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 for Remand
(ECF No. 13). The motion is fully briefed and ready for
disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
grant Plaintiffs motion.
August 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Petition in the Circuit
Court of St. Louis City, Missouri alleging disability
discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act
("MHRA"), Mo. Rev. Stat. §§213.010,
et seq., against his employer, Defendant Greyhound
Lines, Inc. ("Greyhound") and his manager Defendant
Barbara Boyd ("Boyd"). (Pet., ECF No. 5) Plaintiff
alleges that Greyhound and Boyd discriminated against him by
suspending Plaintiff for about a year, beginning March 2017,
based on Plaintiffs perceived disability of sleep apnea.
(Id. at ¶¶ 15-26)
Greyhound removed the case to federal court on October 5,
2018, invoking this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446. (Notice of Removal,
ECF No. 1) Greyhound asserts that the Court has diversity
jurisdiction because Plaintiff is a citizen of Missouri, and
Defendant Greyhound is a corporation organized and
incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware and has
its principal place of business in the State of Texas..
(Id. at ¶¶ 9-12) Further, Greyhound
contends that Defendant Boyd is a citizen of Illinois.
(Id. at ¶ 13) Finally, Greyhound argues that
the damages sought by Plaintiff are greater than $75, 000.
(Id. at ¶¶ 19-26)
November 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Remand,
asserting that Defendants have failed to meet their burden of
proving that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 or
that diversity of citizenship exists. 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. Louis City, Missouri.
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:I4-CV-01735, 2014 WL 6461372, at *l (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 *l. "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 *l (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. §
l446(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
Plaintiffs motion for remand, memorandum in support, and
reply memorandum, Plaintiff argues that Defendants have
failed to show by a preponderance of evidence that the amount
in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Greyhound contends that the
current amount in actual damages for lost wages is at least
approximately $66, 000 and would rise to over $106, 000
should the case proceed to trial. Thus, Greyhound argues that
the claim for lost wages alone exceeds the $75, 000
jurisdictional threshold. Further, Greyhound claims that
Plaintiffs demand for emotional distress damages and punitive
damages combined with the demand for lost wages exceeds the
jurisdictional amount. Thus, Greyhound asserts that it has
met its burden of proving diversity jurisdiction.
on the other hand, argues that the amount in controversy is
determined at the time Plaintiff filed his State court
petition, and any lost wages may only be calculated through
April 18, 2018, as he has filed a separate charge of
discrimination related to working for Greyhound from April
18, 2018 through July 11, 2018 when he was laid off. Further,
Plaintiff contends that Greyhound has failed to present
evidence that an award of punitive and/or emotional distress
damages would exceed the jurisdictional threshold. Finally,
Plaintiff states that Greyhound continued to pay him for a
period of time while he was suspended, and should the Court
calculate damages past April 18, 2018, Plaintiff worked
another job and anticipates returning to work with Greyhound
after passing his sleep apnea test.
Court finds that Greyhound has not met its burden of showing
that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 such that
diversity jurisdiction does not exist. First, Plaintiff
claims that lost wages may only be calculated through April
18, 2018, the date he went back to work for Greyhound.
(PL's Mem. in Support of Mot. to Remand p. 4, ECF No. 14)
Tellingly, Greyhound does not address this claim or the fact
that Plaintiff filed a new charge of discrimination after he
was again suspended on July 11, 2018 for not complying with
the doctor's recommendation, constituting a separate
incident. (Id. at pp. 3-4) Further, Greyhound
continued to pay Plaintiff during the time he participated in
a sleep study. (PL's Reply Ex. 2, ECF No. 18-2)
Eighth Circuit law, back pay is calculated based on the
difference between the value of the compensation Plaintiff
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). Further, the relevant period runs from the date of
termination, or suspension in this case, until the date of
reinstatement. Id. Here, Greyhound's assertion
that Plaintiffs Petition alleges actual damages in lost wages
of at least $66, 000 to a possible total of over $106, 000 is
speculative and fails to take into account Plaintiffs
reinstatement in April, ...