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Scales v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

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

May 16, 2018

ANTHONY SCALES, Plaintiff,
v.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 3.) For the reasons herein, the Court DENIES the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of injuries Plaintiff allegedly suffered when a truck in which he was a passenger collided with another truck owned by Defendant on County Route 49 in Mingo County, West Virginia. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3; ECF No. 4 at 2.) Plaintiff is a resident of West Virginia, and Defendant is a Virginia corporation with a principal place of business in Norfolk, Virginia. (ECF No. 1 at 4; ECF No. 1-1 at 3.)

         The Complaint filed in state court and attached to Defendant's Notice of Removal alleges that on September 30, 2016, Plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a 1991 Ford Ranger when the vehicle collided with a Chevrolet Silverado K3500 owned by Defendant and operated by its agents. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered permanent injuries, including past, present, and future pain and suffering. (Id. at 3-4.) The Complaint alleges a single count of negligence and requests relief in the forms of compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs, and other relief deemed appropriate. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Circuit Court of Mingo County, West Virginia, on August 16, 2017.[1] (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Defendant removed the case to this Court on February 28, 2018. (Id.) In the Notice of Removal, Defendant provides 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 3- 4.)

         Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Remand on March 22, 2018, in which he asserts that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the matter because he signed a stipulation on March 20, 2018, stating that the amount in controversy is below the $75, 000 requirement for diversity jurisdiction. (ECF No. 4 at 2-3; see also ECF No. 3-2.) Defendant filed its response on March 29, 2018, (ECF No. 5), and no reply brief was filed. As such, the motion is 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). The defendant 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).

         In evaluating a party's claim to federal jurisdiction, a court should look to the circumstances as they existed at the time the notice of removal was filed. See Dennison v. Carolina Payday Loans, Inc., 549 F.3d 941, 943 (4th Cir. 2008) (“[F]ederal jurisdiction . . . is fixed at the time the . . . notice of removal is filed.” (citation omitted)). In particular, 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). In calculating the amount in controversy, a court may consider the entire record and ...


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