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Elliott v. Yamamoto FB Engineering, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 13, 2018

KELLI ELLIOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
YAMAMOTO FB ENGINEERING, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David J. Hale, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Kelli Elliott, an employee of Defendant Yamamoto FB Engineering, Inc., alleges that Yamamoto violated the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA) by retaliating against her after she complained about and reported sexual harassment in the workplace. (Docket No. 1-1) Yamamoto removed this action to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. (D.N. 1) Elliott moved to remand (D.N. 5), and Yamamoto moved to dismiss (D.N. 6). For the reasons discussed below, both motions will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Elliott alleges the following facts in the complaint, which the Court will accept as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss. See Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). She works for the defendant, Yamamoto, as a human-resources administrator. (D.N. 1-1, PageID # 12) While working for Yamamoto, Elliott was repeatedly subjected to comments of a sexual nature. (Id.) In compliance with Yamamoto's policies, Elliott complained about and reported sexual harassment in the workplace. (Id.) In response to Elliott's complaints, Yamamoto threatened to terminate her employment. (Id.)

         Elliott filed this retaliation and sexual-harassment suit in state court (id., PageID # 11-12), and Yamamoto removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1332. (D.N. 1) Elliott has filed a motion to remand the case to state court (D.N. 5), stipulating that she will not seek a judgment or request a verdict for an amount in excess of $74, 999. (D.N. 5-1) Yamamoto opposes the motion to remand (D.N. 7) and has moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (D.N. 6)

         II.MOTION TO REMAND

         A. Standard

         28 U.S.C. § 1441 governs the removal of civil actions to federal court. Section 1441 provides:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “The 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-(1) citizens of different States; [and] (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         B. Analysis

         1. Amount in Controversy

         In its notice of removal, Yamamoto alleges that Elliott “seeks an award of non-economic compensatory damages . . . [that] easily could exceed the $75, 000 jurisdictional threshold as the KCRA places no cap on the amount of compensatory damages that [plaintiffs] may recover.” (D.N. 1, PageID # 5) After removal, Elliott submitted a stipulation stating that (1) “[t]he amount in controversy in this matter . . . does not exceed the sum or value of $74, 999.00, exclusive of interest and costs; at any time up to and including trial and any subsequent appeals”; and (2) “[she] will not seek a judgment or request a verdict for an amount in excess of $74, 999.00 and will not seek attorney's fees for any amount that, together with any judgment or verdict, would exceed $74, 999.” (D.N. 5-1, PageID # 39)

         “[A] post-removal stipulation reducing the amount in controversy to below the jurisdictional limit does not require remand to state court.” Rogers v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 230 F.3d 868, 872 (6th Cir. 2000). However,

where a state prevents a plaintiff from pleading a specific amount of damages-as is the case in Kentucky-and the plaintiff provides specific information about the amount in controversy for the first time in a stipulation, this district views such stipulations as a clarification ...

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