United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lindsay United States District Judge
Geico General Insurance Company (“Geico” or
“Defendant”) removed this action to federal court
on April 5, 2017, contending that complete diversity of
citizenship exists between the parties and that the amount in
controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds $75,
000. For the reasons that follow, the court sua
sponte remandsthis action to County Court at Law No. 3,
Dallas County, Texas, for lack of subject matter
Marie Washington (“Ms. Washington” or
“Plaintiff”) originally filed this action March
24, 2017, in County Court at Law No. 3, Dallas County, Texas,
against Geico. Plaintiff sued Geico for breach of contract
and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. She
contends that Defendant failed to timely and sufficiently pay
her personal injury protection benefits claim and, therefore,
caused her to suffer damages. Ms. Washington seeks actual
damages, exemplary damages, prejudgment and postjudgment
interest, court costs, attorney's fees, and any other
relief to which she is entitled.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over civil
cases “arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States, ” or over civil cases in
which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive
of interest and costs, and in which diversity of citizenship
exists between the parties. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331,
1332. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and
must have statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate a
claim. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted); Home Builders
Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d
1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). Absent jurisdiction conferred by
statute or the Constitution, they lack the power to
adjudicate claims and must dismiss an action if subject
matter jurisdiction is lacking. Id.; Stockman v.
Federal Election Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir.
1998) (citing Veldhoen v. United States Coast Guard,
35 F.3d 222, 225 (5th Cir. 1994)). A federal court must
presume that an action lies outside its limited jurisdiction,
and the burden of establishing that the court has subject
matter jurisdiction to entertain an action rests with the
party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at
377 (citations omitted). “[S]ubject-matter jurisdiction
cannot be created by waiver or consent.” Howery v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 919 (5th Cir. 2001).
courts may also exercise subject matter jurisdiction over a
civil action removed from a state court. Unless Congress
provides otherwise, a “civil action brought in a State
court of which the district courts of the United States have
original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or
defendants, to the district court of the United States for
the district and division embracing the place where such
action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
federal court has an independent duty, at any level of the
proceedings, to determine whether it properly has subject
matter jurisdiction over a case. Ruhgras AG v. Marathon
Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999)
(“[S]ubject-matter delineations must be policed by the
courts on their own initiative even at the highest
level.”); McDonal v. Abbott Labs., 408 F.3d
177, 182 n.5 (5th Cir. 2005) (A “federal court may
raise subject matter jurisdiction sua
sponte.”) (citation omitted).
considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, “a court may evaluate (1)
the complaint alone, (2) the complaint supplemented by
undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or (3) the
complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the
court's resolution of disputed facts.” Den
Norske Stats Oljeselskap As v. HeereMac Vof, 241 F.3d
420, 424 (5th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Thus, unlike a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
the district court is entitled to consider disputed facts as
well as undisputed facts in the record and make findings of
fact related to the jurisdictional issue. Clark v.
Tarrant Cnty., 798 F.2d 736, 741 (5th Cir. 1986). All
factual allegations of the complaint, however, must be
accepted as true. Den Norske Stats Oljeselskap As,
241 F.3d at 424.
court determines that complete diversity exists between the
parties, it will focus on whether the amount-in-controversy
requirement has been satisfied. For diversity purposes, the
amount in controversy normally is determined by the amount
sought on the face of the plaintiff's pleadings, so long
as the plaintiff's claim is made in good faith. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(c)(2); St. Paul Reinsurance Co. v.
Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir. 1998); De
Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir.
1995). Removal is thus proper if it is “facially
apparent” from the complaint that the claim or claims
asserted exceed the jurisdictional amount. Allen v. R
& H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th
Cir.), reh'g denied, 70 F.3d 26 (5th Cir. 1995).
In a removal case, when the complaint does not state a
specific amount of damages, the defendant must establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that “the amount in
controversy exceeds the [$75, 000] jurisdictional
amount.” St. Paul Reinsurance, 134 F.3d at
1253. “The preponderance burden forces the defendant to
do more than point to a state law that might allow
the plaintiff to recover more than what is pled. The
defendant must produce evidence that establishes that the
actual amount of the claim will exceed [the jurisdictional
amount].” De Aguilar, 47 F.3d at 1412
(footnotes omitted). The test to be used by the district
court is “whether it is more likely than not that the
amount of the claim will exceed [the jurisdictional
amount].” St. Paul Reinsurance, 134 F.3d at
1253 n.13. As the Fifth Circuit has stated, “[t]he
district court must first examine the complaint to determine
whether it is ‘facially apparent' that the claims
exceed the jurisdictional amount. If it is not thus apparent,
the court may rely on ‘summary judgment-type'
evidence to ascertain the amount in controversy.”
Id. at 1253. If a defendant fails to establish the
requisite jurisdictional amount, the court must remand the
case to state court. If a defendant establishes that the
jurisdictional amount has been met, remand is appropriate
only if a plaintiff can establish “to a legal
certainty” that his recovery will not exceed the
jurisdictional threshold. In re 1994 Exxon Chemical
Fire, 558 F.3d 378, 387-88 (5th Cir. 2009).
doubts as to the propriety of the removal should be construed
strictly in favor of remand. Manguno v. Prudential Prop.
& Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002).
“The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction
in federal court rests on the party seeking to invoke
it.” St. Paul Reinsurance, 134 F.3d at 1253
(footnote omitted). Accordingly, if a case is removed to
federal court, the defendant has the burden of establishing
subject matter jurisdiction; if a case is initially filed in
federal court, the burden rests with the plaintiff to
establish that the case “arises under” federal
law, or that diversity exists and that the amount in
controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.
respect to the amount in controversy, Geico contends that
“Plaintiff's Original Petition alleges actual
damages [and] seeks monetary relief of up to $100,
000.” Notice of Removal 3, ¶ 9. This statement is
incorrect. In her pleadings, “Plaintiff seeks monetary
relief under $100, 000.” Pl.'s Original Pet. ¶
argument that Plaintiff alleges and seeks monetary relief up
to $100, 000 does nothing to establish the amount in
controversy. When a party files an original pleading in a
Texas state court, applicable state law requires the pleading
to include one of five categories of relief sought.
Tex.R.Civ.P. 47(c)(1)-(5). By including such a statement in the
Petition, Plaintiff was merely complying with relevant Texas
law. Moreover, the category selected by Plaintiff does not
establish that the amount necessarily exceeds $75, 000, as
the categorys he selected also includes amounts of $75, 000
and below, which are less than the jurisdictional threshold.
Defendant's speculation and interpretation as to the
amount of specific monetary relief sought by Plaintiff do not
provide the basis for establishing that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. Moreover, the Petition states
that “Plaintiff was treated at the scene for minor
injuries.” Pl.'s Original Pet. ¶ 5.6. Nothing
in the pleadings indicates that Plaintiff suffered injuries
that are serious, require surgery, or require long-term