Florida Federal Court Remands Slip and Fall Case to State Court for Lack of Diversity Jurisdiction

DSCN8616In Chase v. Hess Retail Operations LLC, the plaintiff suffered injuries when she slipped and fell at a gas station located in Clearwater. Following the incident, the plaintiff brought suit against the gas station for her injuries. The gas station promptly removed the case to federal court, based on diversity citizenship and also based on the plaintiff’s refusal to deny that her damages exceeded $75,000.

Diversity jurisdiction is a legal concept that is used to determine when a case may be brought in federal court. In general, the term means that the parties to the lawsuit are residents of different states and that the case involves a dispute in excess of $75,000. When a defendant seeks to remove a case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction, the defendant has the burden of proving that both of these elements are satisfied–that the parties are residents of different states and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. When reviewing motions opposing removal, the court must lean on the side of construing the facts of the case in favor of remand.

In the present case, the parties did not dispute that they were residents of different states, but there was some disagreement as to whether the damages involved in the lawsuit exceeded the $75,000 threshold. In reviewing the parties’ briefs on the motion for remand, the court ordered the plaintiff to supplement the record to provide more evidence regarding the amount of damages involved in the accident.

The Middle District Court of Florida reviewed the record, including the supplemental evidence, and concluded that the amount in controversy was not sufficient to meet the jurisdictional requirement. Although the parties were clearly from different states, the record did not support a showing that the plaintiff’s damages, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeded $75,000. During these proceedings, it was revealed that the defendant based its argument that the amount in controversy exceeded this limit on the plaintiff’s responses to discovery requests. In ruling on the matter, the court reminded the defendant that a plaintiff’s responses to discovery requests cannot serve as support for removal to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction.

In holding that the gas station had not met its burden under diversity jurisdiction, the federal court indicated that the plaintiff’s claim for an unspecified amount of damages was too speculative and that more evidence regarding the damages was necessary. As a result, the federal district court remanded the case to state court.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries in a slip and fall, or another type of accident, you may be entitled to damages. When you have suffered painful and devastating injuries as a result of another person’s negligence, the last thing you should have to worry about is navigating the complex legal system and ensuring that you and the other party are playing by the rules. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our premises liability lawyers proudly serve accident victims throughout Southwest Florida, including Naples, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers. We can guide you through every step of the process and ensure that your rights are asserted aggressively along the way. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

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