DrugScan asserts, as an alternative basis for removal, that I
have diversity jurisdiction. Diversity jurisdiction requires that
all the defendants be of different state citizenship from all of
the plaintiffs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1); Northern Trust Co. v.
Bunge Corp., 899 F.2d 591, 593-94 (7th Cir. 1990) (citing
Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 3 Cranch 267, 7 U.S. 267, 2 L.Ed. 435
(1806)). This requirement is satisfied here. Hanson is a citizen
of Illinois; DrugScan, a corporation incorporated in Pennsylvania
and with its principal place of business in Philadelphia, a
foreign corporation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1) (citizenship of
In addition, the amount in controversy must be more than
$75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). This is the point of
dispute. Hanson pleaded only an amount in controversy greater
than $50,000. DrugScan says that it has a good faith belief that
the amount is at least the $75,000.01 minimum for federal
jurisdiction because "plaintiff is seeking compensation for
losing his job."
As the party seeking to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction,
DrugScan bears the burden of demonstrating that the complete
diversity and amount in controversy requirements are met. Chase
v. Shop `N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th
Cir. 1997); see Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co.,
257 U.S. 92, 97, 42 S.Ct. 35, 66 L.Ed. 144 (1921) (The burden rests on the
defendant in a removal action to prove that the amount in
controversy is sufficient.). Defendants seeking removal may meet
that burden by a preponderance of the evidence. McNutt v.
General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct.
780, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936). The Seventh Circuit takes this
standard to mean "proof to a reasonable probability" that
jurisdiction exists. Shaw v. Dow Brands, Inc., 994 F.2d 364,
366 (7th Cir. 1993). The plaintiff's choice of a state forum is
to be given deference and jurisdictional questions on removal are
strictly construed against federal jurisdiction. Hess v. The
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc., 520 F. Supp. 373, 375
(N.D.Ill. 1981) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets,
313 U.S. 100, 108-09, 61 S.Ct. 868, 85 L.Ed. 1214 (1941)). Courts
should interpret the removal statute narrowly and presume that
the plaintiff may choose his or her forum. Doe v. Allied-Signal,
Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).
Here, DrugScan has not carried its burden. I do not dispute
that it has a good faith belief, but that belief has no
evidentiary value. It is a bald assertion. "Normally one bald
assertion is as good as another — but not when one party carries
the burden of persuasion." Olander v. Bucyrus Erie,
187 F.3d 599, 608 (7th Cir. 1999). A party contesting the amount in
controversy is required to "support its assertion with `competent
proof.'" Wellness House, 70 F.3d at 49 (internal citations
omitted). Good faith belief is not competent proof. A plaintiff
is in the best position to know how much his claim is worth, and
a plaintiff's request for damages are deemed to have been made in
good faith. A plaintiff may therefore evade federal court by
simply asking for less than the jurisdictional amount, St.
Paul, 303 U.S. at 294, 58 S.Ct. 586, so long as he isn't legally
certain to recover more. In re Shell Oil, 966 F.2d 1130, 1131
(7th Cir. 1992).
The only bit of actual evidence that DrugScan adduces that
Hanson's damages must be greater than $75,000 is the claim that
because he seeks damages for having been fired sometime after
August 26, 1999, he must have at least that much at stake. I
compute damages for diversity based on the state of affairs at
the date of filing, here, November 15, 1999. What happens later
is irrelevant. Gardynski-Leschuck v. Ford Motor Co.,
142 F.3d 955, 958 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing St. Paul, 303 U.S. at 289-90,
58 S.Ct. 586). The laborer is worthy of his hire, as the Good
Book says, but truck drivers who are not running something
illegal that would
explain such an extraordinary rate of recompense are not likely
to make more than $75,000 in something under two months. DrugScan
does not argue, and there is no indication, that Hanson's
business was anything but completely lawful. DrugScan has not,
therefore, established to a legal certainty that Hanson will
recover more than $75,000.
In view of the implausibility of the claim about Hanson's pay
and the deference due a plaintiff's choice of forum, I conclude
that DrugScan has not shown that diversity jurisdiction exists.
Because federal question jurisdiction is also lacking, I have no
jurisdiction over this case. It cannot be removed, and I REMAND
it to the Illinois circuit court.