jurisdiction if the amount-in-controversy on it exceeds $50,000.
See 15 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(3)(B). If Turnage’s MMWA claim is not
within the Court’s original jurisdiction, the Court must determine
whether it has supplemental jurisdiction over the claim.
i). Original Jurisdiction
The Court first examines the elements of damages it may
consider in valuing Turnage’s MWMA claim. The MMWA does not say
what damages a plaintiff suing under it may recover; so, the Court
looks to damages recoverable under state law. See MacKenzie v.
Chrysler Corp., 607 F.2d 1162, 1166-67 (5th Cir. 1979). Mississippi
law holds that the damages recoverable under the MMWA are those
provided by the UCC. Broome v. General Motors, LLC, 145 So. 3d
645, 651 (Miss. 2014).
Under the UCC, Turnage may recover incidental damages and
acceptance between the value of the goods accepted and the value
they would have had if they had been as warranted.” MISS. CODE ANN.
controversy. U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. Villegas, 242 F.3d 279, 284
(5th Cir. 2001). Punitive damages are recoverable under the MMWA
if such damages are recoverable for breach of warranty under state
law. Boelens, 748 F.2d at 1069. Mississippi law allows breach of
instances." Ciba-Geigy Corp. v. Murphree, 653 So. 2d 857, 867(Miss.
1994). For example, a plaintiff may recover punitive damages if
the defendant acts with malice, is grossly negligent, or evinces
a “ruthless disregard for the rights of others.” Id. at 867.
Turnage has pleaded a claim for punitive damages and has
alleged gross negligence. [Doc. No. 1-1, ¶34] The proper measure
of MMWA damages,
then, is the diminished value of Turnage’s
Chevrolet Traverse, plus incidental and punitive damages.
But the parties’ papers omit the information necessary to
value Turnage’s MMWA claim. The parties submit that the retail
price of Turnage’s Traverse was $31,045.41, yet fail to specify
the post-accident condition of the Traverse and, accordingly, its
The diminished value of the Traverse, plus incidental and
controversy requirement. But the parties’ briefing overlooks the
measure of MMWA damages, and therefore fails to supply the Court
with the factual basis required to make that finding. Declining to
hold that the MMWA claim is within its original jurisdiction, the
Court considers whether it has supplemental jurisdiction over the
ii). Supplemental Jurisdiction
The Court has jurisdiction over Turnage’s MMWA claim if it is
“so related” to Turnage’s state-law claims that it forms part of
the “same case or controversy.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a); see also
Burzlaff v. Thoroughbred Motorsports, Inc., 758 F.3d 841, 845 (7th
Cir. 2014); Voelker v. Porsche Cars North America, Inc., 353 F.3d
516, 522 (7th Cir. 2003); Suber v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F.3d 578,
588 n. 12 (3d Cir. 1997); Pierre v. Planet Auto., Inc., 193 F.
Supp. 3d 157, 173 (E.D.N.Y. 2016) (concluding that the MMWA amountin-controversy requirement does not prohibit a district court from
exercising supplemental jurisdiction over MMWA claims).
Claims are part of the “same case or controversy” if they
share a “common nucleus of operative fact.” City of Chicago v.
Int’l College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 165 (1997) (citing United
Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966)). An “operative”
fact is one that “constitutes the transaction or event on which a
claim or defense is based.” BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 670 (9th ed. 2009).
The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Turnage’s MMWA
claim because it shares a “common nucleus of operative fact” with
jurisdiction. Indeed, the facts that will shape Turnage’s MMWA
claim —— whether the airbag system was defective, and if so,
whether GM knew about the defects yet concealed them —— are the
same facts underlying Turnage’s state-law claims.
The Court has original jurisdiction over Turnage’s state-law
claims because Turnage and GM are diverse, and the amount-incontroversy on those claims exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interest
and costs. The parties fail to marshal relevant facts to support
a finding that Turnage’s MMWA claim meets the Act’s jurisdictional
threshold. Even so, the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over
that claim because it is “so related” to Turnage’s state-law claims
that it forms part of the “same case or controversy” under Article
III of the United States Constitution.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Court has removal
jurisdiction over this case.
SO ORDERED this the 20th day of November, 2017.
/s/ David Bramlette_________
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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