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Evans-Mitchell v. Healy

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 3, 2017

ROCHELLE EVANS-MITCHELL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BRETT HEALY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to remand [ECF No. 13] filed by Plaintiffs Rochelle Evans-Mitchell and Laudell Gatlin-Bey. By their motion, Plaintiffs request the Court to remand the case to the state court from which it was removed, the 22nd Judicial Circuit. Plaintiffs also ask the Court “to award Plaintiffs court costs, expenses and attorney's fees incurred in bringing this motion, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. [§] 1447(c).” In response, Defendants Brett Healy and Walt's Drive-A-Way Service, Inc. consent to remand and state “Plaintiffs have agreed, in writing, to withdraw and waive their request for costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447.” [ECF No. 15.]

         Background

         This case arises out of a motor vehicle collision in the City of St. Louis during which Defendant Healy, an employee of Defendant Drive-A-Way, drove a vehicle into the lane Plaintiffs were in, allegedly striking Plaintiffs' vehicle and causing Plaintiffs' injuries and property damage. (See Pls.' Pet'n [ECF No. 7].) Plaintiffs seek damages in Count I based on Defendant Healy's alleged negligence and in Count II based on Defendant Drive-A-Way's alleged negligence. (Pls.' Pet'n at 3-4.) Additionally, Plaintiffs request monetary relief from both Defendants in Count III on the ground the accident occurred while Defendant Healy acted in the course and scope of his employment with Defendant Drive-A-Way. (Id. at 5.)

         Plaintiffs filed their petition in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiffs alleged they are citizens of Missouri and Defendants are citizens of Indiana. (Pet'n ¶¶ 2, 3.) With regard to their damages, Plaintiffs alleged each “suffered injuries to [the] neck, back and mental trauma[, ] . . . property damage, past and future medical expenses, mental anguish, lost opportunities, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.” (Pls.' Pet'n ¶¶ 13, 14, 15, 21.) Plaintiffs prayed for:

judgment against [each Defendant] for a reasonable sum of money in excess of Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25, 000.00) that will fairly and reasonably compensate Plaintiffs for their injuries and damages; for their costs herein expended and incurred; for prejudgment interest; and for such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

(Pls.' Pet'n “Wherefore” Para. at 5.)

         Defendants removed the lawsuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 on the basis of the Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Defs.' Notice of Removal ¶ 8 [ECF No. 1].) Defendants asserted the lawsuit “was between citizens of different states and the [amount] in controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000.00 exclusive of interest and costs.” Id. In support of removal, Defendants stated Plaintiffs were citizens of Missouri and Defendants were citizens of Indiana, and Defendants had “a good faith belief . . . that the amount of damages sought by at least one Plaintiff individually exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of costs and interest.” (Defs.' Notice of Removal ¶¶ 6, 7.)

         Plaintiffs move to remand on the grounds that their petition does not specify, and Defendants have not proved, that the case involves an amount of damages exceeding the more-than-$75, 000.00 minimum required for the Court to exercise diversity jurisdiction. (Pls.' Mot. Remand [ECF No. 13] and Mem. Supp. [ECF No. 14].) In support of their argument that they seek less than the $75, 000.00 minimum, Plaintiffs filed an affidavit averring that Plaintiffs and their attorney “will not seek more than $75, 00.00 in damages, including attorney's fees, in this matter, ” “will not accept any money awarded in excess of $75, 000.00 and will therefore waive any amount awarded over and above $75, 000.00.” (Aff. attached to Pls.' Mot. Remand [ECF No. 13-1].) Plaintiffs urge the Court to consider Plaintiffs' affidavit because it clarifies the amount in controversy, citing Jackson v. Fitness Resource Group, Inc., No. 4:12CV0986 DDN, 2012 WL 2873668 (E.D. Mo. July 12, 2012). In addition to remand, Plaintiffs seek an award of “court costs, expenses and attorney's fees incurred” in pursuing their motion to remand. See 28 U.S.C. 1447(c).

         Defendants consent to the remand due to Plaintiffs' filing of “their notarized stipulation limiting damages to less than the applicable amount in controversy.” (Defs.' Notice of Consent to Pls.' Mot. Remand ¶¶ 3, 4 [ECF No. 15].) Additionally, Defendants state “Plaintiffs have agreed, in writing, to withdraw and waive their request for costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447.” (Id. ¶ 5.)

         Discussion

         A defendant may remove to federal court any state court civil action over which the federal court could exercise original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A federal court has original diversity jurisdiction over civil actions between citizens of different states when the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). A federal court's jurisdiction is measured at the time of filing, or, for a removed case, at the time of removal. See Schubert v. Auto Owners Ins. Co., 649 F.3d 817, 822-23 (8th Cir. 2011).

         A defendant's removal notice “need not contain evidentiary submissions.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 551 (2014). In the Eighth Circuit, however, a party seeking to remove a case not involving the Class Action Fairness Act “has the burden to prove the requisite amount [for diversity jurisdiction] by a preponderance of the evidence.” Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Advance Am. Servicing of Ark., Inc. v. McGinnis, 526 F.3d 1170, 1173 (8thCir. 2008)); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B).

         While post-removal events “do not oust the district court's jurisdiction once it has attached, ” St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab. Co., 303 U.S. 283, 292 (1938), the court may consider subsequent events showing “that, in fact, the required amount was or was not in controversy at the” time federal court jurisdiction was invoked, Schubert, 649 F.3d at 823 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Powell, 87 F.3d 93, 97 (3rd Cir. 1996)). Post-removal affidavits may, therefore, be ...


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