United States District Court, D. South Carolina
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Bristow Marchant United States Magistrate Judge.
action was originally filed by the Plaintiff in the South
Carolina Court of Common Pleas, Charleston County. Plaintiff
asserts state law claims against the Defendants for wrongful
discharge in violation of public policy and for breach of
duty of good faith and fair dealing.
7, 2018, the Defendants removed this case to United States
District Court, citing diversity of citizenship based on
Plaintiff being a citizen of South Carolina and the Wal-Mart
Defendants being citizens of Arkansas. Plaintiff
thereafter filed a motion to remand this action back to state
court, arguing, inter alia, that the matter in
controversy in this civil action does not exceed the sum or
value required to establish diversity jurisdiction in this
federal court. The Wal-Mart Defendants oppose Plaintiff's
motion to remand. However, after careful review and
consideration of the pleadings, the memoranda submitted by
the parties, and applicable case law, the undersigned is
constrained to agree with the Plaintiff that this case should
be remanded back to state court for disposition.
order for this Court to hear and decide a case, the Court
must, first, have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
litigation. It is well settled that federal courts are courts
of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power
authorized by the Constitution and statute. Willy v.
Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131, 136-37, 112 S.Ct. 1076, 117
L.Ed.2d 280 (1992); Bender v. Williamsport Area School
Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541, 106 S.Ct. 1326, 89 L.Ed.2d 501
(1986). This limited jurisdiction is not to be expanded by
judicial decree. American Fire & Casualty Co. v.
Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 71 S.Ct. 534, 95 L.Ed. 702 (1951).
Additionally, it is to be presumed that a cause lies outside
this limited jurisdiction; Turner v. Bank of N. Am.,
4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 8, 11, 1 L.Ed. 718 (1799); and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting
jurisdiction, McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182-83, 56 S.Ct. 780, 80 L.Ed. 1135
the Defendants assert federal court jurisdiction in his case
based on diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. The diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a),
requires complete diversity of parties and an amount in
controversy in excess of seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,
000.00). Complete diversity of parties in a case means that
no party on one side may be a citizen of the same state as
any party on the other side. Owen Equip. & Erection
Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 372-74, 98 S.Ct. 2396, 57
L.Ed.2d 274 (1978). However, although there may be a question
presented with respect to the complete diversity of the
citizenship of the parties in this case; see n. 1,
supra; it is not necessary for the Court to reach
that issue, because it is readily apparent that the statutory
requirement for the amount in controversy for diversity
jurisdiction does not exist in this case.
Complaint, Plaintiff does not specify an amount being sought,
instead only seeking actual and punitive damages as may be
determined by the trier of fact. As such, the burden is on
the Defendants to prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
minimum. That is, in order to defeat remand, the Defendants
must show that “it is more likely than not” that
the amount in controversy requirement (in excess of $75, 000)
is satisfied. See Crosby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 409
F.Supp.2d 665, 668 (D.S.C. 2005); Sanchez v. Monumental
Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 394, 404 (9th Cir.
1996). The removing Defendants have failed to meet this
burden in this case. The relevant principles of the
amount-in-controversy requirement are well settled, and
generally “the sum claimed by the plaintiff
controls” the determination of the amount in
controversy. JTH Tax, Inc. v. Frashier, 624 F.3d
635, 638 (4th Cir. 2010). In her motion to remand, while
conceding that she did not set forth a specific amount in
damages being sought in her Complaint, Plaintiff now
specifically stipulates that she is seeking under $75, 000 in
damages in this case.
Plaintiff did not initially set forth a sum certain being
sought in her pleadings does not prevent her from doing so
now. Cf. Hardwick v. Bank of American, NA,
No. 13-1359, 2013 WL 3477275, at * 2-3 (D.S.C. July 10, 2013)
[Noting that a post-removal stipulation that damages will not
exceed the jurisdictional minimum can be considered a
clarification of an otherwise ambiguous complaint justifying
remand, and citing cases]; Wanning v. Duke Energy
Carolinas, LLC, No. 13-839, 2014 WL 12607975 (D.S.C.
Aug. 6, 2014) [Accepting post-removal stipulation as a
clarification that the total amount of damages being sought
in the complaint was not more than $75, 000, and remanding
the case back to state court]; Banks v. Robinson,
No. 17-495, 2017 WL 749384 (D.S.C. Feb. 27, 2017) [same];
Quintana v. Carballo, No. 16-2526, 2016 WL 3958596
(D.S.C. July 22, 2016) [same]. Moreover, while Plaintiff does
seek punitive as well as actual damages, it is not enough to
simply state (as argued by the Defendants) that because
Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, federal jurisdiction is
proper. See Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092,
1097 (11th Cir. 1994) (“[T]he possibility that
plaintiff may in the future seek or recover more damages is
insufficient to support federal jurisdiction now.”);
cf. Moore v. Pendergraff Companies, No.
13-3122, 2014 WL 897138, at * 3 (D.S.C. Mar. 6, 2014).
Furthermore, “it was never the intent of Congress for
the federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over every state
case in which punitive damages have been pled and the parties
are of diverse citizenship.” Hamilton v. Ocwen Loan
Servicing, LLC, No. 9:12-cv-03111-PMD, 2013 WL 499159,
at *5 (D.S.C. Feb. 7, 2013) (quoting Hagood v. Electrolux
Home Prods., Inc., No. 8:06-1799-HFF, 2006 WL 1663804,
at *2 (D.S.C. June 15, 2006)).
in light of the Plaintiff's clear stipulation herein that
she will not and cannot recover damages in excess of the
applicable $75, 000 jurisdictional threshold, it is
recommended that Plaintiffs motion to remand be
parties are referred to the Notice Page attached hereto.
of Right to File Objections to Report and
parties are advised that they may file specific written
objections to this Report and Recommendation with the
District Judge. Objections must specifically identify the
portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections
are made and the basis for such objections. “[I]n the
absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need
not conduct a Defendants' Exhibit novo review, but
instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no
clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310
(4thCir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory
written objections must be filed within fourteen (14) days of
the date of service of this Report and Recommendation. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b);
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a), (d).
Filing by mail pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5
may be accomplished by mailing objections to:
Robin Blume, Clerk
United States District ...