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Peterman v. Tinsley

June 1, 2007

MARY PETERMAN PLAINTIFF
v.
DERRICK TINSLEY AND GREAT DANE, L.P. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

This is an employment discrimination suit brought under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act ("ACRA").*fn1 Plaintiff filed suit in Craighead County, Arkansas on March 7, 2006. Defendant Great Dane removed the case to federal court on April 19, 2007 (Doc. No. 1).*fn2 Pending is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. No. 7), to which Defendant Great Dane responded (Doc. No. 11). Plaintiff contends that the removing of her case to federal court was improper because diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 is lacking.*fn3 She argues that Defendant has not shown complete diversity or that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

I. Analysis

Diversity jurisdiction requires proof that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and that the plaintiffs and defendants are citizens of different states.*fn4 The Eighth Circuit has not yet defined the appropriate amount of proof required where damages are not specified.*fn5 However, district courts have found that to establish that removal is proper, a defendant must present specific facts or evidence of the amount in controversy.*fn6 Any doubts regarding the validity of removal jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand.*fn7

A. Amount in Controversy

Where a plaintiff does not specifically plead an amount in controversy, the removing party "must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000."*fn8 "The complaint will be [removed] if it appears to a legal certainty that the value of the claim is actually less than the required amount."*fn9

The amount in controversy includes the amount of damages in dispute, as well as attorney's fees, if authorized by statute or contract.*fn10 When the amount is not "facially apparent" from the complaint, "the court may consider facts in the removal petition, and may 'require parties to submit summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.'"*fn11

If the removing party satisfies this burden, the plaintiff can still defeat removal by showing to a legal certainty that recovery cannot exceed $75,000.*fn12 To meet its burden of proof, the defendant must present specific facts or evidence.*fn13

In her Complaint, Plaintiff asks for damages for "humiliation, degradation, emotional and physical distress" as well as "loss of employment benefits, emotional pain, suffering and inconvenience, and physical distress."*fn14 She asks to be reinstated, with all related compensation and fringe benefits, back pay, benefits, attorney's fees and costs, pre-judgment interest.*fn15

ACRA allows the recovery of back pay, interest on back pay, and, "in the discretion of the court, the cost of litigation and a reasonable attorney's fee."*fn16 Likewise, if the discrimination is determined to be intentional, a claimant may be awarded compensatory and punitive damages depending on the company size anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000.*fn17 Defendant provides an affidavit of its Human Resource Manager, Charlotte Singleton, in which she swears that Defendant employees over 201 employees.*fn18 Accordingly, Defendant has shown that the amount in controversy could exceed $75,000, and has met its burden.*fn19

B. Complete Diversity

Plaintiff argues that complete diversity does not exist because Defendant Tinsley is a resident of Arkansas. In its Response, Defendant attached the affidavit of Defendant Derrick Tinsley stating that, as of March 6, 2007, he was a permanent citizen of Arizona.*fn20 Diversity of citizenship is determined at the time the suit begins, not when the cause of action arose.*fn21 Based on Defendant Tinsley's affidavit, he was no longer a resident of Arkansas when the suit began.

II. Conclusion

Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. No. 7) is DENIED. Defendants' Motions to Amend/Correct Notice of Removal (Doc. Nos. 9 and 13) are GRANTED. Plaintiff's Motion to Extend Time to Serve Defendant Tinsley (Doc. No. 17) is GRANTED. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m), ...


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