United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff, James Stewart Hamilton, brought an action in Pike
Circuit Court alleging that a defect in the Defendants'
abdominal mesh caused him an injury. [R. 1.] The Defendants
then removed this action to federal court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1441. [R. 1.] But Hamilton argues this Court
has no jurisdiction because he is not seeking an amount that
exceeds $75, 000. [R. 10.] Because Hamilton is correct, and
motions to remand are typically considered before motions to
dismiss, his Motion to Remand is GRANTED.
defendant may remove a civil action brought in state court to
federal court only if the action is one over which the
federal court could have exercised original jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446. This Court
has original “diversity” jurisdiction over all
civil actions when “the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs, and the dispute is between” those who are
“citizens of different states.” 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). In making this assessment, the Court considers
whether federal jurisdiction existed at the time of removal.
See Everett v. Verizon Wireless, Inc., 460 F.3d 818,
822 (6th Cir. 2006). Because federal courts are courts of
limited jurisdiction, “the removal statute should be
strictly construed, ” and any doubts should be resolved
in favor of remanding the case to state court. Eastman v.
Marine Mech. Corp., 438 F.3d 544, 549 (6th Cir. 2006);
see also Cole, 728 F.Supp. at 1307 (citations
plaintiff's complaint requests an indeterminate amount in
damages, the “Court places a burden on a defendant
seeking to remove an action to federal court to show by a
preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy
requirement has been met.” Hayes v. Equitable
Energy Res. Co., 266 F.3d 560, 572 (6th Cir. 2001). A
defendant is not required to prove to a legal certainty that
a plaintiff's damages are greater than $75, 000.
Id. at 572. “A defendant's claims of the
amount in controversy must be supported by ‘competent
proof,' which can include affidavits, documents, or
interrogatories.” Ramsey v. Kearns, 2012 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 22970, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 23, 2012) (citing
McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S.
178, 189 (1936)).
Rules of Civil Procedure prevent a plaintiff seeking
unliquidated damages from specifying a dollar amount in any
pleading. See Ky. R. Civ. P. 8.01. As a result, a
plaintiff can make a post-removal clarification, in the form
of a stipulation, concerning the amount of damages he seeks.
Tankersley v. Martinrea Heavy Stampings, Inc., 33
F.Supp.3d 775, 780 (E.D. Ky. 2014). Here, Hamilton has
declared under penalty of perjury that he will not seek
damages greater than $74, 999.99. [R. 10-1.] Hamilton's
post-removal affidavit, therefore, is a clarification, not a
reduction. But the Defendant argues that Hamilton's
declaration is not sufficiently unequivocal. [R. 12 at
10-12.] The Defendant is incorrect. In Manning, the
Court found that a simple stipulation regarding damages was
enough to warrant remand, despite policy limits that would
allow for a significantly higher recovery. Manning v.
State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 2011 WL 146391, at *1
(E.D. Ky. 2011). Hamilton's post-removal stipulation that
he will not seek more than $74, 999.99, likewise, is
has also requested an award of costs and attorney fees
stemming from unsuitable removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1447. [R. 10.] Although this Court has ultimately concluded
that remand is proper, the Court does not find that the
Defendant “lacked an objectively reasonable basis for
seeking removal.” Powers v. Cottrell, Inc.,
728 F.3d 509, 515 (6th Cir. 2013). Given that some courts
have found the Hamilton's stipulation insufficient to
defeat diversity jurisdiction, the Defendant had a reasonable
basis for believing this Court had jurisdiction over the
case. Therefore, this Court DENIES the
Plaintiff's Motion for Award of Costs and Attorney Fees.
the Court being sufficiently advised, it is ...