M.D. Alabama Remands Case Based on Lack of Evidence that Amount in Controversy Exceeds $75,000
Per Jackson v. Peoples South Bank, Slip Copy, 2007 WL 1857169 (M.D.Ala . Jun 27, 2007) (NO. 2:06-CV-21-WKW):
Removal is proper pursuant to Title 28, section 1441 of the United States Code if a federal court would have had original diversity or federal question jurisdiction over the initial action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The removing defendant has the burden of establishing the existence of federal jurisdiction. Leonard v. Enterprise Rent A Car, 279 F.3d 967 (11th Cir.2002). For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a federal court has original jurisdiction over an action where there is complete diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The court will analyze whether it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
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Defendant first posits that because plaintiffs borrowed $148,000, that such number alone satisfies the amount in controversy and is facially apparent from the complaint. Defendant misconstrues the relief requested by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs admit that they have refinanced the $148,000 loan with a different lender, therefore there is no allegation that the plaintiffs were somehow cheated out of the sum. The gist of the complaint is not the plaintiffs' request for the totality of the loan, but compensation for excess monies paid for allegedly unauthorized "higher interest rates"; "additional monies [paid because of plaintiffs'] re-financ[ing] with a different lender"; costs incurred for the allegedly unauthorized overdraft; expenses incurred in this lawsuit; excess monies paid which plaintiffs "never received the full use and benefit from"; and mental distress and other damages. (Compl.¶ 8.) Nowhere in the complaint, most noticeably in the allegations of breach of contract, do plaintiffs request a refund of the totality of the loan. Morever, the only real dollar evidence of damages clearly appearing in the removal documents is the $1,600 overdraft.
Defendant also cites a litany of cases involving compensatory and punitive damages in the context of fraud and negligence as evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. The Eleventh Circuit recently ruled such evidence speculative, doubting whether "[evidence regarding the value of other tort claims] is ever of much use in establishing the value of claims in any one particular suit." Lowery, 483 F.3d at 1221. The evidence submitted by defendant is just the sort the Eleventh Circuit directed the district courts to ignore. See id. (holding that evidence of other tort verdicts from outside sources is not within the contemplation of 1446(b)).
In order to overcome their heavy burden, the defendants must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Nothing in the removal documents establishes a dollar amount for the plaintiffs' requested relief by that evidentiary standard. The court concludes that the defendants have not established by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy of this action exceeds $75,000. Therefore, the court lacks diversity jurisdiction even if a resident defendant is fraudulently joined.