United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Rosemary Marquez United States District Judge
before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
9), Plaintiff's Motion to Remand for Lack of Subject
Matter Jurisdiction (Doc. 10), and Plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 16).
Motion to Remand A. Standard of Review
federal district court has “original jurisdiction of
all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the
sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs,
and is between . . . citizens of different States[.]”
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). A defendant may remove
“any civil action brought in a State court of which the
district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
complaint does not specify the amount of damages sought, the
defendant bears “the burden of proving, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000” in order to support removal based on
diversity jurisdiction. Cohn v. Petsmart, Inc., 281
F.3d 837, 839 (9th Cir. 2002) (per curiam); see also
28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2); Guglielmino v. McKee Foods
Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007). A defendant
must offer more than “conclusory allegations” in
order to meet this burden of proof. Singer v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997).
The amount in controversy for purposes of diversity
jurisdiction “is determined from the pleadings as they
exist at the time a petition for removal is filed.”
Eagle v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 769 F.2d 541, 545
(9th Cir. 1985).
is a “strong presumption” against removal, and
“[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is
any doubt as to the right of removal in the first
instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564,
566 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). “If at any time
before final judgment it appears that the district court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be
remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
argues the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because
the amount in controversy is not satisfied. She alleges she
did not allege damages with precision in the Complaint, but
rather generally pled the maximum amount of damages awardable
(113, 100 Special Drawing Rights) under the Convention for
the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage
by Air, May 28, 1999, S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45
(“Montreal Convention”). She now contends that
her damages are less than $75, 000 and asserts that
Defendants cannot prove otherwise. Defendants disagree that
Plaintiff's prayer for maximum damages is irrelevant to
the analysis. They point out that Plaintiff also prayed for a
minimum of $10, 000 in attorneys' fees, and they urge the
Court to consider Plaintiff's initial settlement demand
for “113, 100 Special Drawing Rights
(“SDRs”) which is equivalent to $160,
amount-in-controversy requirement was satisfied at the time
of removal, and thus Plaintiff's Motion to Remand will be
denied. It is apparent from the face of the Complaint that
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Ibarra v.
Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015)
(“In determining the amount in controversy, courts
first look to the complaint.”). Plaintiff prayed for a
minimum of $10, 000 in fees and for “[a]n award of
damages in the amount of 113, 100 SDRs, ” which was
equivalent to $164, 840.99 on the date of removal, April 17,
2018. (Doc. 1-3 at 5.) These strict-liability damages were
apparently sought in good faith; thus, Plaintiff's prayer
is sufficient to find the jurisdictional threshold satisfied.
Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197 (“Generally,
‘the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim
is apparently made in good faith.'” (quoting
St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S.
283, 289 (1938))). Further evidencing this conclusion is
Plaintiff's settlement letter, which states: “Your
insured is strictly liable to pay Ms. Villamar damages in the
maximum noncontestable amount of 113, 100 SDRs.” (Doc.
19 at 13); Cohn, 281 F.3d at 840 (“A
settlement letter is relevant evidence of the amount in
controversy if it appears to reflect a reasonable estimate of
the plaintiff's claim.” (citations omitted)).
insistence that her damages are less than $75, 000 does not
defeat jurisdiction. The amount in controversy was satisfied
at the time of removal, and “[e]vents occurring after
the filing of the complaint that reduce the amount
recoverable below the requisite amount do not oust the court
from jurisdiction.” Budget Rent-A-Car, Inc. v.
Higashiguchi, 109 F.3d 1471, 1473 (9th Cir. 1997)
(citation omitted); see Roe v. Michelin N. Am.,
Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1064 (11th Cir. 2010) (“Thus,
when a district court can determine, relying on its judicial
experience and common sense, that a claim satisfies the
amount-in-controversy requirements, it need not give credence
to a plaintiff's representation that the value of the
claim is indeterminate.”).
Motion to Dismiss
Standard of Review
complaint must include a “short and plain statement . .
. showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8 does not require in-depth
factual allegations, it does require more than
“labels[, ] conclusions, [or] a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). There must be
sufficient “factual content [to] allow the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
under Rule 12(b)(6) may be “based on the lack of a
cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts
alleged under a cognizable legal theory.”
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d
696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). When reviewing a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court takes “all factual
allegations set forth in the complaint . . . as true and
construed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs.”
Lee v. City of L.A., 250 F.3d 668, 679 (9th Cir.
2001). However, only well-pleaded facts are given a
presumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Conclusory allegations-that is, allegations that
“simply recite the elements of a cause of ...