United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
Kristine G. Baker, United States District Judge.
the Court is a motion to remand filed by plaintiff Dusty
Sherwood, as next friend of Kayden Sherwood (Dkt. No. 4).
Defendants Fire It Up Productions, LLC (“Fire It
Up”), and Kevin Blackwell responded to the motion (Dkt.
No. 7). For the following reasons, the Court grants the
motion to remand and remands this action immediately to the
Circuit Court of Cleburne County, Arkansas (Dkt. No. 4).
motion to remand, plaintiff maintains that Fire It Up hosted
a team-roping competition in Jackson, Mississippi (Dkt. No.
5, at 1). Fire It Up sent text messages and otherwise
advertised that the High Point Roper would win, among other
prizes, a 2018 Ram Crew-Cab Dually Diesel (the
“Truck”) (Id., at 1-2). Kayden Sherwood
competed (Id., at 2). At an awards ceremony held at
the end of the competition, Fire It Up announced that Kayden
Sherwood was the High Point Roper and winner of the Truck
(Id.). Kayden Sherwood left Jackson, Mississippi,
with the Truck (Id.).
next day, plaintiff contends that Mr. Blackwell called
plaintiff, who is Dusty Sherwood, Kayden Sherwood’s
father, and told him that Fire It Up would not be sending the
title to the Truck because, according to plaintiff, Mr.
Blackwell claimed that Fire It Up should have handicapped
Kayden Sherwood differently in the competition thereby
requiring Kayden Sherwood to return the Truck (Id.).
Plaintiff disputes that Kayden Sherwood should have been
handicapped differently and contends that Kayden Sherwood is
entitled to keep the Truck (Id.).
plaintiff’s complaint, plaintiff “specifically
requests specific performance of the contract by the Court
ordering Defendant to tender title of the truck to Plaintiff,
” for “attorney’s fees [and] costs, ”
and “all other relief to which he is entitled either in
law or equity.” (Dkt. No. 2, at 7, ¶¶ 59, 62,
Fire It Up and Mr. Blackwell filed a petition of removal on
October 24, 2018, removing this action from the Circuit Court
of Cleburne County, Arkansas, to this Court (Dkt. No. 1). At
the time of removal, although the Arkansas Department of
Finance and Administration was a named defendant, it had not
been served nor had it made an appearance in the litigation
(Id., ¶ 2). Defendants based their removal
petition on “complete diversity of citizenship between
the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 . . . .”
(Id., ¶ 9). Defendants maintain that Fire It Up
is a Texas corporation with its principal place of business
in Jacksonville, Texas, and that plaintiff Dusty Sherwood,
along with Kayden Sherwood, are citizens and residents of
Cleburne County, Arkansas (Id., ¶¶ 5, 6).
In plaintiff’s complaint, plaintiff alleges that Mr.
Blackwell “is the principal owner or member” of
Fire It Up and a resident of Texas (Dkt. No. 2, ¶ 3).
with respect to the amount in controversy, defendants in
their removal petition allege the following:
(Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 7). Along with their notice of
removal, defendants Fire It Up and Mr. Blackwell filed an
answer to complaint and counterclaim against plaintiff (Dkt.
No. 3). Defendants allege breach of contract, common law
fraud, conversion, and, in the alternative, promissory
maintains that the Truck, “by Defendants’ own
valuation is $45, 000” and that the amount in
controversy does not exceed $75, 000, meaning this Court
lacks jurisdiction and should remand (Dkt. No. 5, at 2). In
response, defendants maintain that the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000, but in making this argument, defendants
focus on the value of their counterclaim to reach this
amount, not the value of plaintiff’s complaint (Dkt.
No. 7, at 3-6). In their filing, defendants represent that
the value of the Truck is “approximately $48,
041.00” (Id., at 1, 3).
courts have the power to hear claims based on diversity of
citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Federal
jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship has two
requirements: (1) no plaintiff in the action can be a citizen
of the same state as any of the defendants and (2) the amount
in controversy must exceed $75, 000, exclusive of interests
and costs. Id. Any civil action brought in a state
court of which federal district courts have original
jurisdiction may be removed. See 28 U.S.C. 1441(a).
In removal cases, federal courts are required to construe
strictly the federal removal statute, and doubts about
federal jurisdiction are resolved in favor of remand.
Transit Cas. Co. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's
of London, 119 F.3d 619, 625 (8th Cir. 1997).
under § 1446, if removal of a civil action is “on
the basis of jurisdiction conferred by section 1332(a), the
sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be
deemed to be the amount in controversy.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(c)(2). However, the notice of removal may assert
the amount in controversy if the initial pleadings seek
non-monetary relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(A)(i).
Where, as here, the sufficiency of the amount alleged to be
in controversy is questioned, the party invoking federal
jurisdiction must “prove the requisite amount by a
preponderance of the evidence.” Bell v. Hershey
Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing
Advance Am. Servicing of Ark., Inc. v. McGinnis, 526
F.3d 1170, 1173 (8th Cir. 2008)). This rule applies
“even in a removed case where the party invoking
jurisdiction is the defendant.” James Neff Kramper
Family Farm P'ship v. IBP, Inc., 393 F.3d 828, 831
(8th Cir. 2005).
considering whether the amounts and claims alleged satisfy
the required amount in controversy, the court looks to state
law to determine the nature and extent of the right to be
enforced as well as the state measure of damages and the
availability of special and punitive damages. See Horton
v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.,367 U.S. 348, 352-53 (1961).
The Court must engage in a “fact intensive”
inquiry to determine whether the preponderance of the
evidence standard has been met. Bell, 557 F.3d at
959. This standard requires the court to determine whether a
fact finder might legally conclude the damages are greater
than the requisite ...