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Workman v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

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

December 22, 2017

REBECCA WORKMAN Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Remand and Abstention. (ECF No. 5.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion and REMANDS this case to the Circuit Court of Logan County, West Virginia.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of an injury Plaintiff allegedly suffered at one of Defendant's stores in Logan County, West Virginia. (ECF No. 1-2 at 3 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff is a resident of West Virginia, (id. ¶ 1), and Defendant is a limited partnership existing under the laws of Delaware with its principal place of business in Arkansas. (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 5). The Complaint filed in state court and attached to Defendant's Notice of Removal alleges that on July 6, 2017, Plaintiff was a customer at Defendant's store when she slipped and fell on water that had accumulated on the floor inside. (ECF No. 1-2 at 3 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff alleges that she “occurred [sic; incurred] medical expenses, suffered mental anguish, and endured pain and suffering, ” and will require “future medical expenses, endure physical and mental pain and suffering and a loss of capacity to enjoy life.” (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff asserts negligence as the sole cause of action and requests relief in the forms of “compensatory damages, pain and suffering, post-accident terror, aggravation, annoyance [and] inconvenience, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest, court costs and any other legal relief that may be available.” (Id. at 3-4 ¶¶ 5-7.)

         Plaintiff filed her Complaint in the Circuit Court of Logan County, West Virginia, on August 9, 2017. (ECF No. 1-2; ECF No. 1 at 1 ¶ 1.) Defendant removed the case to this Court on September 12, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) In the Notice of Removal, Defendant asserts that the sole basis for this Court's subject-matter jurisdiction over this case is diversity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (See Id. at 2 ¶ 6.)

         Plaintiff filed the current Motion for Remand and Abstention on September 20, 2017, in which she argues that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the matter because the amount in controversy is below the $75, 000 requirement for diversity jurisdiction. (See ECF No. 6 at 2-3.) Defendant filed its response to the motion on September 27, 2017, (ECF No. 7), and Plaintiff replied on October 9, 2017, (ECF No. 8). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Article III of the United States Constitution provides, in pertinent part, that “[t]he judicial Power shall extend . . . to Controversies . . . between Citizens of different States.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

         Congress provided a right to remove a case from state to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. This statute states, in relevant part:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a state court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Because removal of civil cases from state to federal court infringes state sovereignty, federal courts strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all doubts in favor of remanding cases to state court. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 109 (1941); see also Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (“Because removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns, we must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.” (citation omitted)).

         The party asserting federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proof. Landmark Corp. v. Apogee Coal Co., 945 F.Supp. 932, 935 (S.D. W.Va. 1996). “A defendant that removes a case from state court in which the damages sought are unspecified, asserting the existence of federal diversity jurisdiction, must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the value of the matter in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount.” Id. (citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 567 (9th Cir. 1992)). “This test is framed alternatively as a requirement that a defendant demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount.” Id. (citation omitted). “To satisfy this burden, a defendant must offer more than a bare allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, ” Judy v. JK Harris & Co., No. 2:10- cv-01276, 2011 WL 4499316, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 27, 2011) (citation omitted), and must supply evidence regarding the amount at issue. See McCoy v. Erie Ins. Co., 147 F.Supp.2d 481, 489 (S.D. W.Va. 2001). “In so doing, he may rely upon the entirety of the facts and circumstances comprising the plaintiff's damages claim.” Judy, 147 F.Supp.2d at 489 (citation omitted).

         Where the plaintiff's monetary demand is not specified in the complaint, “[t]he value of the matter in controversy . . . is determined by considering the judgment that would be entered if plaintiff prevailed on the merits.” Landmark Corp., 945 F.Supp. at 936-37 (citation omitted). To calculate the amount in controversy, a court may consider the entire record and make an independent evaluation of whether the amount in controversy is satisfied. See Grubb v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., No. 2:05-0056, 2005 WL 1378721, at *5 (S.D. W.Va. June 2, 2005) (citation omitted).

         III. ...


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