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Enriquez v. Almaraz

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

May 31, 2019

JOSE ENRIQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANCISCO R. ALMARAZ, ROSALINDA GARZA, and FRED LOYA INSURANCE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA ST VÁZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and Memorandum in Support of Motion to Remand. [Doc. 5]. The Court, having considered the motion, briefs, and relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed, finds that the Motion is well-taken and will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On or about April 8, 2018, Plaintiff Jose Enriquez was involved in an automobile accident. On November 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action in state court for breach of contract, insurance bad faith, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations of the New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act (“UPA”). On October 24, 2018, Plaintiff offered to settle his claim for $25, 000, and Defendants made a counteroffer of $10, 000. See [Doc. 5, Aff. of Sara Coleman].

         On January 8, 2019, Defendants Francisco R. Almaraz, Rosalinda Garza, and Fred Loya Insurance removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. [Doc. 1]. On January 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand, arguing that diversity jurisdiction does not exist because the matter in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. [Doc. 5].

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and there is a presumption against removal jurisdiction, which the defendant seeking removal must overcome. See Fajen v. Found. Res. Ins. Co., 683 F.2d 331, 333 (10th Cir. 1982); see also Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 251 F.3d 1283, 1290 (10th Cir. 2001). Removal statutes are to be strictly construed, and all doubts are to be resolved against removal. Id.

         Defendants removed this case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. To invoke diversity jurisdiction, “a party must show that complete diversity of citizenship exists between the adverse parties and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Dutcher v. Matheson, 733 F.3d 980, 987 (10th Cir. 2013). When analyzing a removal based on diversity jurisdiction, the amount in controversy “is ordinarily determined by the allegations in the complaint, or, where they are not dispositive, by the allegations in the notice of removal.” Laughlin v. Kmart Corp., 50 F.3d 871, 873 (10th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted); see also Siloam Springs Hotel, L.L.C. v. Century Sur. Co., 781 F.3d 1233, 1239 (10th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he relevant time period for determining the existence of complete diversity is the time of the filing of the complaint.”). A matter may be remanded to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction (such as diversity jurisdiction). 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Where a state court complaint does not identify a specific amount that the plaintiff seeks to recover, the burden is on the defendant seeking removal to prove jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the evidence such that the amount in controversy may exceed $75, 000. McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d 947 (10th Cir. 2008). “The burden of establishing subject-matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).

         “[T]he defendant must affirmatively establish jurisdiction by proving jurisdictional facts that [make] it possible that $75, 000 [is] in play.” Id. at 955 (emphasis in original). The Tenth Circuit has held that “[b]oth the requisite amount in controversy and the existence of diversity must be affirmatively established on the face of either the petition or the removal notice.” Laughlin, 50 F.3d at 873. “Moreover, there is a presumption against removal jurisdiction.” Id. (citation omitted). There are a number of ways in which a defendant seeking removal can establish jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the evidence:

by contentions, interrogatories or admissions in state court; by calculation from the complaint's allegations[;] by reference to the plaintiff's informal estimates or settlement demands[;] or by introducing evidence, in the form of affidavits from the defendant's employees or experts, about how much it would cost to satisfy the plaintiff's demands.

McPhail, 529 F.3d at 954 (quoting Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 541-42 (7th Cir. 2006)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Court does not have Diversity Jurisdiction because the Matter in Controversy does not Exceed $75, 000.

         Defendants argue that this Court has federal diversity jurisdiction because the parties are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. The Court will analyze whether the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, and if the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000, the Court will remand to state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447 (“If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”); seealso Tuck v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 859 F.2d 842, 844 (10th Cir. 1988) (“A court lacking jurisdiction . . . must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which ...


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