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Phillips v. Lincare, Inc.

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

December 19, 2013

HOWARD PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
LINCARE INC., MARK A. MILLER, Defendants.

ORDER

LEWIS T. BABCOCK, District Judge.

This matter is before me on a Motion to Remand for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction filed by Plaintiff, Howard Phillips, requesting that this case be remanded back to the state court for lack of federal jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1447(c). [Doc #20] Defendants Lincare Inc. and Mark A. Miller oppose this request. Oral argument would not materially assist me in the determination of this motion. After consideration of the parties' arguments, and for the reason stated, I GRANT the motion and, as a result, I REMAND the case to the state court.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initially filed his complaint - in which he raised claims of negligence resulting in personal injury related to an automobile collision - in Clear Creek County District Court, Fifth Judicial District in the State of Colorado, on June 3, 2013, as Case No. 2013CV30010. [Doc #1-6] The matter was subsequently removed to this court via a Notice of Removal based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, filed by Defendant Lincare on July 3, 2013. [Doc #1] In the motion at issue, Plaintiff asserts that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and, as such, asks that this matter be remanded back to the state court because diversity jurisdiction is not present in that the amount-in-controversy is well below the $75, 000 jurisdictional limit.

II. LAW

As relevant here, federal subject matter jurisdiction - pursuant to diversity of citizenship as set forth in 28 U.S.C. §1332(a) - provides that federal district courts have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs, and where there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties. Plaintiff does not contest diversity of citizenship; rather, at issue is whether this lawsuit meets the $75, 000 amount-in-controversy jurisdictional threshold under section 1332(a).

28 U.S.C. §1447(c) provides that any time before final judgment, a case shall be remanded if it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. This is because if, at any time, "a federal court determines that it is without subject matter jurisdiction, the court is powerless to continue." Cunningham v. BHP Petroleum Great Britain PLC, 427 F.3d 1238, 1245 (10th Cir. 2005). Where a case has been removed from state court and a court determines at any time prior to final judgment that jurisdiction is lacking, 28 U.S.C. §1447(c) mandates that the case be remanded back to state court. Nichols v. Golden Rule Ins. Co., 2010WL1769742 (unpublished)(D.Colo. 2010)( citing McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d 947, 951 (10th Cir. 2008)).

Section §1446(c)(2) was recently amended by the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011, § 103(a), Pub. L. No. 112-63 (H.R. 394), 125 Stat. 758 (2011) (the "JVCA"), which became effective on January 6, 2012, and now provides that:

If removal of a civil action is sought on the basis of the jurisdiction conferred by section 1332(a), the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed to be the amount in controversy, except that -
(A) the notice of removal may assert the amount in controversy if the initial pleading seeks-
(I) nonmonetary relief; or
(ii) a money judgment, but the State practice either does not permit demand for a specific sum or permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount demanded; and
(B) removal of the action is proper on the basis of an amount in controversy asserted under subparagraph (A) if the district court finds, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds the amount specified in section 1332(a).

28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2). Under this section, if a lesser or indeterminate amount-in-controversy is alleged in the state court complaint, the removing defendant is not bound by that amount and may seek to demonstrate that a higher amount actually is in controversy in the notice of removal. See 14AA C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3702.1 (4th ed. 2011). The amount-in-controversy is not "the amount the plaintiff will recover, but rather an estimate of the amount that will be put at issue in the course of the ...


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