United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a South Carolina citizen, sued Defendant, a corporation
organized under the laws of Ohio and with its principal place
of business in Ohio, for negligence, recklessness, and breach
of warranties related to work done on the tires of
Plaintiff's vehicle. ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff originally
filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas, Lexington
County, South Carolina, on November 28, 2018. Id.
Defendant was served on December 3, 2018. On January 2, 2019,
Defendant removed the action based upon diversity
jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. It alleged the amount in controversy
requirement was satisfied because Plaintiff refused to sign a
stipulation limiting his damages to less than $75, 000, and
because Plaintiff alleged actual and punitive damages based
on his “great injury.” Id. at 3-4.
nine months later, on August 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed a
motion to remand in which he stipulated that the amount in
controversy does not exceed $75, 000.00. ECF No. 29.
Defendant filed an opposition, arguing it satisfied the
removal requirements, including amount in controversy, at the
time of removal, and that Plaintiff's post-removal
stipulation, days before Plaintiff's scheduled
deposition, does not defeat jurisdiction. ECF No. 30. It
argues Plaintiff's stipulation is not a mere
clarification of damages, but an “improper attempt to
avoid federal jurisdiction by amending damages at the
eleventh hour.” Id. at 3. Defendant asserts
that because at the time the Complaint was filed and removed
to this court the amount in controversy reasonably exceeded
$75, 000, Plaintiff's post-removal stipulation cannot
destroy this court's subject matter jurisdiction.
filed a reply, arguing the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction and the case should be remanded because the
initial complaint “was not removable, ” but
“Plaintiff could not have known that at the
time.” ECF No. 31 at 2. Plaintiff asserts he was
uncertain about his need for future treatment and therefore
the extent of monetary damages, but now it has been
determined he does not need additional medical care and so
his damages “will not exceed the $75, 000
threshold.” Id. at 2-3. He further notes he
has not sought to amend the Complaint,  and is not forum
shopping, but merely reviewed new evidence provided in
discovery and realized he would not need future medical
treatment, so is now able to stipulate to damages less than
$75, 000. Id. at 3-4.
court notes that the removal statute is to be strictly
construed and doubts resolved in favor of remanding the case
to state court. Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chem Co.,
Inc., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). Jurisdiction is
determined at the time of removal, and the burden is on
Defendant to prove a case was properly removed. Porsche
Cars of North America, Inc. v. Porsche.net, 302 F.3d
248, 255-56 (4th Cir. 2002) (“[I]t is black letter law
that the conditions that create diversity jurisdiction . . .
need not survive throughout the life of the litigation.
Rather, a court determines the existence of diversity
jurisdiction at the time the action is filed, regardless of
later changes in originally crucial facts such as the
parties' citizenship or the amount in
court finds the amount in controversy reasonably exceeded
$75, 000 at the time Plaintiff filed his Complaint and
Plaintiff's post-removal stipulation does not destroy
this court's subject matter jurisdiction. A plaintiff in
such an action may not defeat diversity jurisdiction by
filing a post-removal amendment of the complaint which
reduces the amount of damages requested by the complaint
below the amount in controversy required by 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab
Co., 303 U.S. 283, 292 (1938); Covington v. Syngenta
Corp., 225 F.Supp.3d. 384, 389 (D.S.C. 2016) (denying
remand because Plaintiff's stipulation, filed seven
months after removal, was “a post-removal to defeat
jurisdiction, prohibited by St. Paul Mercury, 303
U.S. at 292.”).
original Complaint, at the time of removal, did not specify
an amount of damages, but requested “actual damages and
punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the tryer
of fact.” ECF No. 1-1 ¶ 31. The Prayer for Relief
noted Plaintiff “sustained serious injury, pain and
suffering and emotional distress . . . Plaintiff has incurred
and will continue to incur medical expenses related to his
injuries resulting from this accident.” Id. at
¶¶ 30-31. Although a sum certain was not requested
by Plaintiff in the Complaint, Plaintiff admits declining to
stipulate to damages less than $75, 000, as requested by
Defendant prior to removing this action. ECF Nos. 31; 31-1.
Plaintiff now argues he is aware his damages will be less
than $74, 999 as he does not require further medical care.
clear Plaintiff did not want to and did not limit his
potential recovery to under $75, 000 at the time of removal.
Based on Plaintiff's allegations, the removal was
therefore proper, and this court has jurisdiction over the
case. A stipulation filed along with a motion to remand, nine
months after the case was removed, is too late. The absence
of a specifically pled dollar amount does not necessarily
mean the amount in controversy is indeterminate from the face
of the complaint. In this case, where Plaintiff pled actual
damages from a dangerous accident leading to “serious
injury, pain and suffering and emotional distress, ” in
addition to punitive damages, it is reasonable to conclude
the amount requested was over the jurisdictional threshold.
the parties in this case are diverse and at the time the
Complaint was filed and removed to this court the amount in
controversy reasonably exceeded $75, 000, the court concludes
that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this case.
Plaintiff's motion to remand is denied.
IS SO ORDERED.
 While Plaintiff may not have sought to
amend the amount of damages pled in his Complaint, he has
filed both an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 12) and a Second