Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Villamar v. Skywest Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 20, 2018

Mireya Villamar, Plaintiff,
Skywest Airlines Incorporated, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Rosemary Marquez United States District Judge

         Pending 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).

         I. Motion to Remand A. Standard of Review

          A 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).

         Where 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).

         There 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).

         B. Discussion [1]

         Plaintiff 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, 783.13.”

         The 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.)[2] 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)).

         Plaintiff's 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.”).

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

          A 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.

         Dismissal 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 ‚Äúsimply recite the elements of a cause of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.