United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Rebecca Grady Jennings, District Judge
Estate of Perry Kevin Beard (“Beard”) sued
Defendant G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc. (“G4S”)
in Jefferson County Circuit Court alleging discrimination and
unlawful discharge under KRS 344 and retaliation under KRS
433.280. [DE 1-3, Compl. at Â¶Â¶ 10-14]. G4S removed the case
to this Court on diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction. [DE 1
at Â¶ 3]. Beard now moves to remand the case back to Jefferson
County Circuit Court [DE 5], G4S moves to dismiss the
Complaint [DE 6], and Beard moves to stay G4S's Motion to
Dismiss until resolution of the Motion to Remand [DE 8].
These matters are ripe for judgment. [See DE 7; DE 9; DE 10].
For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Beard's Motion to
Remand, DENIES AS MOOT G4S's Motion to Dismiss, and
DENIES AS MOOT Beard's Motion to Stay.
was employed by G4S when he suffered severe medical
complications and related anxiety. [DE 1-3 at Â¶ 6]. Beard
claims that he disclosed his medical condition to G4S and
sought accommodations. Id. at Â¶ Â¶ 8-9. G4S denied
Beard's accommodations request, and after he voiced
opposition, the company terminated him. Id. Beard
sued in Jefferson County Circuit Court alleging
discrimination and unlawful discharge. Id. at Â¶Â¶
10-14. The Complaint states that the “amount in
controversy in this matter exceeds the jurisdictional minimum
[of Jefferson County Circuit Court] but is less than $75, 000
inclusive of fees, punitive damages and the fair value of any
injunctive relief.” Id. at Â¶ 4.
completing any discovery, G4S removed the case to this Court
on diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction. [DE 1 at Â¶ 3].
Beard then moved to remand, claiming that this Court lacks
jurisdiction because the amount in controversy is less than
$75, 000. [DE 5 at 63]. Beard attached a stipulation to his
Motion affirming that he will neither seek nor accept any
relief equal to or greater than $75, 000. [DE 5-1 at 65]. G4S
responds that Beard's post-removal stipulation does not
destroy diversity jurisdiction and that the Court should deny
the Motion. [DE 7 at 95].
Standard of Review
to federal court is proper for “any civil action
brought in a State court of which the district courts of the
United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a). Diversity jurisdiction gives “[t]he
district courts . . . original jurisdiction [over] all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between . . . citizens of different states.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a), (a)(1). A defendant removing a case has the
burden of proving jurisdiction. See Wilson v. Republic
Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921). The
determination of federal jurisdiction in a diversity case
should be made at the time of removal. Rogers v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 230 F.3d 868, 872 (6th Cir. 2000).
does not dispute that complete diversity of citizenship
exists between the parties. [DE 5]. Rather, he disputes only
whether the amount-in-controversy requirement is satisfied.
Id. Thus, the question for the Court is whether G4S
properly removed the action in the first instance based on
the amount in controversy at the time of removal and, if so,
whether Beard's post-removal stipulation destroys
Amount in Controversy
courts “conduct a fair reading” of the complaint
to determine whether the amount in controversy satisfies the
requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Hayes v.
Equitable Energy Res. Co., 266 F.3d 560, 573 (6th Cir.
2001). Because the plaintiff is “master of the claim,
” a claim explicitly less than the federal requirement
will typically preclude removal. Rogers, 230 F.3d at
872 (quoting Gafford v. General Elec. Co., 997 F.2d
150, 157 (6th Cir. 1993)). Two rules of Kentucky procedure
complicate the question of proper removal to federal court in
regard to the amount-in-controversy threshold. First,
Kentucky's Rules of Civil Procedure prohibit a plaintiff
from making a specific demand for damages in his or her
complaint. Ky. R. Civ. P. 8.01(2). In such cases, “the
defendant may assert the amount in controversy in the notice
of removal.” Jenkins v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., No.
3:18-CV-244-CRS, 2018 WL 6728571, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Dec.
21, 2018). And the defendant must establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000 at the time of removal. Id. (citing
Rogers, 230 F.3d at 872).
Ky. R. Civ. P. 54.03 states that “[e]xcept as to a
party against whom a judgment is entered by default for want
of appearance, every final judgment shall grant the relief to
which the party in whose favor it is rendered is entitled,
even if the party has not demanded such relief in his
pleadings.” This enables a plaintiff to claim in his or
her complaint an amount lower than the federal
amount-in-controversy threshold but still seek and recover
damages exceeding the amount prayed for. Rogers, 230
F.3d at 871. In such situations, the removing defendant must
show that it is “more likely than not” that the
plaintiff's claims meet the amount-in-controversy
requirement at the time of removal. Gafford, 997
F.2d at 158.
establish the jurisdictional threshold, “[a] defendant
drawn into a Kentucky court would be wise to engage in
pre-removal discovery to clarify the amount in
controversy.” Shannon v. PNC Bank, N.A., No.
3:14-CV-00421-CRS, 2015 WL 3541850, at *3 (W.D. Ky. June
2, 2015). Evidence of the amount of damages can be obtained
through pre-removal interrogatories or requests for
admissions. Id.; see also Sanders v. Print
Fulfillment Servs., LLC, No. 3:17CV-245-CRS, 2017 WL
2624550, at *3 (W.D. Ky. June 16, 2017). That said, the
defendant's failure to conduct pre-removal discovery does
not necessarily foreclose the ability to establish the
requisite amount in controversy at the time of removal. See
Shannon, 2015 WL 3541850, at *3.
workplace-discrimination and retaliation cases, defendants
routinely establish the amount in controversy by calculating
the value of the plaintiff's compensatory and punitive
damages. See Jenkins, 2018 WL 6728571, at *2; Proctor v.
Swifty Oil Co., No. 3:12-CV-00490-TBR, 2012 WL 4593409,
at *2 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 1, 2012); Blocker v. PPG Indus.,
Inc., No. 3:17-CV-29-DJH, 2017 WL 3431136, at *3 (W.D.
Ky. Aug. 9, 2017). Courts have noted that “[b]ack pay
accrued through the projected trial date is properly included
in the amount-in-controversy calculation where . . . the
plaintiff seeks past and future wages.” Blocker, 2017
WL 3431136, at *3 (internal ...