United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division
MORGAN SOLIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF B.S., A MINOR, Plaintiff,
MATTHEW THOMAS RICKMAN, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GILSTRAP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Morgan Solis's Motion to Remand
(the “Motion”). (Dkt. No. 6.) Having considered
the Motion and for the reasons set forth herein, the Court is
of the opinion that the Motion should be and hereby is
Solis, individually and as next friend of B.S., a minor,
brought suit against Defendant Matthew Rickman in Harrison
County District Court alleging negligence causing personal
injury to both Ms. Solis and B.S. stemming from an auto
accident. (Dkt. No. 3.) In her state court petition, Ms.
Solis alleged that she sought, on behalf of both herself and
B.S., “only monetary relief of $100, 000.00 or less,
including damages of any kind, penalties, costs, expenses,
pre-judgment interest, and attorney fees.”
(Id. ¶ 6.) The petition also alleges that Ms.
Solis is a resident of Texas, while Mr. Rickman is a resident
of Wisconsin. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) Mr. Rickman
removed the state court action to this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.)
Ms. Solis subsequently filed the instant Motion to Remand,
arguing that Mr. Rickman had failed to prove an
amount-in-controversy in excess of the jurisdictional amount.
(Dkt. No. 6 at 2.)
U.S.C. § 1441(a) allows for the removal of “any
civil action brought in a [s]tate court of which the district
courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction.” When questions of federal jurisdiction
arise, a federal court must presume that a suit falls outside
its jurisdiction because the jurisdiction of federal courts
is limited. See Howery v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243
F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, in an action that
has been removed from state court, the removing party bears
the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. De
Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir.
1995). Any doubts regarding whether removal jurisdiction is
proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction.
Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339
(5th Cir. 2000).
diversity cases, the citizenship of each plaintiff must be
diverse from the citizenship of each defendant, and the
amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000, exclusive of
interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). As diversity
of citizenship is not disputed, the Court focuses on the
amount in controversy. The amount in controversy is
determined at the time of removal. Gebbia v. Walmart
Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883 (5th Cir. 2000). In
determining whether the amount in controversy requirement is
satisfied, the Court looks first to whether the plaintiff
alleges a specific amount of damages in the petition.
White v. FCI USA, Inc., 319 F.3d 672, 675 (5th Cir.
2003). Where the plaintiff's state court petition demands
monetary relief of a stated sum, that sum, if asserted in
good faith, is deemed to be the amount in controversy.
Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., v. Owens, 135
S.Ct. 547, 551 (2014). Where, on the other hand, the
plaintiff does not allege a particular sum in damages, the
removing party must make “a plausible allegation that
the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
threshold.” Id. at 553-54. If the plaintiff
contests the allegation, then the removing party must prove
by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount of the
claim will exceed the amount in controversy jurisdictional
minimum. Id. at 554. The removing party's burden
“is met if (1) it is apparent from the face of the
petition that the claims are likely to exceed $75, 000, or
alternatively, (2) the defendant sets forth summary judgment
type evidence of the facts in controversy that support a
finding of the requisite amount.” Manguno v.
Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723
(5th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted).
initial matter, the Court notes that Ms. Solis's
allegation of “monetary relief of $100, 000.00 or less,
” which was pled to satisfy the requirements of Texas
Rule of Civil Procedure 47, does not “allege a specific
amount of damages.” White, 319 F.3d at 675;
Tex.R.Civ.P. 47(c)(1). “Texas Rule of Civil Procedure
47 requires plaintiffs to select one of five prescribed
claims for relief, and does not represent a request for a
specific dollar amount of damages.” Wilson v.
Allstate Ins. Co., No. 4:16-cv-970-ALM-CAN, 2017 WL
1097213, at *3 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 3, 2017).
light of this, and because Ms. Solis disputes Mr.
Rickman's allegation that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000 for either herself or B.S., Mr. Rickman must
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the claims will
exceed the jurisdictional minimum by either (1) establish
that it is apparent from the face of the petition that the
same is likely or (2) establish the same by summary judgment
type evidence. Mr. Rickman does not attempt to establish the
latter. The Court finds that he has also failed to establish
Rickman cites several Fifth Circuit cases in support of his
argument that the types of injuries alleged by Ms. Solis make
it likely that the amount in controversy will exceed the
jurisdictional amount. White, 319 F.3d at 676;
Gebbia v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 233 F.3d 880, 883
(5th Cir. 2000); Luckett v. Delta Airlines, Inc.,
171 F.3d 295, 298 (5th Cir. 1999). However, the Court finds
these cases distinguishable; in each case, the state court
plaintiff failed to allege any amount of monetary
relief. White, 319 F.3d at 675 (“White never
specified the total amount of monetary relief she was
seeking”); Gebbia, 223 F.3d at 882 (noting
that “plaintiffs in Louisiana state courts, by law, may
not specify the numerical value of claimed damages”);
Luckett, 171 F.3d at 298 (same).
contrast, Ms. Solis has alleged that the combined claims of
herself and B.S. do not exceed $100, 000. Given this
limitation, it is unlikely, as a purely mathematical
consideration, that any one individual's claim would
exceed $75, 000. While Mr. Rickman points to the types of
injuries claimed by Ms. Solis and B.S., Mr. Rickman has
offered no evidence or argument that any one individual's
injuries and other damages so vastly exceed the other's
that they will account for more than 75% of the total amount
of damages claimed. Accordingly, the Court cannot conclude by
a preponderance of the evidence that “it is apparent
from the face of the petition that the claims [of any
individual] are likely to exceed $75, 000.”
Manguno, 276 F.3d at 723.
Rickman's argument that the Court can exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over one individual's claims
that relate to another individual's claims fails for
similar reason. “[W]here the other elements of
jurisdiction are present and at least one named plaintiff in
the action satisfies the amount-in-controversy requirement,
[28 U.S.C.] § 1367 does authorize supplemental
jurisdiction over the claims of other plaintiffs in the same
Article III case or controversy.” Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 549 (2005).
However, as already discussed, Mr. Rickman has not shown a
likelihood that either Ms. Solis or B.S.'s claims
“satisfies the amount-in-controversy
requirement.” Id. Therefore, the Court cannot
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the other's
Mr. Rickman's argument that Ms. Solis and B.S.'s
claims can be aggregated to meet the jurisdictional limit
fails as a matter of law. “Two or more plaintiffs
injured in the same automobile accident have separate and
distinct causes of action; even though they join their causes
of action in a single suit, they cannot aggregate their
claims to achieve the requisite jurisdictional amount.”
Eagle Star Inc. Co. v. Maltes,313 F.2d 778, 780 n.
3 (5th Cir. 1963). “When a [parent] sues on his [or
her] own behalf and in behalf of his [or her] minor child
each claim, the claim of the [parent] ...