United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. JORDAN III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
insurance-coverage dispute is before the Court on Plaintiff
Willie Harrell Lee's Motion to Remand . Defendant
Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) has
responded in opposition. The Court, having fully considered
the parties' submissions and the applicable law, finds
that Lee's motion should be denied.
alleges that Allstate wrongfully denied a claim under his
homeowner's insurance policy for fire loss that occurred
on November 23, 2017. Lee filed his Complaint on July 26,
2018, in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi,
against Allstate and John Does 1 through 10. In his
Complaint, Lee seeks an unspecified amount of damages for,
inter alia, breach of contract, tortious breach of
contract, violation of good faith and fair dealing, and
negligence. Compl. [1-1] at 3-5. In addition to actual
damages, Lee requests “punitive, . . . nominal and/or
statutory damages[, ] . . . consequential and/or extra
contractual damages[, ] . . . attorney's fees and costs,
. . . [and] pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.”
Id. at 5.
October 9, 2018, Allstate removed the case to this Court on
diversity grounds, asserting that, “[t]he damages
Plaintiff seeks in his complaint are clearly in excess of
$75, 000.” Notice of Removal  ¶ 4. Lee disputes
that assertion in his Motion to Remand.
may remove a case from state to federal court under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(b) when, on the face of the complaint, it appears
the case invokes one or more grounds for federal
subject-matter jurisdiction. Allen v. R & H Oil &
Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1336 (5th Cir. 1995). Where, as
here, a party premises subject-matter jurisdiction on
diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) controls.
Section 1332(a) provides that “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.” “The party seeking
to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction bears the burden of
establishing both that the parties are diverse and that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Garcia v.
Koch Oil Co. of Tex. Inc., 351 F.3d 636, 638 (5th Cir.
determine whether jurisdiction exists, the district court
“considers the claims in the state court petition as
they existed at the time of removal.” Manguno v.
Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723
(5th Cir. 2002); see also Gebbia v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 882 (5th Cir. 2000) (“The
jurisdictional facts that support removal must be judged at
the time of removal.”). “Any ambiguities are
construed against removal because the removal statute should
be strictly construed in favor of remand.”
Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723.
parties agree that complete diversity of citizenship exists.
But Lee says the Court must remand this case because Allstate
has failed to satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). This is the sole issue, and
for the following reasons, the Court concludes that
test for determining the amount in controversy is well
settled. Generally, the amount of damages sought in the
petition constitutes the amount in controversy, so long as
the pleading was made in good faith. Allen, 63 F.3d
at 1335 (citing St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab
Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289 (1938)). When, as here,
“the plaintiff's complaint does not allege a
specific amount of damages, the removing defendant must prove
by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in
controversy exceeds” the jurisdictional amount. De
Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 11 F.3d 55, 58 (5th Cir. 1993).
removing party can meet this burden in one of two ways: (1)
by showing that it is “facially apparent” the
claim exceeds $75, 000 or (2) if the value is not
“facially apparent, ” by “setting forth the
facts in controversy . . . that support a finding of the
requisite amount.” Allen, 63 F.3d at 1335.
Under the second approach, the Court may consider
summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in
controversy at the time of removal. Id. If Allstate
carries its burden under either theory, then jurisdiction
exists unless Lee proves to a legal certainty that the amount
in controversy is less than $75, 000. De Aguilar, 47
F.3d at 1412; see also Randle v. SmithKline Beecham
Corp., 338 F.Supp.2d 704, 711 (S.D.Miss. 2004).
to Allstate, “Mr. Lee's demand for punitive
damages, alone, is sufficient to meet Allstate's burden
of establishing that the minimum amount in controversy has
been met.” Def.'s Mem.  at 8. As Allstate
notes, “federal courts [in Mississippi] have recognized
that a claim for [an unspecified amount of] punitive damages,
. . . independently establishes that the total amount in
controversy has been met.” Sun Life Assur. Co. v.
Fairly, 485 F.Supp.2d 731, 735 (S.D.Miss. 2007)).
other cases “look more rigorously at the
complaint's factual allegations to determine whether the
combination of compensatory and punitive damages could truly
support a recovery above $75, 000.” Evans v. Red
Shield Admin. Inc., No. 3:18-CV-464-CWR-FKB, 2018 WL
4288724, at *1 (S.D.Miss. Aug. 17, 2018) (finding that an
unspecified punitive damages demand is itself
insufficient to meet the amount in controversy
requirement). These cases generally note that due-process
concerns limits the extent to which punitive damages can
eclipse compensatory damages. See Bridges v. Freese,
122 F.Supp.3d 583, 549 (S.D.Miss. 2015) (finding that
plaintiffs with low-dollar compensatory-damage demands could
not, “consistent with due process, . . . receive an
award of punitive damages that would push the amount in
controversy over $75, 000”). As the Supreme Court noted
in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v.
Campbell, there is no bright-line test, but consistent
with due process, punitive damages must be “both
reasonable and ...