United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
The Custom Companies, Inc., an Illinois corporation, Circle W Trucking, Inc., a Missouri corporation, CDN Logistics, Inc., an Illinois corporation, and Custom Logistics, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Plaintiffs,
Peoplease Corporation, a South Carolina corporation, Defendant.
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to
remand. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the
claim conversion and unjust enrichment against Defendant,
alleging Defendant received and wrongfully retained money
from Plaintiffs that was mistakenly wired to Defendant on
January 4, 2017. Allegedly, Plaintiff The Custom Companies,
Inc. wired $45, 014.52 to Defendant, Plaintiff Circle W
Trucking, Inc. wired $4, 191.25 to Defendant, Plaintiff CDN
Logistics, Inc. wired $438.03 to Defendant, and Plaintiff
Custom Global Logistics, LLC wired $28, 576.00 to Defendant.
Plaintiffs filed the present action on May 19, 2017 in the
Charleston County Court of Common Pleas. On May 26, 2017,
Defendant removed to this Court. Plaintiffs now move to
federal district court is a court of limited jurisdiction and
has a duty to dismiss a case whenever it appears that subject
matter jurisdiction is lacking. Lovem v. Edwards,
190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999). Moreover, "questions
of subject matter jurisdiction must be decided first, because
they concern the court's very power to hear the
case." Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Meade, 186 F.3d
435, 442 n.4 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks
courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil
actions, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests
firmly on the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994),
Federal removal jurisdiction exists if the action is one
"of which the district courts of the United States have
original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The
removing party has the burden of establishing that removal
jurisdiction is proper. In re Blackwater Sec. Consulting,
LLC, 460 F.3d 576, 583 (4th Cir. 2006). The removal
statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction,
and any doubts as to jurisdiction weigh in favor of remand.
Id. However, if the amount alleged in the complaint
in good faith meets the amount in controversy threshold, then
jurisdiction is established unless "it [is] a legal
certainty that, at the time of the complaint, the plaintiff
could not recover the requisite amount." Shanaghan
v. Cahill, 58 F.3d 106, 111 (4th Cir. 1995).
two or more plaintiffs, having separate and distinct demands,
unite for convenience and economy in a single suit, it is
essential that the demand of each be of the requisite
jurisdictional amount. . . ." Troy Bank of Troy,
Ind, v. G.A. Whitehead & Co., 222 U.S. 39, 40
(1911). It is obvious from the face of the complaint that
Plaintiffs here have separate and distinct demands, and that
they have united their claims in a single complaint for
convenience and economy. Each plaintiff seeks recovery for
the specific amount that each Plaintiff separately wired to
Defendant on January 4, 2017, (Dkt. No. 1-1 ¶¶
17-18.). Plaintiffs therefore move to remand because "no
individual Plaintiff has a claim which meets the amount in
controversy requirement to maintain an action in federal
court under diversity jurisdiction." (Dkt. No. 4 at 1.)
When the well-pleaded complaint contains at least one claim
that satisfies the amount-in-controversy requirement, and
there are no other relevant jurisdictional defects, the
district court, beyond all question, has original
jurisdiction over that claim. The presence of other claims in
the complaint, over which the district court may lack
original jurisdiction, is of no moment. If the court has
original jurisdiction over a single claim in the complaint,
it has original jurisdiction over a "civil action"
within the meaning of § 1367(a), even if the civil
action over which it has jurisdiction comprises fewer claims
than were included in the complaint.
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs. Inc., 545
U.S. 546, 559 (2005). The complaint asserts conversion and
unjust enrichment claims for each Plaintiff, and seeks actual
and punitive damages for each Plaintiff. Although punitive
damages are not recoverable in equitable causes like unjust
enrichment, see Welborn v. Dixon, 49 S.E. 232, 235
(S.C. 1904), "[p]unitive damages are recoverable in
conversion cases in the event it is determined the
defendant's acts have been willful, reckless, and/or
committed with conscious indifference to the rights of
others, " Oxford Fin. Companies, Inc. v.
Burgess, 402 S.E.2d 480, 482 (S.C. 1991). Plaintiffs
therefore have stated a plausible claim for punitive damages.
Further, it is certainly plausible that Custom Companies
(which claims $45, 014.52 in actual damages) and Custom
Global (which claims $28, 576.00 in actual damages) could
recover punitive damages sufficient to make their individual
recoveries greater than $75, 000. See Bell v. Preferred
Life Assur. Soc. of Montgomery, Ala, 320 U.S. 238, 240
(1943) ("Where both actual and punitive damages are
recoverable under a complaint each must be considered to the
extent claimed in determining jurisdictional amount.");
Woodward v. Newcourt Comm. Fin. Corp., 60
F.Supp.2d 530, 532(D.S.C. 1999) (A "claim for punitive
damages alone makes it virtually impossible to say that the
claim is for less than the jurisdictional amount.").
Because there is at least one claim in the complaint over
which the Court has original jurisdiction, the Court must
deny Plaintiffs' motion to remand.
foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the motion to ...