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Schultz v. Nice

March 8, 2006

COLETTE D. SCHULTZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES S. NICE, NACARATO TRUCK LEASING AND BEACON TRANSPORT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court is plaintiff's motion to remand (Doc. 8) and defendants' motion for leave to file an amended notice of removal (Doc.19). The parties have filed responses to the motions.

This case arises out of an automobile accident in November 2004 in which plaintiff was allegedly injured when the tractor-trailer that defendant Charles Nice was operating collided with her vehicle. Plaintiff filed the original complaint in the Circuit Court for the Third Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois. The defendants, Nacarato GMC Truck d/b/a Nacarato Truck Leasing, Inc. and Beacon Transport, LLC, allegedly employed Charles Nice. On July 28, 2005, defendant Nacarato filed a notice of removal, seeking to remove the case based on diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332, and defendants Nice and Beacon Transport filed a consent to the removal on the same day as the case was removed. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a motion to remand, on the grounds that the defendants had not established that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75, 000 the amount required for this Court to exercise its diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The defendants filed a joint response to the motion to remand and sought leave in that response to file an amended notice of removal to allow them to conduct discovery into the plaintiff's injuries. That request, in turn, has prompted objections by the plaintiff, and yet another request to amend the removal petition to address the issue of the citizenship of defendant Beacon Transport, LLC (See Doc. 29). The Court will address the motions collectively.

ANALYSIS

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)). 28 U.S.C. §1332 requires complete diversity of citizenship of all parties and an amount in controversy greater than $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. §1332 (2000).

A. Amount in Controversy

28 U.S.C. § 1332 provides, "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest or costs and is between citizens of different states."

The starting point in determining the amount in controversy is typically the face of the complaint, where the plaintiff indicates the claim value in the request for relief. Chase v. Shop N' Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). Therefore, 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 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).

Plaintiff's complaint very carefully alleges damages in excess of $50,000 "as a result of the tortious acts of defendants." The complaint is framed in three counts, one against each named defendant. Each count asserts, inter alia, that as a result of the automobile accident the plaintiff suffered damage, specifically her injuries are listed as: "muscles, ligaments, membranes, nerves and blood vessels of her chest, back and body were cut, torn and injured, . . . bruises and contusions to her body and limbs; injuries to the vertebra of her neck and back . . . ; her nervous system was greatly shocked . . . ; that her injuries are permanent; that she has suffered and will continue to suffer in the future, pain from her said injuries." In addition, the counts each allege that she has had considerable medical expenses; lost wages; damage to future earning capacity; and property damage.

Given the nature of these allegations and the aggregation of claims, the amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction is satisfied here, and it is fair and reasonable to find that the damages plaintiff alleges exceed the $75,000 threshold. Therefore, the very allegation of the complaint precludes remand, because the complaint shows, to a reasonable probability, that the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000 at the time of removal. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion to remand on this ground is DENIED.

B. Diversity of Citizenship

The second requirement for diversity jurisdiction is that there must be complete diversity of citizenship. One of the issues which has arisen in the multiple filings in response and reply to the motion to remand has to do with the citizenship of defendant Beacon Transport, LLC. In Belleville Catering Co. v. Champaign Mkt. Place, L.L.C., 350 F.3d 691 (7th Cir. 2003) the Seventh Circuit held that limited liability companies are citizens of every state of which any member is a citizen. See id. at 692. When a defendant alleges diversity jurisdiction in a suit involving an LLC, therefore, the defendant must state the citizenship of each member of the LLC. See id. at 693.

In the instant case, the defendants' notice of removal did not indicate the citizenship of each of the members of Beacon Transport, LLC. The defendant now seeks leave to amend its notice of removal to indicate the citizenship of every member of Beacon Transport, LLC, and the plaintiff has objected to that request.

A defendant may remove any civil action to federal court. 28 U.S.C. ยง1446(b) precludes a defendant from removing a case more than thirty days ...


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