Custom Companies Inc, The et al v. PeopLease LLC
ORDER AND OPINION denying 4 Motion to Remand. AND IT IS SO ORDERED. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 6/9/2017.(sshe, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
The Custom Companies, Inc., an Illinois
corporation, Circle W Trucking, Inc., a
Missouri corporation, CDN Logistics, Inc.,
an Illinois corporation, and Custom
Logistics, LLC, a Delaware limited liability
Civil Action No.2: 17-1311-RMG
ORDER AND OPINION
Peoplease Corporation, a South Carolina
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to remand. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court denies the motion.
Plaintiffs claim conversion and unjust enrichment against Defendant, alleging Defendant
received and wrongfully retained money from Plaintiffs that was mistakenly wired to Defendant
on January 4, 2017. Allegedly, Plaintiff The Custom Companies, Inc. wired $45,014.52 to
Defendant, Plaintiff Circle W Trucking, Inc. wired $4,191.25 to Defendant, Plaintiff CDN
Logistics, Inc. wired $438.03 to Defendant, and Plaintiff Custom Global Logistics, LLC wired
$28,576.00 to Defendant. Plaintiffs filed the present action on May 19,2017 in the Charleston
County Court of Common Pleas. On May 26, 2017, Defendant removed to this Court. Plaintiffs
now move to remand.
A federal district court is a court of limited jurisdiction and has a duty to dismiss a case
whenever it appears that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648,
654 (4th Cir. 1999). Moreover, "questions of subject matter jurisdiction must be decided first,
because they concern the court's very power to hear the case." Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Meade, 186
F.3d 435, 442 n.4 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted).
"Federal courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests firmly on the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. ofAm., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Federal removal jurisdiction exists ifthe action is
one "of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C.
§ l441(a). The removing party has the burden of establishing that removal jurisdiction is proper.
In re Blackwater Sec. Consulting, LLC, 460 F.3d 576, 583 (4th Cir. 2006). The removal statute is
strictly construed against removal jurisdiction, and any doubts as to jurisdiction weigh in favor of
remand. Id. However, if the amount alleged in the complaint in good faith meets the amount in
controversy threshold, then jurisdiction is established unless "it [is] a legal certainty that, at the
time of the complaint, the plaintiff could not recover the requisite amount." Shanaghan v. Cahill,
58 F.3d 106, III (4th Cir. 1995).
"When two or more plaintiffs, having separate and distinct demands, unite for convenience
and economy in a single suit, it is essential that the demand of each be ofthe requisite jurisdictional
amount ...." Troy Bank of Troy, Ind., v. G.A. Whitehead & Co., 222 U.S. 39, 40 (1911). It is
obvious from the face of the complaint that Plaintiffs here have separate and distinct demands, and
that they have united their claims in a single complaint for convenience and economy. Each
plaintiff seeks recovery for the specific amount that each Plaintiff separately wired to Defendant
on January 4, 2017. (Dkt. No. 1-1 ~~ 17-18.). Plaintiffs therefore move to remand because "no
individual Plaintiffhas a claim which meets the amount in controversy requirement to maintain an
action in federal court under diversity jurisdiction." (Dkt. No.4 at 1.)
When the well-pleaded complaint contains at least one claim that satisfies the
amount-in-controversy requirement, and there are no other relevant jurisdictional
defects, the district court, beyond all question, has original jurisdiction over that
claim. The presence of other claims in the complaint, over which the district court
may lack original jurisdiction, is ofno moment. Ifthe court has original jurisdiction
over a single claim in the complaint, it has original jurisdiction over a "civil action"
within the meaning of § 1367(a), even if the civil action over which it has
jurisdiction comprises fewer claims than were included in the complaint.
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 559 (2005). The complaint asserts
conversion and unjust enrichment claims for each Plaintiff, and seeks actual and punitive damages
for each Plaintiff. Although punitive damages are not recoverable in equitable causes like unjust
enrichment, see Welborn v. Dixon, 49 S.E. 232, 235 (S.C. 1904), "[p]unitive damages are
recoverable in conversion cases in the event it is determined the defendant's acts have been willful,
reckless, and/or committed with conscious indifference to the rights of others," Oxford Fin.
Companies, Inc. v. Burgess, 402 S.E.2d 480,482 (S.C. 1991). Plaintiffs therefore have stated a
plausible claim for punitive damages. Further, it is certainly plausible that Custom Companies
(which claims $45,014.52 in actual damages) and Custom Global (which claims $28,576.00 in
actual damages) could recover punitive damages sufficient to make their individual recoveries
greater than $75,000. See Bell v. Preferred Life Assur. Soc. ofMontgomery, Ala., 320 U.S. 238,
240 (1943) ("Where both actual and punitive damages are recoverable under a complaint each
must be considered to the extent claimed in determining jurisdictional amount."); Woodward v.
Newcourt Comm. Fin. Corp., 60 F .Supp.2d 530, 532 (D.S.C. 1999) (A "claim for punitive damages
alone makes it virtually impossible to say that the claim is for less than the jurisdictional amount.").
Because there is at least one claim in the complaint over which the Court has original jurisdiction,
the Court must deny Plaintiffs' motion to remand.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the motion to remand (Dkt. No.4).
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
Richard Mark Gergel
United States District Court Judge
Charleston, South Carolina
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