United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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 ¶¶ 15-26)
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 ¶¶ 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 ¶¶ 7-10) Finally,
Defendant argues that the damages sought by Plaintiff are
greater than $75, 000. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-16)
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.
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.
4:14-CV-01735, 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 6461372,
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 *1 (E.D.
Mo. July 8, 2014) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)).
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 of removal must be resolved in favor of
remand." Jackson v. Fitness Resource Grp.,
Inc., No. 4:12 CV 986 DDN, 2012 WL 2873668, at *2 (E.D.
Mo. July 12, 2012) (citations omitted).
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-in-controversy
issue." Jackson, 2012 WL 2873668, at *2
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)
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 jurisdictional amount.
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 Plaintiff s 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)[.]'").
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