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Evans v. Frito-Lay, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

April 21, 2017

KERRI EVANS, on behalf of F.E., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
FRITO-LAY, INC.; PIGGLY WIGGLY, INC.; and C&S WHOLESALE GROCERS, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SEALED MOTION TO REMAND

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Kerri Evans' Sealed Motion to Remand (ECF No. 17) filed on March 17, 2017. Defendants Frito-Lay, Inc.; Piggly Wiggly, Inc., and C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc. have responded in opposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Remand is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court for McNairy County, Tennessee. Defendants removed the case to this Court on February 23, 2017. According to the Notice of Removal, this Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law tort claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because there is complete diversity of citizenship among the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. In her Motion to Remand, Plaintiff argues that the amount in controversy requirement is not satisfied. Plaintiff has shown through an affidavit that her initial settlement demand to Defendants sought only $30, 000.00. According to Plaintiff then, the Court should remand the case to state court. Defendants have filed separate responses in opposition, arguing that the Complaint itself prays for compensatory damages in the amount of $100, 000.00 and $300, 000.00 punitive damages. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's ad damnum should control and that her post-removal attempt to amend her prayer or stipulate her damages should not defeat removal. Therefore, the Court should deny Plaintiff's Motion.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “When a plaintiff files a case in state court that could have been brought in a federal district court, a defendant may invoke the removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, to secure a federal forum.”[1] “Only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant.”[2] Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), federal diversity jurisdiction exists over “civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000” and the parties are citizens of different states.[3] Diversity of citizenship must be complete, meaning “no plaintiff can be the citizen of the same State as any defendant.”[4] In the final analysis, it is the removing party's burden to establish the existence of federal jurisdiction.[5]

         ANALYSIS

         The issue presented is whether Defendants' removal of Plaintiff's tort claims is proper in light of Plaintiff's post-removal demand for an amount less than $75, 000.00. The United States Code states that “[i]f removal of a civil action is sought on the basis of [diversity] jurisdiction conferred by section 1332(a), the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed to be the amount in controversy.”[6] Simply put, “the amount originally pled in the complaint controls the amount in controversy requirement.”[7] Here Plaintiff's pleadings pray for compensatory damages of $100, 000.00 and punitive damages of $300, 000.00. The pleadings easily satisfy section 1332(a)'s amount in controversy requirement. Plaintiff's more recent offer to accept $30, 000 in settlement of the dispute does not alter this result.[8] Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is DENIED.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Jarrett-Cooper v. United Airlines, Inc., 586 F. App'x 214, 215 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 83 (2005)).

[2] Paul v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan of Ohio, 701 F.3d 514, 518 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)).

[3] 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Fritz Dairy Farm, LLC v. Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, 567 F. App'x 396, ...


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