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Kaplan v. Jewett

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 19, 2017



          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Stephanie Kaplan (“Plaintiff”) alleges that, beginning in the fall of 2014, defendant Kimberly Jewett (“Defendant”) engaged in an extra-marital affair with Plaintiff's husband, Dr. Keith Kaplan (“Dr. Kaplan”). First Am. Compl. [8]. On April 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court under the Illinois Alienation of Affections Act, 740 ILCS 5/1 et seq., and Criminal Conversation Act, 740 ILCS 5/1 et seq.[1] Id. On November 2, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss [44]. Defendant argues that the amount in controversy does not exceed the $75, 000 threshold required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts in her First Amended Complaint. Plaintiff and Dr. Kaplan, both residents of North Carolina, have been married for over nineteen years. First Am. Compl. [8] ¶ 5. Dr. Kaplan works as a General Pathologist for the Veterans Health Administration, serves as Chief Medical Officer for a private company, and writes for an internet blog on digital pathology. Id. ¶¶ 12, 54. The couple has one child together. Id. ¶ 6.

         Sometime before the fall of 2014, Dr. Kaplan began communicating with Defendant, a patient advocate residing in Illinois, via telephone and social media. Id. ¶¶ 10, 60. The pair eventually met in person in September 2014, when Dr. Kaplan attended a work meeting in Chicago. Id. ¶ 8. The two reunited in October 2014 at a conference in San Francisco, and again in Chicago in early November 2014. Id. ¶¶ 14, 16-18.

         On November 23, 2014, Dr. Kaplan announced his separation from Plaintiff and vacated their marital residence. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. In early December 2014, Dr. Kaplan took Defendant on a trip to London and Paris. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Although Plaintiff and Dr. Kaplan attempted a brief reconciliation in mid-December 2014, Dr. Kaplan informed Plaintiff around Christmas that he was in a relationship with Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 30-32. Dr. Kaplan ceased financial support of Plaintiff and their child in January 2015. Id. ¶ 57.

         Plaintiff claims that, throughout the course of their relationship, Defendant engaged in conduct with Dr. Kaplan, including sexual intercourse, “designed to entice” Dr. Kaplan's affections “to depart from Plaintiff.” Id. ¶ 69. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant ultimately undermined Dr. Kaplan's love for Plaintiff and that, as a result, Plaintiff has suffered actual damages. Id. ¶¶ 45, 50, 53. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she suffered the loss of: (1) Dr. Kaplan's income and contribution to household tasks; (2) large amounts of marital money that Dr. Kaplan spent on Defendant (including travel, lodging, clothing, food, and gifts); and (3) marital income that Defendant misappropriated from Dr. Kaplan's business ventures. Id. ¶¶ 55-56, 58-67. Plaintiff contends that these damages exceed the $75, 000 jurisdictional threshold. Id. ¶¶ 67, 86.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Amount in Controversy

         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess “only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); Teamsters Nat. Auto. Transporters Indus. Negotiating Comm. v. Troha, 328 F.3d 325, 327 (7th Cir. 2003). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, district courts possess original jurisdiction in civil actions between citizens of different states[2] “where the amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.” The amount in controversy is “not the amount sought by the plaintiff but the amount at stake to either party to the suit.” BEM I, L.L.C. v. Anthropologie, Inc., 301 F.3d 548, 553 (7th Cir. 2002); Uhl v. Thoroughbred Tech. & Telecomms., Inc., 309 F.3d 978, 983 (7th Cir. 2002) (“[T]he jurisdictional amount should be assessed looking at either the benefit to the plaintiff or the cost to the defendant of the requested relief.”).

         In all cases, “the party asserting federal jurisdiction has the burden of proof to show that jurisdiction is proper.” Travelers Prop. Cas. v. Good, 689 F.3d 714, 722 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936)). When the amount in controversy is uncontested, the Court “will accept the plaintiff's good faith allegation of the amount in controversy unless it appears to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount.” McMillian v. Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 567 F.3d 839, 844 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations omitted). Where, however, “the defendant challenges the plaintiff's allegation of the amount in controversy, the plaintiff must support [her] assertion with competent proof” by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. (internal quotations omitted); Travelers, 689 F.3d at 722 (the proponent of jurisdiction “may be called on to prove facts that determine the amount in controversy, and must do so by a preponderance of the evidence”).

         To satisfy this burden, a party must do more than “point to the theoretical availability of certain categories of damages.” Am. Bankers Life Assur. of Florida v. Evans, 319 F.3d 907, 909 (7th Cir. 2003). Jurisdiction, of course, “is a legal conclusion, a consequence of facts rather than a provable ‘fact.'” Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 541 (7th Cir. 2006) (emphasis in original). Thus, “what the proponent of jurisdiction must ‘prove' is contested factual assertions” supported by “admissible evidence.” Id. at 541-43; see also McMillian, 567 F.3d at 845 (dismissing case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction where “plaintiffs rest[ed] their entire argument concerning amount in controversy on the allegations contained in their complaint” and did not submit “competent proof”).

         Although the proponent of jurisdiction “may be called on to prove facts that determine the amount in controversy, ” once those facts have been established, “the proponent's estimate of the claim's value must be accepted unless there is ‘legal certainty' that the controversy's value is below the threshold.” Meridian, 441 F.3d at 541. The proponent “does not have to establish that it is likely that plaintiff will prevail or, if she does, that she will obtain a judgment exceeding the amount-in-controversy requirement.” Kincaid v. Menard, Inc., No. 13-cv-7279, 2014 WL 1715503, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 30, 2014) (citing Back Doctors Ltd. v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 637 F.3d 827, 831 (7th Cir. 2011)). The burden, rather, “is to show what the plaintiff hopes to get out of the litigation; if this amount exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, the case proceeds in federal court unless a rule of law will keep the award under the threshold.” Id. (citing Rising-Moore v. Red Roof Inns, Inc., 435 F.3d 813, 816 (7th Cir. 2006)).

         B. Alienation of Affections and Criminal ...

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