United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
GREGORY W. SMITH, Plaintiff,
APPLE, INC., Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
J. Dinsmore United States Magistrate Judge.
Court issued an Order to Show Cause why this matter should
not be remanded to the court from which it was removed as the
result of this Court's lack of subject matter
jurisdiction over the case. [Dkt. 41.] Plaintiff
responded, stating that he “does not allege and never
has alleged that the amount in controversy, including
out-of-pocket expenses, and all other damages, exceeds $75,
000.” [Dkt. 42 at 2.] For the reasons set
forth below, the Magistrate Judge recommends the Court remand
this case to the court from which it was removed.
November 7, 2017, Plaintiff Gregory Smith filed his Complaint
against Defendant Apple Inc. in the Circuit Court of Hancock
County, Indiana under Cause No. 30C01-1711-CT-001904. The
Complaint alleges the following: on November 9, 2015,
Plaintiff was carrying his iPhone in the front pocket of his
pants, when suddenly and without warning, the device
exploded. [Dkt. 1-1 at 6.] Consequently, Plaintiff
was seriously injured, including burns on his thigh.
[Id. at 7.] Plaintiff seeks damages for alleged
severe and permanent injuries, medical and prescription
expenses, physical and emotional pain, burns and scarring,
and lost wages. [Dkt. 1-1.]
December 20, 2017, Defendant removed the case to federal
court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, alleging that this
Court has diversity jurisdiction over the matter. [Dkt.
1.] The Notice states that Defendant is a California
corporation with its principal place of business in
California; Plaintiff is a citizen of Indiana; and based on
the Complaint's allegations, the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. [Dkt.
1 at 2.]
to Local Rule 81-1(b), Plaintiff was required to file a
response to the Notice of Removal on or before January 19,
2018. S.D. Ind. L.R. 81-1(b). No such response was filed.
Additionally, it came to the Court's attention that
Plaintiff's total medical expenses relatable to this
matter amount to $1, 674.90. [Dkt. 41 at 2.]
Plaintiff claims a total of $2, 560.00 in lost wages, as well
as the $649 cost of the iPhone at issue. [Id.]
Consequently, the Court had serious reason to question its
subject matter jurisdiction over this matter and ordered the
parties to show cause why the issue should not be remanded.
responded to the Order to Show Cause on October 1, 2018,
requesting that the Court find it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, and that the matter be remanded to the Hancock
County Circuit Court. [Dkt. 42 at 2.] On October 2,
2018, Defendant responded as well, stating that it removed
this case to federal court based upon the parties'
diversity of citizenship and a good-faith belief that
Plaintiff's claims would exceed $75, 000. [Dkt. 43 at
1.] Furthermore, Defendant noted that Plaintiff has not
yet outlined the amount of his claimed pain and suffering and
permanent scarring damages, which, it argues, would likely
cause the amount in controversy to exceed the statutory
minimum. [Id. at 1-2.]
Standard of Law
courts have original jurisdiction over “all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, ”
between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). “If at any time . . . it appears that the
district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case
shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Regardless of the “waste of effort” that results
from a case partially or fully litigated in the wrong court,
“both the Supreme Court and [the Seventh Circuit Court
of Appeals] have noted time and again that subject matter
jurisdiction is a fundamental limitation on the power of a
federal court to act.” Del Vecchio v. Conseco,
Inc., 230 F.3d 974, 980 (7th Cir. 2000). “[T]he
propriety of removal is to be strictly construed against
removal, with all doubts resolved in favor of remand.”
People of the State of Ill. V. Kerr McGee Chem.
Corp., 677 F.2d 571, 576 (7th Cir. 1982).
party seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction must establish
both complete diversity of citizenship and that the
“matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,
000, exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). The Court is satisfied that there is complete
diversity among the parties; at issue here is only whether
this case meets the amount in controversy requirement.
amount in controversy is the amount required to satisfy the
plaintiff's demands in full on the day the suit begins,
or in the event of removal, on the day the suit was
removed.” Oshana v. Coca-Cola, Co., 472 F.3d
506, 510 (7th Cir. 2006). While the “notice of removal
need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in
controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, ” the
proponent of jurisdiction has the burden of showing by a
preponderance of the evidence facts that suggest the
speculated assertions when the plaintiff contests, or the
court questions, the defendant's allegation. Dart
Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct.
547, 554 (2014) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1446(a),
1446(c)(2)(B)). That is easier said than done, however, when
the plaintiff does not want to be in federal court and
provides little information about the value of its claims.
Oshana, 472 F.3d at 510. Or, similarly, in states
that prohibit personal injury plaintiffs from listing a
dollar figure in their claims for relief. See Ind.
T.R. 8(A)(2). In such a case, “a [defendant's]
good-faith estimate of the stakes is acceptable if it is
plausible and supported by a preponderance of the
evidence.” Oshana, 472 F.3d at 510.
amount in controversy is determined based on an evaluation of
the controversy described in the plaintiff's complaint
and the record as a whole, and it is determined as of the
date of removal. Chase v. Shop ‘N Save Warehouse
Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 428 (7th Cir. 1997). In
making this determination, however, the Court is not limited
to the evidence in the record at the time of removal, but may
use whatever evidence “sheds light on the situation
which existed when the case was removed.” Harmon v.
OKI Sys., 115 F.3d 477, 479-80 (7th Cir. 1997).
claiming the jurisdictional amount is satisfied, Defendant
relies on the Complaint's allegations of Plaintiff's
damages, Plaintiff's response to Defendant's First
Set of Interrogatories, Plaintiff's response to
Defendant's Requests for Production of Documents, and
Plaintiff's deposition testimony. Defendant argues that
jurisdiction is proper in this Court because its “good
faith basis for removal presently continues based on