United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT, KEITH STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons below, the Court denies
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand . The parties shall
contact the chambers of the Magistrate Judge and schedule a
Case Management Conference.
a toxic tort case. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant
tortiously permitted pollutants to escape a natural gas
pipeline, which caused a variety of damages. Defendant
removed the case from the Circuit Court of Jasper County,
Mississippi, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand , arguing that the
amount in controversy does not exceed the jurisdictional
threshold of $75, 000.00.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having only the
authority endowed by the Constitution and that conferred by
Congress.” Halmekangas v. State Farm Fire &
Cas. Co., 603 F.3d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 2010). This Court
has removal jurisdiction of any case where it has original
jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), and it has
“original jurisdiction of all civil matters where the
matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . .
[c]itizens of different States . . . .” 28 U.S.C.
motion to remand has been filed, the party invoking the
Court's jurisdiction has the burden of proving that the
jurisdictional requirements have been met. De Aguilar v.
Boeing Co. (De Aguilar II), 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir.
1995). If the plaintiff does not request a specific sum, the
“removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that the amount in controversy equals or exceeds
the jurisdictional amount.” De Aguilar v. Boeing
Co., 11 F.3d 55, 58 (5th Cir. 1993). “This
requirement is met if (1) it is apparent from the face of the
petition that the claims are likely to exceed $75, 000, or
alternatively, (2) the defendant sets forth summary judgment
type evidence of facts in controversy that support a finding
of the requisite amount.” Manguno v. Prudential
Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.
2002). “[O]nce a defendant is able to show that the
amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount,
removal is proper, provided the plaintiff has not shown that
it is legally certain that his recovery will not
exceed” the jurisdictional threshold. White v. FCI
USA, Inc., 319 F.3d 672, 676 (5th Cir. 2003).
general rule, “jurisdictional facts are determined at
the time of removal, and . . . post-removal events do not
affect that properly established jurisdiction.”
Louisiana v. Am. Nat'l Prop. & Cas. Co., 746
F.3d 633, 636 (5th Cir. 2014). Because federal courts have
limited jurisdiction and removal raises significant
federalism concerns, “any doubt as to the propriety of
removal should be resolved in favor of remand.”
Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248, 251 (5th Cir.
did not demand a specific sum in their Complaint.
See Exhibit A to Memorandum, Clayton v. Denbury
Onshore, LLC, No. 2:17-CV-153-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss. Sept.
29, 2017), ECF No. 7-1. They asserted a wide variety of
damages, including past and future pain and suffering, past
and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages,
emotional distress, consequential expenses, physical damage
to their real property, hedonic damages, and punitive
damages. Id. at 6-7. However, they demanded
judgment of no greater than $75, 000.00 for Antonio Clayton,
no greater than $75, 000.00 for Evelyn Clayton, no greater
than $75, 000.00 for Jimmarious Plummer, no greater than $75,
000.00 for Destiny Plummer, no greater than $75, 000.00 for
Malachi Clayton, [and] no greater than $75, 000.00 for
Timothy Clayton . . . for actual or compensatory damages and
exemplary or punitive damages, together with pre-judgment
interest, post-judgment interest, attorney's fees, court
costs, and such other general relief to which the Plaintiffs
may be jointly entitled to receive.
Id. at 8.
Plaintiffs argue that the amount in controversy does not
exceed the jurisdictional threshold because “the
separate and distinct claims of two or more plaintiffs cannot
be aggregated in order to satisfy the jurisdictional amount
requirement.” Snyder v. Harris, 394 U.S. 332,
335, 89 S.Ct. 1053, 22 L.Ed.2d 319 (1969). In response,
Defendant contends that it is facially apparent from
Plaintiffs' Complaint that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.00 because their demands for punitive
damages are aggregated for purposes of determining the amount
in controversy. Defendant is correct.
of damages allegedly owed to separate plaintiffs . . . may be
permitted in the limited situation where ‘two or more
plaintiffs unite to enforce a single title or right in which
they have a common and undivided interest.'”
Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326,
1330 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Snyder, 394 U.S. at
335). “Punitive damages in Mississippi . . . are
fundamentally collective; their purpose is to protect society
by punishing and deterring wrongdoing, ” and
“[t]heir focus is not on any one individual plaintiff .
. . .” Id. at 1332. Therefore, the
“unique nature of these awards requires, at least in
Mississippi, that the full amount of alleged damages be
counted against each plaintiff in determining the
jurisdictional amount.” Id. at 1333.
“[E]ach plaintiff has an integrated right to the full
amount of [a punitive damages] award.” Id. at
1334. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' demands for punitive
damages must be aggregated in determining the amount in
Plaintiff demanded an unspecified amount no more than $75,
000.00 total in compensatory and punitive damages. While
purportedly limiting their total recovery, they failed to
specify the amounts of compensatory and punitive damages.
Even if each Plaintiff sought $74, 999.00 in compensatory
damages and only $1.00 in punitive damages, each would still
have met the jurisdictional threshold because their punitive
damage demands are aggregated. Therefore, it is facially
apparent from ...