United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
ORDER CONCERNING REMOVAL
CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on review of the file following
removal. “Courts have an independent obligation to
determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction
exists[.]” Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77,
94 (2010). “Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction. The requirement that jurisdiction be
established as a threshold matter springs from the nature and
limits of the judicial power of the United States and is
inflexible and without exception.” Kessler v.
National Enters., Inc., 347 F.3d 1076, 1081 (8th Cir.
2003) (quotation marks and quoted case omitted). Statutes
conferring diversity jurisdiction are to be strictly
construed, Sheehan v. Gustafson, 967 F.2d 1214, 1215
(8th Cir. 1992), as are removal statutes. Nichols v.
Harbor Venture, Inc., 284 F.3d 857, 861 (8th Cir. 2002).
initially filed suit in the Circuit Court of St. Louis
County, State of Missouri. Plaintiff's Petition alleges
that her home and the contents thereof were destroyed by a
fire and smoke damage caused by the alleged negligent design,
manufacture, and sale of a table lamp. Defendant Tuesday
Morning, Inc. removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332(a), 1441(b) and 1446 and defendant
Fangio Enterprises, Inc. filed a Notice of Consent to
removal cases, the district court reviews the complaint or
petition pending at the time of removal to determine the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction. St. Paul
Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 291
(1938). The district court may also look to the notice of
removal to determine its jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §
1446(c)(2)(A)(ii); Ratermann v. Cellco P'ship,
2009 WL 1139232, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 28, 2009). The removing
defendant, as the party invoking jurisdiction, bears the
burden of proving that all prerequisites to jurisdiction are
satisfied. Central Iowa Power Co-op. v. Midwest Indep.
Transmission Sys. Operator, Inc., 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th
Cir. 2009). “[A]ll doubts about federal jurisdiction
must be resolved in favor of remand[.]” Id.
case based upon this Court's diversity jurisdiction, the
amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000, exclusive of
interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Federal courts
are to strictly construe the amount in controversy
requirement, as the purpose underlying it is to limit the
federal courts' diversity caseload. Snyder v.
Harris, 394 U.S. 332, 339 (1969).
diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332,
requires complete diversity of citizenship between plaintiffs
and defendants. Buckley v. Control Data Corp., 923
F.2d 96, 97, n.6 (8th Cir. 1991). To establish complete
diversity of citizenship, a complaint must include factual
allegations of each party's state of citizenship,
including allegations of any corporate party's state of
incorporation and principal place of business. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332(a), (c)(1); Sanders v. Clemco
Industries, 823 F.2d 214, 215 n.1, 216 (8th Cir. 1987).
Further, “[I]t is not enough for the parties to be
diverse only at the time of removal. Nearly two
centuries of precedent establish diversity of citizenship
must also exist at the time of commencement.”
Reece v. Bank of New York Mellon, 760 F.3d 771, 777
(8th Cir. 2014).
Amount in Controversy
respect to the amount in controversy, the prayer in
plaintiff's Petition is for “an amount that is fair
and reasonable and sufficient to compensate Plaintiff for
damages sustained to her house and the loss of her personal
property and contents in her house and is in excess of
Twenty-five Thousand Dollars.” Pet. at 4 (Doc. 3). This
in accordance with Missouri pleading requirements prohibiting
a plaintiff claiming tort damages from pleading a monetary
amount of damages, except to determine the proper
jurisdictional authority. See Mo. R. Civ. P. 55.05;
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 517.011.1(1) (2010).
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. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(c)(2)(B); Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d
953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009). “The preponderance of the
evidence standard requires a defendant to demonstrate by
sufficient proof that a plaintiff's verdict reasonably
may exceed the jurisdictional amount.” City of
University City, Mo. v. AT & T Wireless Servs.,
Inc., 229 F.Supp.2d 927, 932 (E.D. Mo. 2002) (internal
quotation marks and quoted case omitted). Specific facts or
evidence are required to demonstrate that the jurisdictional
amount is met. Hill v. Ford Motor Co., 324 F.Supp.2d
1028, 1036 (E.D. Mo. 2004). “This evidence may include
a plaintiff's conduct and representations, including
settlement offers by the plaintiff exceeding the
jurisdictional amount, the plaintiff's refusal to
stipulate that she would not demand more than the
jurisdictional amount, or an extensive list of serious an
disabling injuries suffered by the plaintiff.”
Neighbors v. Muha, 2005 WL 2346968, at *2 (W.D. Mo.
Sept. 26, 2005). However, failure to stipulate to remand does
not, of itself, establish the requisite amount in
controversy. Gramc v. Millar Elevator Co./Schindler
Enters., 3 F.Supp.2d 1082, 1084 (E.D. Mo. 1998).
Notice of Removal, defendant states that prior to filing
suit, plaintiff estimated her damages to exceed $100, 000.
Exhibits to the Notice of Removal show that defendant asked
plaintiff to stipulate that her damages did not exceed $75,
000 to avoid removal, but plaintiff's counsel responded
that he and his client believe the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional minimum for removal.
Court has held that a settlement demand alone is not
sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the
jurisdictional minimum. Corlew v. Denny's Restaurant,
Inc., 983 F.Supp. 878, 880 (E.D. Mo. 1997). “[A]
settlement letter is only one factor to consider in assessing
the amount in controversy and . . . courts must consider the
context in which such a settlement demand was made.”
New v. Hunter's View, Ltd., 2007 WL 1040926, at
*3 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 4, 2007) (quotation marks and quoted case
omitted). Caution is appropriate in considering settlement
demands as evidence of the value of a case, as
“settlement offers can often be wildly unrealistic and
constitute mere puffery or posturing rather than a fair or
realistic appraisal of a party's damages.”
Id. (quotation marks and quoted case omitted).
plaintiff's Petition alleges that her house and its
contents were destroyed by fire as a result of a defective
lamp designed, manufactured, and sold by defendants,
plaintiff made a $100, 000 settlement demand, and
plaintiff's counsel affirmatively stated in response to a
request to stipulate that plaintiff's damages are less
than $75, 000 that he believes the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional minimum. There is no evidence in
the record as to the value of plaintiff's house or its
contents, which are the only damages at issue. These
circumstances present a fairly close question as to the
sufficiency of the evidence presented. ...