United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
June 8, 2005.
WILLIE SPRATT, Plaintiff,
HOULIHAN'S RESTAURANTS, INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STIEHL, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's motion to
remand. The defendant removed this action from the Circuit Court
for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, St. Clair County, Illinois
pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1332, alleging that there is complete
diversity of citizenship and that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75,000. The plaintiff seeks remand on the grounds that
the amount in controversy does not exceed $75,000.
Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he was employed by
Houlihan's restaurant in Fairview Heights, Illinois, and was
injured when he slipped and fell at work. He alleges that he
filed for worker's compensation benefits, and thereafter was
fired. Count I seeks recovery for retaliatory discharge and seeks
compensatory damages. Count II seeks recovery for retaliatory
discharge and seeks punitive damages. In the prayer for relief,
plaintiff alleges that he seeks in excess of $50,000 in Count I
and unspecified punitive damages in Count II, for, inter alia
emotional distress and lost insurance coverage and other
When a defendant removes a case from state to federal court,
the defendant must demonstrate to a "reasonable probability" that
subject-matter jurisdiction exists. Chase v. Shop `N Save
Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir. 1997);
Shaw v. Dow Brands, Inc., 994 F.2d 364, 366 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92,
97(1921)). To determine whether the amount in controversy has
been established, the Court may look to all of plaintiff's claims
because the $75,000 jurisdictional amount can be met by aggregating both claims see Snyder v. Harris, 394 U.S. 332, 335
(1969), and must look to state law to determine whether this
statutory threshold has been met. Horton v. Liberty Mut. Ins.
Co., 367 U.S. 348, 352-53 (1961).
Under Illinois law, a valid retaliatory discharge claim
requires a showing that: (1) an employee has been discharged; (2)
in retaliation for the employee's activities; and (3) this
discharge violated a clear mandate of public policy. See
Hartlein v. Illinois Power Co., 601 N.E.2d 720, 728 (1992). To
succeed on a retaliatory discharge claim based on filing workers'
compensation plaintiff must show that he: (1) was the defendant's
employee before his injury; (2) exercised a right granted by the
Workers' Compensation Act; and (3) was discharged from his
employment as a result of filing that workers' compensation
claim. See Kritzen v. Flender Corp., 589 N.E.2d 909, 915
(Ill.App. Ct. 1992). "The element of causation is not met if the
employer has a valid basis, which is not pretextual, for
discharging the employee." Hartlein, 601 N.E.2d at 728.
With respect to whether plaintiff's request for punitive
damages raises the amount to the jurisdictional minimum, first
the court must determine if punitive damages are recoverable in
Illinois law for retaliation claims. Once it is determined that
they are available, then subject matter jurisdiction exists
unless it is clear that the plaintiff under no circumstances
would be entitled to recover an amount sufficient to satisfy the
jurisdictional amount. Del Vecchio v. Conseco, Inc.,
230 F.3d 974, 978 (7th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added). Illinois law
provides for the recovery of punitive damages in a retaliation
claim. See Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. 74 Ill.2d 172,
23 Ill.Dec. 559, 384 N.E.2d 353, 360-61 (Ill. 1978) (holding that an employer
who discharges an employee at will in retaliation for filing a
worker's compensation claim has committed a tort under Illinois
law and plaintiff can seek both compensatory and punitive
Therefore, the Court finds that the removal in this action was
proper and that defendant has satisfied the amount in controversy
required for this Court to exercise its diversity jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion to
remand is DENIED. IT IS SO ORDERED.
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