GABLE v. TARGET CORPORATION et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER, this case shall be REMANDED to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Atlantic County; CASE CLOSED. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 2/24/15. (js)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil No. 15-cv-1350 (RMB/JS)
TARGET CORPORATION, et al.,
This matter comes before the Court upon its own motion.
February 20, 2015 Defendant Target Corporation (the “Defendant”)
removed this action to this Court, relying upon diversity of
citizenship to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction.
According to the underlying complaint, Plaintiff Bridget Gable
visited Defendant’s Hamilton New Jersey store on September 19,
(Compl. ¶ 1).
She alleges that she “was caused to slip
and become injured as a result of a defective and unreasonably
dangerous condition upon the aforesaid premises which condition
was cause by the negligent acts and/or omissions of one or more
of the Defendants.” (Compl. ¶ 3).
Plaintiff claims to have
suffered unspecified injuries and losses.
The Notice of Removal summarily alleges that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75,000 as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Defendant seeks to support removal by stating that Plaintiff’s
counsel has refused to execute a stipulation of damages of less
(Ntc. Rmvl. ¶ 9).
As is proper under the New
Jersey Court Rules, the Complaint does not plead a specific
amount of monetary damages. N.J. Ct. R. 4:5-2 ("If unliquidated
money damages are claimed in any court, other than the Special
Civil Part, the pleading shall demand damages generally without
specifying the amount.").
However, Defendant could have
obtained this information through a procedural mechanism
designed for this very purpose.
New Jersey Court Rule 4:5-2
Upon service of a written request by another party, the
party filing the pleading shall within 5 days after service
thereof furnish the requesting party with a written
statement of the amount of damages claimed . . . .
It appears Defendant never requested a statement of damages from
Plaintiff, since it did not submit any such documentation to the
Defendant offers no other support for the proposition
that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that it has
repeatedly held that a plaintiff’s refusal to enter into a
stipulation limiting its recovery is not sufficient to sustain
an allegation of $75,000 in controversy.
See, e.g., Martin v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 709 F. Supp. 2d 345, 350 (D.N.J. April
30, 2010) (“One may not reasonably infer from Plaintiff’s
‘refusal’ to stipulate to a limitation on her claims that the
claims are reasonably likely to exceed $75,000.”); Inferrera v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 11-1331 (D.N.J. March 11, 2011);
Hober v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 11-187 (D.N.J. Jan. 13,
Moreover, it is well-settled that a removing defendant
carries the burden of establishing the requisite amount in
Russ v. Unum Life Ins. Co., 442 F. Supp. 2d 193,
199 (D.N.J. 2006) (citing Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d
108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990)).
The Third Circuit has cautioned that
§ 1441 must be strictly construed against removal “so that the
Congressional intent to restrict federal diversity jurisdiction
is honored.” Samuel-Bassett v. KIA Motors America, Inc., 357
F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted).
“Because lack of jurisdiction would make any decree in the case
void and the continuation of the litigation in federal court
futile, the removal statute should be strictly construed and all
doubts should be resolved in favor of remand.”
Abels v. State
Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 770 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985) (internal
citations omitted); see also Steel Valley Authority v. Union
Switch & Signal Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987) (“It is
settled that the removal statutes are to be strictly construed
against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of
remand.”) (citing Abels).
Thus, a removing party must provide
more than mere speculation or tenuous inferences about the
amount in controversy to satisfy its burden.
Russ v. Unum Life
Ins. Co., 442 F. Supp. 2d 193, 198 (D.N.J. 2006) (“[M]ere
speculation that a claim will exceed the jurisdictional amount
is not enough to confer jurisdiction.”); Valerio v. Mustabasic,
Civ. No. 07-534, 2007 WL 2769636, *4 (D.N.J. Sept. 21, 2007). In
other words, “if this Court has to guess” at whether the
jurisdictional threshold has been met, then the “defendant has
not proved its point.” Valerio, 2007 WL 2769636 at *4 (internal
Here, the amount in controversy is speculative at best,
given Plaintiff’s unspecified injuries and losses.
“injuries” in the Complaint coupled with a refusal to stipulate
does not suffice to prove that this court has jurisdiction.
Martin, 709 F.
Supp. at 350 (“The Court should not be rendered
powerless to question whether virtually any simple negligence
claim satisfies the amount-in-controversy requirement because a
plaintiff’s mere assertion of injury creates some possibility
that his recovery might exceed the jurisdictional minimum.”).
ACCORDINGLY, IT IS on this, the 24th day of February 2015,
hereby ORDERED that this case shall be REMANDED to the Superior
Court of New Jersey, Atlantic County; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall CLOSE this file
in this matter.
s/Renée Marie Bumb
RENÉE MARIE BUMB
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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