Baisley v. Slade Industries, Inc. et al
ORDER: Accordingly, this action is REMANDED to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester. The Clerk of the Court is respectfully directed to send a copy of this Order to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester, and to close this action. All pending matters are hereby terminated. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Philip M. Halpern on 1/10/2022) (jca) Transmission to Docket Assistant Clerk for processing.
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
KELLEY ANN BAISLEY,
SLADE INDUSTRIES, INC., et al.,
PHILIP M. HALPERN, United States District Judge:
On January 6, 2022, Defendants Slade Industries, Inc. (“Slade”) and Schindler Elevator
Corporation (“Schindler,” and collectively, “Defendants”), filed a Notice of Removal intending to
remove this action from the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester, to
this Court. (Doc. 1, “Not. of Removal;” Doc. 1-1 “Compl.”). For the reasons below, this matter is
REMANDED to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester.
On or about October 21, 2021, Plaintiff Kelley Ann Baisley (“Plaintiff”) filed a Verified
Complaint commencing this action against Defendants in the Supreme Court of the State of New
York, County of Westchester. (Not. of Removal ¶ 2; see also Compl.). Plaintiff alleged that she
was injured on January 23, 2019 when an elevator maintained by Defendants closed on her foot.
(See Compl. ¶¶ 23-29).
Defendants represent that service was effectuated on the New York Secretary of State on
November 24, 2021, that Slade received a copy of the Summons and Verified Complaint on
December 16, 2021, and that Schindler Elevator Corporation has not yet received a copy of the
Summons and Verified Complaint. (Not. of Removal ¶¶ 3-4). Defendants argue that this Court has
subject-matter jurisdiction over this dispute because: (1) complete diversity exists between the
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parties (id. ¶¶ 9-13); and (2) although Plaintiff does not make a specific demand for damages,
Plaintiff “was unable to stipulate that the amount in controversy . . . inclusive of interest and costs,
would not exceed . . . $75,000.” (Id. ¶ 20).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district
courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant . . . .” 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). “The [federal] district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions
where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and is between—(1) citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “The Supreme Court
has held that the party asserting diversity jurisdiction in federal court has the burden of establishing
the existence of the jurisdictional amount in controversy.” Villafana v. So, No. 13-CV-00180, 2013
WL 2367792, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 2013) (quoting Lupo v. Human Affairs Int’l, Inc., 28 F.3d
269, 273 (2d Cir. 1994)). While Defendants need not “prove the amount in controversy to an
absolute certainty,” they have “the burden of proving that it appears to a reasonable probability
that the claim is in excess of the statutory jurisdictional amount.” Id. (quoting Mehlenbacher v.
Akzo Nobel Salt, Inc., 216 F.3d 291, 296 (2d Cir. 2000)). “[I]f the jurisdictional amount is not
clearly alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint, and the defendants’ notice of removal fails to allege
facts adequate to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount,
federal courts lack diversity jurisdiction as a basis for removing the plaintiff’s action from state
court.” Id. (quoting Lupo, 28 F.3d at 273-74).1
Federal courts “have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists,
even in the absence of a challenge from any party.” Nguyen v. FXCM Inc., 364 F. Supp. 3d 227, 237
(S.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006)).
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Plaintiff alleges generally that, as a result of the injuries sustained, she “seeks a judgment
for money damages against the defendants; that the sum sought herein exceeds all jurisdictional
limits, all together with he costs and disbursements of the action.” (Compl. ¶ Prayer for Relief; see
also id. ¶¶ 30-32 (explaining that Plaintiff “sustained personal injuries to and about his/her head,
limbs, spine and body,” that she “was obliged to undergo medical care and treatment,” and that
she was and will be “unable to attend to . . . [her] usual duties”). Defendants report that Plaintiff
underwent surgery for injuries to her right shoulder and knee and, given the severity of these
injuries, Plaintiff was “unable to stipulate” that the amount in controversy does not exceed
$75,000. (Not. of Removal ¶¶ 17, 20).
As federal courts are instructed to “construe the removal statute narrowly, resolving any
doubts against removability,” Lupo, 28 F.3d at 274 (quoting Somlyo v. J. Lu-Rob Enters., Inc., 932
F.2d 1043, 1046 (2d Cir. 1991)), Defendants’ conclusory argument that the amount in controversy
must exceed $75,000 because Plaintiff cannot agree otherwise is insufficient for the Court to
determine by a preponderance of the evidence that the jurisdictional threshold of 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a) has been met. See Feliciano v. Target Corp., No. 19-CV-02706, 2019 WL 2210739, at *2
(E.D.N.Y. May 21, 2019) (“Defendant’s allegation that Plaintiff refused to cap damages at $75,000
is not determinative of the amount in controversy and is insufficient to establish the jurisdictional
amount required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).”); Valente v. Garrison From Harrison LLC, No. 15-CV06522, 2016 WL 126375, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2016) (refusing to stipulate that damages are
capped at $74,999.99 “hardly is determinative of the amount in controversy, and, standing alone,
is insufficient to establish that the jurisdictional amount required by § 1332 is satisfied”); see also
Brown v. NutriBullet, LLC, No. 19-CV-05421, 2019 WL 5287960, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 18, 2019)
(alleging that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 upon information and belief, without
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more, is insufficient); Villafana, 2013 WL 2367792, at *2; Sailer v. Responsive Trucking, Inc.,
No. 12-CV-04822, 2012 WL 4888300, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 15, 2012); see also Daversa v. Cowan
Equip. Leasing, LLC, No. 20-CV-00163, 2020 WL 967436, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2020);
Hughes v. Target Corp., No. 17-CV-03548, 2017 WL 2623861, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. June 15, 2017)
(“Such a barebones, general pleading does not suffice to establish that this action involves an
amount in controversy adequate to support federal diversity jurisdiction.”).
Based upon the foregoing, the Court concludes that Defendants failed to satisfy their
burden of establishing that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Removal is therefore
improper. Accordingly, this action is REMANDED to the Supreme Court of the State of New
York, County of Westchester. The Clerk of the Court is respectfully directed to send a copy of this
Order to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester, and to close this
action. All pending matters are hereby terminated.
White Plains, New York
January 10, 2022
PHILIP M. HALPERN
United States District Judge
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