Sherrard v. Boeing Co., The et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (ECF No. 8 ) is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this case is REMANDED to the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit Court, St. Louis County, State of Missouri, from which it was removed. An Order of Remand accompanies this Order. Signed by District Judge Ronnie L. White on July 12, 2017. (BRP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
THE BOEING COMPANY, et al. ,
No. 4:17CV1444 RLW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (ECF No. 8). The
motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
grant Plaintiffs motion.
Plaintiff filed a Petition for Damages Based on Violation of the Missouri Human Rights
Act ("MHRA") in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri on April 13, 2017. (Pet. , ECF
No. 4) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant The Boeing Company ("Boeing"), Hiring Manager 1, and
Hiring Manager 2 retaliated against Plaintiff for filing a prior charge of discrimination and
lawsuit by refusing to hire him for two positions, despite Plaintiffs qualifications. (Id. at iii! 1526)
Defendant removed the case to federal court on May 4, 2017, invoking this Court' s
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441 , and 1446. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1)
Defendant asserts that the Court has diversity jurisdiction because Plaintiff is a citizen of
Missouri, and Defendant is a corporation incorporated in the State of Delaware with its principal
place of business in Chicago, Illinois. (Id. at iii! 4-6) Further, Defendant contends that
Defendants Hiring Manager 1 and Hiring Manager 2, which Plaintiff alleges are Missouri
residents, are sued under fictitious names and must be disregarded. (Id. at iii! 7-10) Finally,
Defendant argues that the damages sought by Plaintiff are greater than $75 ,000. (Id. at iii! 11-16)
On June 5, 2017, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand, asserting that the statute does
not exclude the citizenship of the two Hiring Managers because the allegations in the Petition
specify that these Hiring Managers made the decision to reject Plaintiffs applications, and they
are citizens of Missouri. Further, Plaintiff contends that Boeing has failed to meet its burden of
proving that the amount in controversy exceeds $75 ,000. Thus, Plaintiff argues that federal
diversity jurisdiction is absent in this cause of action such that the case should be remanded to
the Circuit Court of St. Louis County.
In removal cases, the Court reviews the state court petition and the notice of removal in
order to determine whether it has jurisdiction. Branch v. Wheaton Van Lines, Inc., No. 4: l 4-CV01735, 2014 WL 6461372, at* 1 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 17, 2014). Diversity jurisdiction exists where a
civil action is between citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds
$75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Defendant has the burden of proving that the prerequisites to
jurisdiction are satisfied. Branch, 2014 WL 64613 72, at * 1. "A case must be remanded if, at
any time, it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction." Hrastich v. Advance
Auto Parts, Inc., No. 4:14-CV-22-JAR, 2014 WL 3341121 , at *l (E.D. Mo. July 8, 2014) (citing
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)).
"To meet its burden with regard to the jurisdictional amount, the removing party must
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000." Id.
at *2 (citations omitted). "Removal statutes are strictly construed and all doubts about the
propriety ofremoval must be resolved in favor ofremand." Jackson v. Fitness Resource Grp. ,
Inc., No . 4:12 CV 986 DDN, 2012 WL 2873668, at *2 (E.D. Mo. July 12, 2012) (citations
In removal cases, "the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed
to be the amount in controversy, except that the notice of removal may assert the amount in
controversy if the initial pleading seeks a money judgment, but the State practice either does not
permit demand for a specific sum or permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount
demanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(A)(ii). Where, as here, "the state court petition seeks an
unspecified amount of damages, the court must make a factual inquiry into the amount-incontroversy issue." Jackson, 2012 WL 2873668 , at *2 (citations omitted).
In the Motion to Remand and Reply Memorandum, Plaintiff argues that Defendant has
failed to show by a preponderance of evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
While Boeing contends that the amount in actual damages for lost wages and benefits is at least
$80,000, Plaintiff asserts that the lost wages would be reduced by wages he received during the
relevant timeframe, in this case in excess of $34,000. However, Defendant points to other
amounts such as attorney' s fees that are statutorily awarded to the prevailing party under the
MHRA; lost benefits; damages for emotional distress and humiliation; and punitive damages.
The Petition' s prayer for relief requests actual damages in a "fair and reasonable" sum, along
with punitive damages, interest, costs, and attorney' s fees . (Pet. p. 5, ECF No . 4)
The Court finds that Defendant has not met its burden of showing that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75,000 such that diversity jurisdiction does not exist. First, although
Plaintiff requests actual damages, punitive damages, and attorney' s fees , Plaintiff correctly notes
that back pay is calculated based on the difference between the value of the compensation he
would have been entitled to and the wages he earned during the relevant period. Clark v.
Matthews Int 'l Corp. , 639 F.3d 391, 396 (8th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Here, Boeing's
assertion that Plaintiffs Petition alleges actual damages in lost wages and benefits of at least
$80,000 is speculative and fails to take into account Plaintiffs earnings during the relevant
period. The Court finds that the amount of actual damages would be less than the requisite
Defendant' s argument that Plaintiffs claims for punitive damages and attorney's fees
push the amount in controversy over the jurisdictional threshold is equally unavailing.
Defendant offers nothing but speculation and unsupported allegations that, because the MHRA
provides for punitive damages and attorney' s fees to the prevailing party, the total amount of
damages would exceed $75,000. "Having the Court presume that this case involves potential
damages exceeding $75,000.00 without offering one shred of evidence regarding potential
damages would be nothing more than speculation on the part of defendant (and the Court). Hill
v. Ford Motor Co., 324 F. Supp. 2d 1028, 1036 (E.D. Mo. 2004). Such speculation is
insufficient to meet the defendant's burden of proof under the preponderance of the evidence
standard. Id. Defendant' s bald assertions that that the nature of the relief sought is sufficient to
satisfy the amount in controversy requirement fails to provide the Court with sufficient facts or
evidence. Id. (remanding case for failure to prove the requisite federal jurisdictional amount
where defendant merely alleged, "' given the seriousness of Plaintiffs allegations and nature of
the relief sought (including, among other things damages for emotional distress, lost wages, front
pay, back pay, and lost employment benefits)[.] "').
Therefore, the Court finds that the jurisdictional amount has not been met in this case,
and the Court will remand the case to the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. Because the amount
in controversy is not satisfied under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), the Court will not address Defendant's
arguments regarding removal based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(l).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (ECF No. 8) is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this case is REMANDED to the Twenty-First
Judicial Circuit Court, St. Louis County, State of Missouri, from which it was removed. An
Order of Remand accompanies this Order.
Dated this 12th day of July, 2016.
RONNIE L. WHITE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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