United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
Court has an independent obligation to ensure that subject
matter jurisdiction exists in an action before it. See
Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500 (2006);
Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Mkt. Place,
L.L.C., 350 F.3d 691, 693 (7th Cir. 2003). This Opinion
and Order summarizes the undersigned Magistrate Judge's
inquiry into diversity jurisdiction in this case.
Daryl Lewis and D.O.C. Trucking, LLC (together,
“Defendants”), removed this case here from the
Allen Superior Court on August 15, 2017, based on diversity
jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (DE 1). At the
preliminary pretrial conference (DE 12), the Court directed
the parties to file supplemental briefs concerning the amount
in controversy, which are now before the Court (DE 10; DE
11). Both parties assert in their supplemental briefs that
the amount in controversy in this matter exceeds $75, 000.
(DE 10; DE 11). On November 9, 2017, the Court held a hearing
regarding the parties' supplemental briefs. (DE 17).
the parties both represent that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000, and because it is not “legally
certain” that the amount in controversy is less than
$75, 000, the undersigned Magistrate Judge concludes that
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 exists in
Factual and Procedural Background
April 14, 2009, Plaintiff Barry Ballard filed a complaint
against Defendants in Allen Superior Court, alleging that he
sustained a personal injury as a result of Defendants'
negligence. (DE 5). More particularly, Ballard alleges that
“a steel bar rolled off of the Defendant's truck
and struck him on the head” and that as a result of the
incident, he “sustained physical injuries which may be
permanent” and that he “continues to suffer
physical pain.” (DE 5 ¶¶ 1, 4). In his
complaint, Ballard seeks to recover medical expenses, lost
wages, and “loss of a whole and useful life.” (DE
5 ¶ 5).
August 15, 2017, Defendants removed the case to federal
court, asserting that the Court has diversity jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (DE 1). In their Notice of
Removal, Defendants state that Ballard refused to admit in
response to a request for admission that his total damages in
this case are less than $75, 000; instead, Ballard
affirmatively responded that his total damages exceed $75,
000. (DE 1-1 at 1; see DE 15-1). A preliminary
pretrial conference was held on September 27, 2017, at which
the Court called for briefing on whether the amount in
controversy actually exceeds $75, 000. (DE 12).
supplemental brief filed on October 11, 2017, Ballard asserts
that his “damages arising from this case, which include
special damages, pain and suffering, and disfigurement,
exceed $75, 000.00.” (DE 10 at 1). More particularly,
Plaintiff was injured on August 12, 2015, when a steel bar
rolled off a semi-trailer and struck him in the head. The
Plaintiff was subsequently treated at Lutheran Hospital's
emergency room due to head and neck pain and underwent
x-rays, CT scans, and an MRI through Lutheran Hospital. The
Plaintiff has incurred special damages of roughly $10, 500.00
at this time for treatment of his injuries and has suffered
and continues to suffer ongoing pain. Additionally, the
Plaintiff has developed a nodular bump on the top of his head
where the steel bar struck him, which may be permanent.
(DE 10 at 1). In Defendants' supplemental brief also
filed on October 11, 2017, Defendants state that: (1) Ballard
alleges that his injury resulted in “lost wages,
medical expenses, permanent physical injuries and pain and
suffering”; and (2) that Ballard refused to admit that
his damages were less than $75, 000, indicating instead that
his damages exceed $75, 000. (DE 11 ¶¶ 2, 6, 7).
hearing was held on November 9, 2017, regarding the
parties' supplemental briefs.
17). Ballard and his counsel appeared in person;
Defendants' counsel appeared telephonically. (DE 17).
Applicable Legal Standard
defendant in state court may remove a case to a federal
district court only if the district court has original
jurisdiction over the action. See 28 U.S.C. §
1441; Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386,
392 (1987). If the district court does not have jurisdiction,
the case must be remanded. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). When
ruling on a motion to remand, “[c]ourts should
interpret the removal statute narrowly and presume that the
plaintiff may choose his or her forum, ” with any doubt
regarding jurisdiction resolved in favor of remand.
Battle v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., No. 05 C
3022, 2005 WL 2284250, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 15, 2005)
(quoting Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908,
911 (7th Cir. 1993)). The burden of establishing ...