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Nevils v. Cit Bank, N.A.

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

October 16, 2017

DEGINALD NEVILS, Plaintiff,
v.
CIT BANK, N.A., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Deginald Nevils moves to remand this case to state court, and includes a request for his attorneys' fees and costs under 28 U.S.C. Section 1447(c) [ECF No. 11]. Defendant CIT Bank, N.A., opposes remand and does not expressly address Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees and costs [ECF No. 15]. Upon careful consideration, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion to remand, including Plaintiff's requests for an award of attorneys' fees and costs.[1]

         Background

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief for adverse possession (Count I) and monetary relief for unjust enrichment (Count II) regarding approximately four-and-one-half acres of real property located in Warren County, Missouri allegedly occupied and maintained by Plaintiff and his relatives for “more than two decades.”[2] Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Warren County, Missouri.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(a), Defendant removed the action to this Court asserting the lawsuit falls within this Court's original diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(a).[3] In its notice of removal, Defendant alleges “Plaintiff is a citizen of the State of Missouri” and Defendant “is a national bank with its main office and headquarters in Pasadena, California.”[4] Additionally, Defendant states, Plaintiff seeks $200, 000.00 in his prayer for relief.[5]Therefore, Defendant urges, the action satisfies the requirements for this Court to exercise diversity jurisdiction.

         Plaintiff moves to remand the case to state circuit court on the ground that complete diversity of citizenship between the parties required by 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(a)(1) does not exist. In support of his argument, Plaintiff asserts he is a citizen of Missouri and Defendant does business in St. Louis. Plaintiff also requests an award of his attorneys' fees and costs under 28 U.S.C. Section 1447(c) “for being compelled to respond to CIT Bank, N.A.'s improvident removal.”[6]

         II. Discussion

         A. Removal jurisdiction

         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). For a civil action involving state law claims, a defendant “may remove [the lawsuit] to federal court only if the action originally could have been filed” in federal court. In re Prempro Prods. Liab. Litig., 591 F.3d 613, 619 (8thCir. 2010) (citing Phipps v. FDIC, 417 F.3d 1006, 1010 (8th Cir. 2005)). 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).

         To determine the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in a removed lawsuit, a district court reviews the state court petition pending at the time of removal. St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 291 (1938). A court resolves all doubts about federal jurisdiction in favor of remand and, under 28 U.S.C. Section 1447(c), must remand if it appears the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. In re Prempro Prods. Liab. Litig., 591 F.3d at 620. “The [removing] defendant bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Id.

         1. Diversity jurisdiction - Amount in controversy

         The parties do not dispute that the amount in controversy requirement for this Court's diversity jurisdiction is satisfied. Due to the admonition of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to the district courts to “be attentive to the satisfaction of jurisdictional requirements in all cases, ” Sanders v. Clemco Indus., 823 F.2d 214, 216 (8th Cir. 1987), the Court reviews the record to ascertain whether the amount in controversy requirement is met.

         “Under the preponderance standard, ‘[t]he jurisdictional fact . . . is not whether the damages are greater than the requisite amount, but whether a fact finder might legally conclude that they are . . . .' Kopp[ v. Kopp], 280 F.3d [883, ] 885 [(8th Cir. 2002)].” Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 959 (8th Cir. 2009) (alterations and emphasis in original); accord Hartis v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., 694 F.3d 935, 944 (8th Cir. 2012). A removing defendant may satisfy its burden by “looking at the face of the complaint alone, ” because the description of how the controversy exceeds the requisite minimum amount in controversy “constitutes ‘a pleading requirement, not a demand for proof.'” Hartis, 694 F.3d at 946, 944-45 (for second quotation, quoting Spivey v. Vertrue, Inc., 528 F.3d 982, 986 (7th Cir. 2008)). “If the plaintiff's complaint, filed in state court, demands monetary relief of a stated sum, that sum, if asserted in good faith, is ‘deemed to be the amount in controversy.' [28 U.S.C.] § 1446(c)(2).” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 551 (2014); accord St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co., 303 U.S. at 291 (“the status of the case as disclosed by the plaintiff's complaint is controlling in the case of a removal”).

         For his unjust enrichment claim in Count II of the petition, Plaintiff specifically asks that he “be compensated . . . in an amount in excess of $200, 000.” Defendant does not challenge the request as asserted in bad faith. The amount Plaintiff requested in good faith in his petition exceeds $75, 000. Therefore, the ...


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