Federal Court Jurisdictional Amount

The Southern District of Texas, Houston Division issued an opinion in an unusual case in February 2019.  The case is styled, Patricio Delgado v. Allstate Texas Lloyds.

The case had been removed to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction.  Four parties sued Allstate on four properties in four states.  Allstate asked that the improperly joined parties by dismissed and the case severed into four separate lawsuits.  The Judge has found that the four claims are “factually unrelated” and severed the claims.  The Judge ordered that each plaintiff file an amended compliant related solely to his or her claims.  The Judge also ordered that each of the cases be remanded.

Allstate argues that the remand is improper because of the amount in controversy exceeding $75,000, because the amount originally sought by Delgado and the others exceeded $200,000.

Because Delgado did not file an amended complaint the Court proceeded as though Delgado did not specify the amount of damages.

Generally, the removing party has the burden to show that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal is proper.  The 5th Circuit has stated “When a compliant does not allege a specific amount of damages, the party invoking federal jurisdiction must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount.

Since Delgado did not specify the amount of damages he was seeking individually, the amount in controversy must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence.  Thus, because Delgado did not file an amended complaint, as such, there is no good faith allegation that supports the required amount.   While Delgado states he has hired an expert to testify that Delgado suffered actual damages of $35,585.29, Delgado did not attach any evidence to support this proposition.  As a result, the court has no basis for which to conclude that Delgado’s claim exceeds the jurisdictional amount.

The question of subject matter jurisdiction can never be waived.  Nor can jurisdiction be conferred by conduct or consent of the parties.

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