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Osburn v. Precision Cast Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

November 30, 2017




         Now pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 7), Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint and/or Substitute Parties (ECF No. 8), and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 4). For reasons specified herein, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is DENIED, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is GRANTED, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as moot.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed the present Complaint in Cabell County, West Virginia on May 12, 2017 (ECF No. 1). Defendant removed the case to this Court on October 27, 2017 based on both federal question and diversity jurisdiction (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand on November 9, 2017, alleging that there is no federal question presented and that the amount in controversy is less than $75, 000, thereby defeating diversity jurisdiction (ECF No. 7).

         While his Motion to Remand has been pending, Plaintiff has also filed a Motion to Amend (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff admits that he mistakenly named the wrong party as a defendant in his case, but requests leave to amend his Complaint to name the proper defendant (ECF No. 8). Though Defendant opposes the motion, arguing that amendment would be futile, Defendant also asserts that it was inappropriately named in this suit (ECF No. 11).

         Finally, though it maintains that it was improperly named as a party in this suit, Defendant has also asked this Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint based on preemption and statute of limitations defects (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff opposes dismissal (ECF No. 8).

         II. Analysis

         a. Motion to Remand

         A civil action brought in state court over which federal courts have original jurisdiction may be removed to federal court by a named defendant in the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2017). Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over a civil action in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and the action is between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (2011). Where a party to the action is a corporation, the corporation is deemed to be a citizen of both the state where it is incorporated and the state where it has its principal place of business. Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 88 (2010). “Defendants seeking removal bear the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is proper.” Bartnikowski v. NVR, Inc., 307 Fed.Appx. 730, 734 (4th Cir. 2009) (unpublished opinion). A defendant must prove proper jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. See also McCoy v. Erie Ins. Co., 147 F.Supp.2d 481, 489 (S.D.W.Va. 2001).

         i. Calculation of Amount in Controversy

         Where a plaintiff does not specify a dollar amount in his prayer for relief, the Court must determine the amount in controversy in a given case. McCoy, 147 F.Supp.2d at 489. To do so, the Court should use common sense to consider what the plaintiff would recover if he was to prevail on the merits of his case. Id. The Court should “look to the entire record before it and make an independent evaluation as to whether or not the jurisdictional amount is in issue.” Id.

         In the present Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered “mental anguish, worry and distress, loss of income and substantial annoyance and inconvenience” (ECF No. 1-1). Plaintiff does not, however, list a sum certain in his prayer for relief (ECF No. 1-1). In its Notice of Removal, Defendant informed the Court that, at the time Plaintiff was discharged from his employment, he was earning approximately $102, 648.00 per year in income (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongfully discharged in June, 2015 and that he has suffered over two years of lost wages as a result (ECF No. 1-1). Solely in calculation of alleged lost income, then, the amount Plaintiff seeks in damages far exceeds $75, 000. Accordingly, the jurisdictional requirements for the amount in controversy are met. See Shumate v. DynCorp Intern. LLC, 2012 WL 830241, at *5 (S.D.W.Va. Mar. 9, 2012) (unpublished opinion) (finding that the amount in controversy requirement was satisfied when the plaintiff claimed lost wages of $135, 000 in addition to other relief).

         ii. Effect of Attempted Stipulation

         Plaintiff attempts to refute Defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy in this case by including in his Motion to Remand: “The Plaintiff, Taeger Osburn hereby stipulates that the amount in controversy is less than Seventy-Five Thousand ($75, 000.00) Dollars” (ECF No. 7). It is well-established law, however, that “plaintiffs cannot avoid federal jurisdiction by later stipulating to an amount of damages below the jurisdictional minimum.” Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala O Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia S.A., 988 F.2d 559, 564 (5th Cir. 1993) ...

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