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Majchrzak v. Gap, Inc.

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

May 15, 2018

FILIP MAJCHRZAK, a minor, by and through his father and next best friend, MICHAEL MAJCHRZAK, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE GAP, INC., d/b/a GAP FACTORY, and SIMON PROPERTY GROUP, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE, District Court Judge.

         Plaintiff Filip Majchrzak (“Minor”), a minor, by and through his father and next best friend, Plaintiff Michael Majchrzak (collectively with Minor, “Plaintiffs”), sued Defendant The Gap, Inc. (“The Gap”), doing business as Gap Factory, and Defendant Simon Property Group, Inc., (“Simon, ” and collectively with The Gap, “Defendants”) on August 9, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, over an accident that occurred at a clothing store in the Gurnee Mills shopping center. (R. 1-1, “Compl.”) Defendants removed the case to federal court on September 13, 2017 (R. 1, “Notice of Removal”), and counterclaimed against Plaintiffs and filed a third-party complaint against Minor's mother, Paulina Majchrzak (collectively with Plaintiffs, the “Majchrzaks”) (R. 5). Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand. (R. 26, “Pls.' Mot. to Remand.”) For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiffs' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The Gap and Simon are foreign corporations doing business in Cook County and the State of Illinois. (Compl. at ¶ 2, 4.) See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1) (For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, “a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of every State…by which it has been incorporated and of the State…where it has its principal place of business.”); see also Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (2005). The Gap is a resident and citizen of the State of California, where it is incorporated and where it maintains its principal place of business. (Notice of Removal at ¶ 11.) Simon is a resident and citizen of the State of Indiana, where it is incorporated and where it maintains its principal place of business. (Id. at ¶ 12.) At the relevant time, The Gap owned and operated a Gap Factory retail clothing store in the Gurnee Mills shopping center, which Simon owned and operated. (Compl. at ¶ 3-5.)

         Plaintiff Michael Majchrzak represents his minor son Filip Majchrzak. At the relevant time, Minor was a resident and citizen of Illinois. (Compl. at ¶ 1.) On or about August 9, 2014, when Minor was 5 years old, he and his parents were at the Gap Factory clothing store in the Gurnee Mills shopping center when Minor “tripped and fell over the leg of a clothing rack and struck the edge and/or corner of a wall with his head and sustained severe injury.” (Id. at ¶ 5-7, 11.)

         Plaintiffs allege that both The Gap and Simon owed a duty of care to the Majchrzaks and were negligent in fulfilling that duty. (Id. at ¶ 10, 12, 17-18.) As a direct and proximate result, Minor “suffered severe and permanent injuries; has incurred and will incur substantial medical, hospital and therapy bills; has experienced and will in the future experience untold suffering[;] and has been deprived of the ability and capacity to attend most social and personal activities.” (Id. at ¶ 13, 19.) As such, Plaintiffs bring claims of negligence against The Gap (Count I) and Simon (Count III). Plaintiffs also bring claims under “the Family Expense Act, ” 750 Ill. Stat. 65/15 (Act 65, Rights or Married Persons Act; Section 15, Expenses of Family), against The Gap (Count II) and Simon (Count IV) to recover medical expenses.

         Plaintiffs filed suit on August 9, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. (Compl.; Pls.' Mot. to Remand at ¶ 2.) Defendants filed their Notice of Removal on September 13, 2017, based on diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal at ¶ 1.) Now before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand. Plaintiffs urge this Court to remand the case to the Circuit Court of Cook County for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Defendants did not prove the required amount in controversy for diversity jurisdiction purposes.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “Defendants may remove civil suits filed in state court to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and related statutes.” Alegre v. Aguayo, 2007 WL 141891, *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2007). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “[e]xcept as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction may be removed by the defendant or the defendants to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see also Yassan v. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., 708 F.3d 963, 968 (7th Cir. 2013). In other words, a “case filed in state court may be removed to federal court only when the case originally could have been filed in federal court.” Ne. Rural Elec. Membership Corp. v. Wabash Valley Power Ass'n, Inc., 707 F.3d 883, 890 (7th Cir. 2013), as amended (Apr. 29, 2013). “The party seeking removal has the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction, and federal courts should interpret the removal statute narrowly, resolving any doubt in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum in state court.” Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2009); see also Ne. Rural Elec. Membership Corp., 707 F.3d at 893 (Courts must “resolve genuine doubts about removal in favor of state court jurisdiction.”); Morris v. Nuzzo, 718 F.3d 660, 668 (7th Cir. 2013) (explaining that a party seeking removal bears the burden of proving the propriety of removal and doubts regarding removal are resolved in favor of the plaintiff's choice of forum in state court).

         ANALYSIS

         As a preliminary matter, Defendant's argument that Plaintiffs' motion is untimely is misplaced. Unlike motions to remand “on the basis of any defect other than subject matter jurisdiction, ” which must be brought within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal, the federal removal statutes do not limit remand based on subject matter jurisdiction to any time frame. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (“If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” (emphasis added)) Moreover, subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”). Further, “[i]t is axiomatic that a federal court must assure itself that it possesses jurisdiction over the subject matter of an action before it can proceed to take any action respecting the merits of the action.” Cook v. Winfrey, 141 F.3d 322, 325 (7th Cir. 1998); Isakson v. Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc., 2010 WL 4884211, *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 23, 2010). The Court does note, however, that a case cannot be removed on the basis of diversity jurisdiction more than one year after commencement of the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c).

         Turning to the merits of the motion to remand, removal is proper over any action that could have been originally filed in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441; Ne. Rural Elec. Membership Corp., 707 F.3d at 890. Here, Defendants removed the case from the Circuit Court of Cook County on diversity grounds. (Notice of Removal.) See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. As the party seeking to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction, Defendants bear the burden of proof of demonstrating that complete diversity exists and that the amount in controversy requirement(more than $75, 000 excluding interest and costs) is met. See Walker v. Trailer Transit, Inc., 727 F.3d 819, 824-25 (7th Cir. 2013) (“The removing defendant has the burden of proving the jurisdictional predicates for removal.”). Neither Plaintiffs nor Defendants dispute that the parties are completely diverse for diversity jurisdiction purposes. As such, the only question for the Court is whether the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000 at the time of removal.

         I. Defendants have proven the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence

         Defendants have the initial burden of proving the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence. See Carroll v. Stryker Corp., 658 F.3d 675, 680-81 (7th Cir. 2011) (“As the party removing the case to federal court, [the defendant] Stryker had the initial burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence facts that suggest the jurisdictional amount has been satisfied.”); Meridian Security Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 543 (7th Cir. 2006) (If the party opposing federal jurisdiction contests the amount in controversy, the proponent must “prove those jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the evidence.”); Oshanav. Coca-Cola Co., 472 F.3d 506, 511 (7th Cir. 2006) (“Because [the removing defendant] is the proponent of jurisdiction, it has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence facts that suggest the amount-in-controversy requirement is met.”). “Only jurisdictional facts, such as which state issued a party's ...


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