United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 3.)
For the reasons discussed below, the motion is DENIED.
action arises out of a motor vehicle accident occurring on
U.S. Route 119 in Boone County, West Virginia. (ECF No. 1-1
at 5 ¶ 7.) The Complaint filed in state court and
attached to Defendants' Notice of Removal alleges that on
December 1, 2015, Plaintiff Summer Stogsdill
(“Plaintiff”) was impacted by a vehicle operated
by Defendant James Spears for the benefit of Defendant
Ken's Towing & Service, LLC (collectively,
“Defendants”). (Id. at 4 ¶ 4, 5
¶ 8, 7 ¶¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff alleges that due
to Defendants' negligence she has sustained “severe
and permanent injuries” and will continue to suffer
damages, including, but not limited to, medical expenses,
mental and physical pain and suffering, aggravation and
inconvenience, lost wages, benefits, and earnings, reduction
in productive capacity, permanent and serious bodily
injuries, and impairment in her ability to enjoy family and
life. (Id. at 7 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff also seeks
punitive damages. (Id.)
filed a notice of removal on June 10, 2019. (ECF No. 1.) In
the Notice of Removal, Defendants invoke this Court's
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 based on
diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy
exceeding $75, 000. Defendants raise three arguments to
support their contention that the amount in controversy
exceeds the federal jurisdictional minimum. First, in
conjunction with the Complaint, Plaintiff served requests for
admissions, one of which asked Defendants to admit that the
value of this case exceeds $75, 000. (ECF No. 1-1 at 38.)
Second, Plaintiff offered to settle this matter outside of
litigation for the sum of $80, 000. (ECF No. 8 at 2.) Third,
the serious nature of the damages claimed by Plaintiff in the
Complaint for alleged permanent, disabling, and severe
injuries support the conclusion that the jurisdictional
amount in controversy is exceeded. (Id. at 4-5.)
Plaintiff filed the present Motion to Remand on June 17,
2019. (ECF No. 3.) Defendants responded to the motion on July
1, 2019, (ECF No. 8), and Plaintiff replied on July 3, 2019,
(ECF No. 9). As such, the motion is fully briefed and ripe
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. As relevant
here, “[t]he 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); see
Lontz v. Tharp, 413 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2005)
(“Since diversity always vests original jurisdiction in
the district courts, diversity also generates removal
party seeking removal bears the burden to demonstrate the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Scott v.
Cricket Commc'ns, LLC, 865 F.3d 189, 194 (4th Cir.
2017); Sonoco Prods. Co. v. Physicians Health Plan,
Inc., 338 F.3d 366, 370 (4th Cir. 2003). Any doubts
about the propriety of removal must be strictly construed in
favor of remand. 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)); Hartley v. CSX Transp., Inc.,
187 F.3d 422, 425 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting Marshall v.
Manville Sales Corp., 6 F.3d 229, 232 (4th Cir. 1993)).
sole dispute between the parties as to this motion is whether
the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum
of $75, 000. Plaintiff does not challenge Defendants'
assertion that the parties are completely diverse.
(See ECF No. 4; ECF No. 8 at 1-2.) Indeed, Plaintiff
is a West Virginia resident, and Defendants are citizens of
Kentucky. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4 ¶¶ 1-3.)
“the ‘sum claimed by the plaintiff controls'
the amount in controversy determination.” JTH Tax,
Inc. v. Frashier, 624 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 2010)
(citing St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co.,
303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938)). However, where as here a plaintiff
seeks an unspecified amount of damages, the removing
defendant “must prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the value of the matter in controversy exceeds
the jurisdictional amount.” Landmark Corp. v.
Apogee Coal Co., 945 F.Supp. 932, 935 (S.D. W.Va. 1996)
(citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 567 (9th
Cir. 1992)). “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. 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
the amount in controversy is not apparent on the face of a
complaint, the Court may consider several factors and make an
independent evaluation of whether the amount in controversy
has been satisfied. See Weddington v. Ford Motor Credit
Co., 59 F.Supp.2d 578, 584 (S.D. W.Va. 1999). In
deciding whether Defendants have met the preponderance of the
evidence standard, the Court may consider “the
complaint, the type and extent of the plaintiff's
injuries, the amounts awarded in similar cases, and losses
incurred to date of removal.” Scaralto v.
Ferrell, 826 F.Supp.2d 960, 968 (S.D. W.Va. 2011)
(quoting McCoy, 174 F.Supp.2d at 489). The
“[C]ourt can also consider as a factor a
plaintiff's settlement demands prior to removal.”
Melton v. Precision Laser & Instruments, Inc.,
No. 2:12-cv-1697, 2012 WL 6703148, *3 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 26,
2012)). See also Scaralto, 826 F.Supp.2d at 967
(stating that “[t]he amount in controversy is not what
the plaintiff, his lawyer, or some judge thinks a jury would
award the plaintiff assuming he prevails on the merits. It is
what the plaintiff claims to be entitled to or
Court finds that Defendants have met their burden of
establishing that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
Plaintiff initially offered to settle this case for $80, 000.
Her demand is over the federal jurisdictional minimum and is
representative of an amount to which Plaintiff believes she
is entitled to recover. Plaintiff implies that, because this
demand was reduced below $75, 000 during negotiations, she no
longer claims an amount over the jurisdictional minimum.
However, Plaintiff does not contend that she seeks less than
$75, 000 in this case. To the contrary, she argues that she
should not be held to these prelitigation demands as they
were offered prior to the involvement of counsel. (ECF No. 9
at 3.) Further, she has not submitted a stipulation limiting
the amount in controversy below the jurisdictional amount.
See Shumate v. DynCorp Int'l LLC, No.
5:11-cv-00980, 2012 WL 830241, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Mar. 9,
2019) (noting that a plaintiff may file a stipulation
“to limit the amount in controversy for the purpose of
defeating jurisdiction” of the district court).
does not offer any facts to counter Defendants' view of
the amount in controversy. Instead, she remains silent as to
the value of the case and suggests that her claimed damages
remain unknown. Absent a limitation on her potential
recovery, the Court assigns great weight of the amount in
controversy to Plaintiff's initial demand and refusal to
stipulate to damages below the jurisdictional amount,
particularly when coupled with Plaintiff's recent
submission of a request for admission that her damages exceed
$75, 000. See Scaralto, 826 F.Supp.2d at 968-69
(holding that “a demand in excess of the jurisdictional
minimum should be treated as the amount in controversy,
unless the plaintiff shows that to a legal certainty he
cannot recover over $75, 000.”); see also Brill v.
Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 427 F.3d 446, 449 (7th
Cir. 2005) (noting that “[o]nce the proponent of
jurisdiction has set out the amount in controversy, only a
‘legal certainty' that the judgment will be less