United States District Court, D. Colorado
KARA M. LACEY, Plaintiff,
STARBUCKS CORPORATION, d/b/a Starbucks Coffee Company, Ltd., and VRE ALAMOSA, LLC, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Kara M. Lacey's
Motion to Remand to State Court and for an Award of
Attorney's Fees and Costs (the “Motion to
Remand”). (Doc. # 13.) Plaintiff argues that this
litigation should be remanded to state court because
Defendants Starbucks Corporation, d/b/a Starbucks
Coffee Company, Ltd. (“Starbucks”), and VRE
Alamosa, LLC (“VRE”) (together,
“Defendants”) fail to establish the amount in
controversy required for the Court to have diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. For the following
reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion to Remand.
matter arises out of injuries Plaintiff sustained at a
Starbucks coffee shop in Alamosa, Colorado, on August 10,
2018. (Doc. # 3 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that she was
carrying the hot beverage she had just purchased out of the
store but the store's door malfunctioned and stopped
abruptly, causing the hot beverage to spill on her chin,
neck, and chest. (Id. at 2-3.)
sent Defendants a demand letter, requesting payment in the
amount of $100, 000 for injuries, on November 14, 2018. (Doc.
# 13 at 2.) Plaintiff and Defendants engaged in settlement
negotiations in the following three months. During those
negotiations, Plaintiff offered to settle for four different
amounts: $100, 000; $95, 000; $93, 500; and $65, 000. (Doc. #
16 at 2.) Defendants rejected each of these offers and made a
final and best offer of $12, 000 on January 17, 2019.
(Id.) On January 28, 2019, Plaintiff rejected
Defendants' final offer and demanded $65, 000. (Doc. # 13
at 2.) Defendants replied the following day that it
“remain[ed] [their] position the current [$65, 000]
demand is excessive and we are unable to resolve this matter
short of litigation given how far apart [they] are.”
(Doc. # 13-3.)
initiated this action against Defendants in the Colorado
District Court for Alamosa County on February 11, 2019. (Doc.
# 3.) She asserts four claims for relief: (1) premises
liability against Defendant Starbucks; (2) premises liability
against Defendant VRE; (3) negligence against Defendant
Starbucks; and (4) negligence against Defendant VRE.
(Id. at 3-8.)
removed this action to this Court on March 8, 2011. (Doc. #
1.) Defendants asserted in their Notice of Removal that the
Court “has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332. The parties are completely diverse, the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, and venue is proper
in this Court.” (Id. at 3.) Elsewhere in the
Notice of Removal, Defendants stated that “Plaintiff
has asserted that she is entitled to at least $100, 000 for
her alleged injuries.” (Id.)
States Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya ordered Defendants
to show cause by March 21, 2019, “as to why the Court
should not remand this case to the Alamosa County District
Court for lack of diversity jurisdiction over this
matter.” (Doc. # 8.) Magistrate Judge Tafoya expressed
concern that “Plaintiff's Complaint lacks factual
allegations that plausibly allege that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.” (Id.)
Defendants responded to the Order to Show Cause on March 20,
2019, arguing that based on Plaintiff's November 14, 2018
demand letter, “the amount in controversy is at least
$100, 000.” (Doc. # 9 at 2.)
filed the Motion to Remand presently before the Court on the
same day that Defendants responded to the show cause order.
(Doc. # 13.) She argues that “Defendants have failed to
provide a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy
exceeds the jurisdictional threshold at the time of
removal-and has actually misrepresented the same-by
cherry-picking a long abandoned settlement position to offer
spurious ‘evidence' that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asks
the Court to remand the action “back to the District
Court of Alamosa County and award to Plaintiff her reasonable
attorney fees and costs incurred in bringing [the Motion to
Remand].” (Id.) Defendants filed their
Response on March 21, 2019 (Doc. # 16), to which Plaintiff
replied on April 4, 2019 (Doc. # 20).
APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES
defendant may remove a state civil action to federal court if
the federal district court has subject matter jurisdiction.
28 U.S.C. § 1441. A federal court has subject matter
jurisdiction over cases in which there is complete diversity
of citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The burden of proving that
removal is proper falls on the party asserting diversity
jurisdiction. Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955
(10th Cir. 2002). Removal statutes are construed strictly and
any doubts about the correctness of removal are resolved in
favor of remand. Fajen v. Found. Reserve Ins. Co.,
Inc., 683 F.2d 331, 333 (10th Cir.1982) (citing
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S.
100, 108-09 (1941)).
successfully remove a case to federal court, “[a]
defendant must affirmatively establish jurisdiction by
proving jurisdictional facts that made it possible that $75,
000 was in play.” McPhail v. Deere & Co.,
529 F.3d 947, 955 (10th Cir. 2008). Further, the
preponderance of the evidence standard applies to
jurisdictional facts, not jurisdiction itself. Id. A
defendant may rely on any estimates of alleged damages from a
plaintiff's complaint to prove jurisdictional facts.
Id. When the allegations in the complaint are not
dispositive, the allegations in the notice of removal are
considered. Laughlin v. Kmart Corp., 50 F.3d 871,
873 (10th Cir. 1995). “Other paper” can also be
the basis of determining the amount in controversy, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(b)(3), including any documents that demonstrate
the plaintiff's estimation of the value of its claim,
McPhail, 539 F.3d at 956. The Tenth Circuit and most
other courts “have consistently interpreted the term
other paper broadly to include state-court
filings and discovery.” Paros Prop. LLC v. Colo.
Cas. Ins. Co., 835 F.3d 1264, 1268 (10th Cir. 2016)
(emphasis added). Relevant here, the Tenth Circuit has also
explicitly held that “it is permissible for a district
court to consider settlement offers when
deciding the jurisdictional question.”
McPhail, 539 F.3d at 956 (emphasis added).
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter
because there is complete diversity of citizenship and the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28
U.S.C. § 1332. The parties do not dispute diversity of
citizenship; rather, they contest whether Defendants have
“affirmatively establish[ed] jurisdiction by proving