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Zeavision, LLC v. Macuhealth LP

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

June 12, 2019

ZEAVISION, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
MACUHEALTH LP, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 14) filed April 30, 2019. The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff manufactures and sells ocular nutritional supplements marketed to athletes and nonathletes who want to improve their vision. (ECF No. 4 ¶ 5). Defendant is a direct competitor of Plaintiff and sells ocular nutritional supplements. Id. On February 22, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the St. Louis County Circuit Court. (No. 19SL-CC00793). Plaintiff brings two counts seeking injunctive relief against the Defendant. Count I alleges trademark infringement pursuant to Missouri Common Law and seeks an order enjoining future infringement. Count II alleges misrepresentations and threatening statements on the part of the Defendant and seeks injunctive relief. Neither account appears to seek monetary damages.

         On April 8, 2019, the Defendant filed Notice of Removal. (ECF No. 1). The Defendant argues that the value of the litigation exceeds $75, 000.00. Id. Neither party contests that parties are diverse. The only dispute is as to the amount in controversy. On April 15, 2019, the Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. (ECF No. 7). On April 30, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand this case to State Court to the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. (ECF No. 14).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove to this Court “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), district courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the value of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75, 000.00), exclusive of interests and costs, and involves a controversy between citizens of different states.

         “‘It is well settled that on a Motion to Remand, the burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction lies with the removing party.'” Riffert v. Walgreen Co., 4:07CV1912 JCH 2008 WL 495643, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 20, 2008) (quoting Rolwing v. NRM Corp., 1:05CV81 FRB 2005 WL 1828813, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 2, 2005)). Federal courts strictly construe the amount in controversy requirement to limit their diversity caseload and resolve all doubts about federal jurisdiction in favor of remand. Logan v. Value City Dept. Stores, LLC, 4:08CV19 CAS 2008 WL 1914168, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 28, 2008); In re Business Men's Assur. Co. of America, 992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1993). Further, the Eighth Circuit has held that where a complaint alleges no specific amount of damages or an amount under the jurisdictional minimum, the removing party, “must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” In re Minnesota Mut. Life Ins. Co. Sales Practices Litigation, 346 F.3d 830, 834 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing Trimble v. Asarco, Inc., 232 F.3d 946, 959 (8th Cir. 2000)). The Eighth Circuit further has held that, “[t]his amount-in-controversy requirement is satisfied when a fact finder could legally conclude, from the pleadings and the proof adduced to the court before trial, that the damages that the plaintiff suffered are greater than $75, 000.” Capitol Indemnity Corp. v. 1405 Assoc., Inc., 340 F.3d 547, 549 (8th Cir.2003) (internal quotations and citation omitted). See also Kopp v. Kopp, 280 F.3d 883, 885 (8th Cir.2002) (“The jurisdictional fact in this case is not whether the damages are greater than the requisite amount, but whether a fact finder might legally conclude that they are....”). “Once the removing party has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the jurisdictional minimum is satisfied, remand is only appropriate if the plaintiff can establish to a legal certainty that the claim is for less than the requisite amount.” Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Under Eighth Circuit law, “ ‘[i]n actions seeking declaratory or injunctive relief, it is well established that the amount in controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation.”' Kramper, 393 F.3d at 833, quoting Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347 (1977).The Eight Circuit has observed that the viewpoint of the plaintiff must test that amount in controversy. Massachusetts State Pharm Ass'n v. Fed. Prescription Serv., Inc., 431 F.2d 130, 132 n.1 (8th Cir. 1970). The amount in controversy in cases involving trademark and tradename may be determined by the value to the plaintiff of the good will associated with the mark or name. See, Lane Bryant, Inc. v. Glassman, 95 F.Supp. 320, 323 (E.D. Mo. 1951). This is the case even if the Defendant will incur costs in excess of $75, 000.00 if the requested relief is granted. See, Price v. Cybertel Cellular Tel. Co., No. 4:06CV1640 FRB, 2007 WL 144586, at *3 (E.D. Mo. May 14, 2007).

         In valuing this case, the Defendant submitted that the amount in controversy in this action exceeds the amount in controversy threshold because:

(1) The Petition includes two causes of action: unfair competition and injunctive relief which both seek injunctive relief;
(2) Count I contends that Defendant interfered with Plaintiff's “‘longstanding use, substantial sales, significant advertising, and promotional activities,' which resulted in ‘substantial goodwill and reputation to [Plaintiff]'s business under the [] trademark is of enormous value'” (ECF No. 1 at 3), and that as a result of Defendant's use the Defendant harmed Plaintiff's “ ‘valuable goodwill' and ‘significant goodwill' and will continue to cause substantial actual damages and irreparable injury to [Plaintiff]. Id.
(3) Count II alleges that Defendant engaged in actions which “has and will cause serious irreparable injury to Plaintiff through the loss of ...

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