United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
HT Investment, INC., d/b/a BEST WESTERN POINT SOUTH, MIN “TONY” TONG, and S.C. MANAGEMENT, LLC, Plaintiffs,
RJC, LLC, d/b/a RJC OF SOUTH CAROLINA, LLC, d/b/a DENNY'S 7600, Defendants.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on plaintiffs HT Investment Inc.,
Min Tong, and S.C. Management LLC's (collectively,
“plaintiffs”) motion to remand. Pl.'s Mot. 1.
For the reasons set forth below, the court denies
plaintiffs' motion to remand.
case arises out of a property dispute. Plaintiffs
collectively own and operate a Best Western Hotel franchise
located in Jasper County, South Carolina. Defendants RJC LLC
d/b/a RJC of South Carolina LLC d/b/a Denny's
(“Denny's”) owns and operates a Denny's
restaurant that is on plaintiffs' property and is
physically attached to the Best Western Hotel. Plaintiffs
allege that Denny's has breached the terms of the lease
agreement by: (1) failing to provide copies of sales reports;
(2) failing to maintain the premises; (3) failing to pay for
electrical and other utility services; (4) failing to pay for
illuminated signage use; (5) failing to pay tax assessments;
and (6) failing to provide the required thirty-five free
“grand slam” meals per week. Plaintiffs
originally filed this action on July 17, 2017 in
Magistrate's Court in Jasper County, SC, seeking to evict
Denny's from the premises. On August 14, 2017,
Denny's removed this case to federal court. On August 17,
2017, plaintiffs filed a motion to remand, and on September
20th filed a motion to expedite consideration and hearing on
the motion to remand. Denny's responded on October 2,
2017. The motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe
for the court's review.
parties seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction,
defendants have the burden of proving jurisdiction upon
motion to remand. Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369
F.3d 811, 816 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mulcahy v. Columbia
Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994)).
In deciding a motion to remand, the federal court should
construe removal jurisdiction strictly in favor of state
court jurisdiction. Id. “If federal
jurisdiction is doubtful, a remand is necessary.”
Mulcahy, 29 F.3d at 151 (citations omitted).
procedure for removal is governed by 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b), which provides that “[t]he notice of removal .
. . shall be filed within thirty days after the receipt by
the defendant . . . of a copy of the initial pleading.”
28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). Denny's removed this action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. The defendants aver that
the court has diversity subject-matter jurisdiction over this
action because plaintiffs are completely diverse in
citizenship from Denny's and because the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.
plaintiffs have filed an ejectment claim against Denny's.
Because the two prongs of diversity jurisdiction-complete
diversity of parties and the amount in controversy-are
fulfilled, this action should remain in federal court.
Additionally, there is another action in federal court that
is based on the same underlying facts with the same parties
involved, where the claims include breach of contract, fraud,
misrepresentation, and other causes related to the same
dispute over the Denny's lease agreement, and so this
should be heard by the same court. See RJC, LLC, d/b/a
RJC of South Carolina, LLC v. BVM Motel, LLC, HT Investment,
Inc., d/b/a Best Western Point South, Serge Miner, Min
“Tony” Tong and S.C. Management, LLC, No.
is clearly diversity jurisdiction here-the plaintiffs are
residents of South Carolina, while defendant Denny's has
its principal place of business in California. Although the
complaint does not specify any damages, the
amount-in-controversy requirement is likely also met.
Plaintiffs' application for eviction, which is attached
to the notice of removal lists the following damages: (1)
$74, 657.13 in electricity use; (2) $7, 075.50 for
illuminated advertising signage use; (3) $5, 907.65 in past
due tax assessments; and (4) 1, 680 free meals known as
“grand slams.” ECF No. 1-1, Application for
Ejectment. Combined, this list of damages exceeds the $75,
000 threshold amount-in-controversy requirement. It is true
that in the original state court complaint, the remedy that
plaintiffs ask for is not damages but a writ of eviction to
remove Denny's from the premises. ECF No. 1-1,
Application for Ejectment. That being said, in the notice of
removal Denny's states that if it is evicted the loss of
business alone will exceed $75, 000. ECF No. 1 at 3.
argue that the amount-in-controversy requirement is not met
because they seek an equitable remedy-ejectment-as opposed to
a legal remedy of damages. ECF No. 4 at 4. However, where a
plaintiff seeks declaratory or injunctive relief, “it
is well established that the amount in controversy is
measured by the value of the object of the litigation.”
Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432
U.S. 333, 347 (1977). In the Fourth Circuit, the
“value” of the litigation is properly judged from
the viewpoint of “either party.” See JTH
Tax., Inc. v. Frashier, 624 F.3d 635, 639 (4th Cir.
2010). The relevant inquiry is whether “the direct
pecuniary value of the right the plaintiff seeks to enforce,
or the cost to the defendant of complying with any
prospective equitable relief exceeds $75, 000.” Lee
v. Citimortgage, Inc., 739 F.Supp.2d 940, 946 (E.D. Va.
2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The
direct pecuniary value of the right the plaintiffs seek to
enforce is at least $75, 000, because that is how much
Denny's claims it will lose in terms of lost business if
they are evicted. The amount in controversy is thus satisfied
and the court has subject-matter jurisdiction.
court finds that this suit should remain in federal court, as
all the requirements of diversity jurisdiction are met.
Furthermore, because there is already a separate federal suit
involving the same parties related to the same dispute over
the lease agreement it is in the interest of judicial economy
to keep this ejectment claim in federal court.
reasons set forth above, the court DENIES