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Swanson v. Hempstead

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

July 28, 2017

MOLLY SWANSON PLAINTIFF
v.
ROBERT HEMPSTEAD DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is plaintiff Molly Swanson's (“Swanson”) Motion to Remand [5]. Defendant, Robert Hempstead (“Hempstead”), filed a response in opposition to the Motion [8]. The Court has considered the submissions of the parties, along with relevant case law and evidence, and is now prepared to rule.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On July 5, 2016, Swanson filed a complaint in the County Court of Desoto County, Mississippi alleging damages resulting from a vehicle collision. Swanson alleges Hempstead was negligent in driving a vehicle involved in the collision in which Swanson was a passenger. In her complaint, Swanson requests monetary damages arising from bodily injury, physical pain and emotional distress, medical expenses, temporary disability, and property damage, as well as punitive damages.

         On December 28, 2016, Swanson submitted a letter to Hempstead demanding $110, 000 as a final settlement of her claim or the maximum amount allowable under Hempstead's insurance policy, whichever amount is less. The demand letter stated:

In light of the expenses, pain and suffering, and emotional trauma Mrs. Swanson has endured since this motor vehicle accident occurred, my client has authorized me to demand the sum of $110, 000.00 as full and final settlement of the bodily injury of this claim or policy limits, whichever is less. If it is policy limits a waiver of subrogation from the UIM provider will be condition to settlement.

Swanson alleges that Hempstead's policy limit is $25, 000.

         On May 4, 2017, Hempstead filed a notice of removal alleging diversity had been perfected, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. On May 26, 2017, Swanson moved to remand the case back to county court on the grounds that the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. On June 6, 2017, Hempstead filed a response in opposition to Swanson's motion to remand.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “[F]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having ‘only the authority endowed by the Constitution and that conferred by Congress.'” Halmekangas v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 603 F.3d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Epps v. Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Improvement Dist. No. 1, 665 F.2d 594, 595 (5th Cir. 1982)). The Judiciary Act of 1789 provides that “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).

         Upon removal, a plaintiff may move to remand the action to state court, and “[i]f it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). However, “removal statutes are to be construed strictly against removal and for remand.” Eastus v. Blue Bell Creameries, L.P., 97 F.3d 100, 106 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09, 61 S.Ct. 868, 872, 85 L.Ed. 1214 (1941)). “Any ambiguities are construed against removal.” Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000)). Furthermore, “[t]he removing party bears the burden of establishing that federal jurisdiction exists.” De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir. 1995) (citing Gaitor v. Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Co., 287 F.2d 252, 253-54 (5th Cir. 1961)).

         For removal to be proper, Hempstead must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Id. at 1412. “[T]he plaintiff's claim remains presumptively correct unless the defendant can show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy is greater than the jurisdictional amount.” Id. “[O]nce a defendant is able to show that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount, removal is proper, provided plaintiff has not shown that it is legally certain that his recovery will not exceed the amount stated in the state complaint.” Id.; See also St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289, 58 S.Ct. 586, 590, 82 L.Ed. 845 (1938); White v. FCI USA, Inc., 319 F.3d 672, 676 (5th Cir. 2003).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Federal diversity jurisdiction exists only where there is complete diversity between all plaintiffs and all defendants, and the amount in controversy between the parties exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 564, 125 S.Ct. 2611, 162 L.Ed.2d 502 (2005). The parties do not ...


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