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Magana v. Tatum

October 2, 2007

JESSICA MAGANA PLAINTIFF
v.
LEON TATUM AND FRED'S STORES OF TENNESSEE, INC. DEFENDANTS



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

ORDER

Pending is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand,*fn1 to which Defendants responded.*fn2 This is a personal injury case that arises from an accident that occurred in Arkansas and involved an Arkansas resident and Tennessee residents. Plaintiff's state complaint*fn3 did not ask for a specific amount of damages, and Defendant removed the case to this court.*fn4 Plaintiff asks that this case be remanded because she is asking for damages that are less than the jurisdictional amount.

Removal based on diversity requires that the parties be from different states and the amount in controversy exceed $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.*fn5

The party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts has the burden of proving the existence of jurisdiction.*fn6 Therefore, when the case is removed, the burden is on the defendant, not the plaintiff,*fn7 and all doubts must be resolved in favor of remand.*fn8

Moreover, Plaintiff is in charge of her case and may bar removal by asking for a specific amount that is less than required for removal. Under such circumstances, the case should be remanded unless the defendant can prove to a legal certainty that the plaintiff's claim exceeds $75,000.00.*fn9

Plaintiff argues that, under Ark. R. Civ. P. 8(a), a demand containing no specified amount of damages will limit recovery to an amount less than what is required for federal court jurisdiction. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court's interpretation of Ark. R. Civ. P. 8(a) and, general principles of federal jurisdiction, prevent this rule from determining federal jurisdiction.*fn10 In other words, despite the clear wording of this rule, a plaintiff may still recover damages exceeding $75,000.00 at trial.*fn11 More importantly, state rules do not control federal jurisdiction.*fn12 However, Defendants did not carry their burden of showing the existence of federal jurisdiction..

Plaintiff stated "unequivocally" that she will never seek more than $75,000.00 in damages.*fn13 In view of this, and after resolving all doubts in favor of remand, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED. This case is remanded to the Lonoke Circuit Court in Arkansas.

IT IS SO ORDERED this 2nd day of ...


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