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Alvarado v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 9, 2014

RUDOLPH EDMUND ALVARADO, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., a Delaware corporation, d/b/a RIFLE WAL-MART SUPERCENTER, Defendant.

ORDER SUA SPONTE REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court sua sponte. For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that Defendant Wal-Mart Stores has not established this Court's subject matter jurisdiction over this case. As such, the Court remands this case to the state court, for further proceedings.

This is a slip-and-fall tort and premises-liability case. On August 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint in state court bringing claims related to an incident that allegedly occurred on August 6, 2012. Defendant filed a Notice of Removal on September 5, 2014, alleging diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. # 1.)

Section 1332(a) sets forth two requirements for diversity jurisdiction: (1) an "amount in controversy [that] exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs" and (2) diversity of citizenship between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proving that such jurisdiction exists. Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002). A removing defendant must prove jurisdictional facts by a "preponderance of the evidence, " including that the amount in controversy may exceed $75, 000. McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d 947, 953 (10th Cir. 2008). Such proof may arise in a variety of ways, see id. at 954, but conclusory assertions or outright speculation do not suffice, Tafoya v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co., 2009 WL 211661, at *2 (D. Colo. Jan. 28, 2009) (unpublished).

In the instant case, while Defendant asserts that it "has been advised by counsel for Plaintiff that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, " (Doc. # 1, ¶ 4), Plaintiff, in his Complaint, did not specify a monetary estimate of the damages he allegedly suffered, ( see Doc. # 3). Instead, Plaintiff merely asks "for judgment against Defendant in an amount to be determined at trial, pre and post-judgment interest, costs, and expert witness fees, and for such other and further relief as the Court may deem proper. (Doc. # 3 at 5.)

The sole additional instance of Plaintiff's estimate of damages is found on the state court Civil Cover Sheet accompanying Plaintiff's Complaint, which includes a check-marked box indicating that Plaintiff is seeking a monetary judgment for more than $100, 000.00 against Defendant. (Doc. # 1-5 at 3.) This Court has previously addressed the evidentiary value, or lack thereof, of the state court Civil Cover Sheet in, for example, Garner v. Vaki, No. 11-cv-01283, 2011 WL 2463285, at *1 (D. Colo. June 21, 2011) (unpublished), and Tejada v. Allstate Fire & Casualty Insurance Co., No. 09-cv-02096, 2009 WL 2958727, at *1 (D. Colo. Sept. 10, 2009) (unpublished). In both Garner and Tejada, the Court stated that "the Colorado Civil Cover Sheet, by itself, does not establish the requisite amount in controversy to sustain diversity jurisdiction." Id. (citing Baker v. Sears Holding Corp., 557 F.Supp.2d 1208 (D. Colo. 2007)).

There is insufficient evidence that the value of this action exceeds the amount in controversy requirement of $75, 000. Any attempt by the Court to calculate the potential amount of damages "would simply be guesswork and, thus, amount to improper speculation." Garner, 2011 WL 2463285, at *1 (citing Tafoya, 2009 WL 211661, at *2.) Thus, Defendant's Notice of Removal does not establish the requisite jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of the evidence.

For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that this action is REMANDED to the District Court, Garfield County, Colorado, for further proceedings.


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