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Elford v. Belk, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

January 5, 2015

ELIZABETH ELFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
BELK, INC. and BELK STORES OF MISSISSIPPI, LLC, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT AND MOTION FOR REMAND

LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., Chief District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are the Motion to Amend Complaint [6] and the Motion to Remand [7] filed by Elizabeth Elford. The defendants, Belk, Inc., and Belk Stores of Mississippi, LLC (sometimes collectively referred to as "Belk"), filed responses in opposition to the Motions, but Elford did not file a reply. After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Elford's Motions should be denied.

BACKGROUND

Elford filed this lawsuit against Belk, claiming that she was injured when she walked into the outer glass doors at a Belk store. Elford is a resident of Mississippi. Belk, Inc., is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in North Carolina. Belk Stores of Mississippi, LLC, has presented an affidavit indicating that Belk, Inc., is its sole member.

Elford's Complaint contains the following clause:

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff Elizabeth Elford demands judgment from and against Belk's for actual, compensatory damages in the sum of $60, 000 and punitive damages in the sum of $15, 000 and attorney's fees and court costs and any and all other damages deemed necessary and proper or allowed under law.

(Compl. at 5, ECF No. 1-1). Belk removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Elford then filed a Motion to Amend Complaint accompanied by a proposed amended complaint containing the following clause:

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff Elizabeth Elford demands judgment from and against the Belk Defendants for actual, compensatory damages in the sum [sic] and court costs and any and all other damages deemed necessary and proper or allowed under law not to exceed $74, 000.

(Proposed Am. Compl. at 5, ECF No. 6-1). Elford also filed a Motion to Remand, claiming that, pursuant to her proposed amended complaint, the amount in controversy requirement is not satisfied for diversity jurisdiction.

DISCUSSION

28 U.S.C. ยง 1332 confers federal diversity jurisdiction over civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and the civil action is between citizens of different states. The parties do not dispute that diversity of citizenship exists in this lawsuit. The only issue presented for this Court's determination is whether Elford should be permitted to amend her complaint to lower the amount in controversy.

The Fifth Circuit has provided the following guidance for determining whether a plaintiff can amend her complaint to reduce the amount in controversy:

[O]nce the district court's jurisdiction is established, subsequent events that reduce the amount in controversy to less than $75, 000 generally do not divest the court of diversity jurisdiction. The jurisdictional facts that support removal must be judged at the time of removal. While post-removal affidavits may be considered in determining the amount in controversy at the time of removal, such affidavits may be considered only if the basis for jurisdiction is ambiguous at the time of removal. Additionally, if it is facially apparent from the petition that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 at the time of removal, post-removal affidavits, stipulations, and amendments reducing the amount do not deprive the district court of jurisdiction.

Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883 (5th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). Elford claims that her original Complaint may have been vague and that she is attempting to clarify ...


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