United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Annette Williams brought this case against her former
employer, Toys "R" Us - Delaware Inc., in the
Bristol County Superior Court for the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. Toys "R" Us timely removed the case
to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
Williams now seeks to remand, arguing that the amount in
controversy requirement is not met. For the reasons explained
below, Williams' motion to remand is being denied.
States district courts have jurisdiction over civil actions
arising under state law "where the matter in controversy
exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest
and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different
States." 28 U.S.C. §1332(a)(1). For purposes of
jurisdiction under §1332, "the sum demanded in good
faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed to be the
amount in controversy." Id. §1446(c)(2).
If, however, the plaintiff's cause of action
"permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount
demanded, " the defendant may assert an amount in
controversy in its notice of removal. Id.
§1446(c) (2) (A) (2). In such circumstances,
"removal of the action is proper ... if the district
court finds, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the
amount in controversy exceeds the amount specified in section
1332(a)." Id. §1446(c)(2)(B). As the
Supreme Court has explained:
This provision, added to §1446 as part of the Federal
Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011
(JVCA), clarifies the procedure in order when a
defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy is
challenged. In such a case, both sides submit proof and the
court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether
the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.
Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135
S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014) . The amount in controversy is
calculated based on "the state of the complaint at the
time of removal." Magerer v. John Sexton &
Co., 912 F.2d 525, 529 (1st Cir. 1990).
alleges that, beginning in January 2014 and continuing
through her resignation on June 24, 2014, Toy "R"
Us discriminated against her in violation of Massachusetts
General Laws Chapter 151B ("Section 151B"). See
Complaint ¶¶32-26. She seeks actual damages,
punitive damages, and costs. See Id. Williams'
complaint does not demand a specific amount in damages.
However, the civil cover sheet attached to the complaint
alleges "$40, 000" in "lost wages and
compensation to date" and "$20, 000" in
"reasonably anticipated lost wages." Docket No.
1-3. Williams argues that the cover sheet establishes the
amount in controversy as approximately $60, 000.
Judge Timothy Hillman recently observed, "civil cover
sheets are inherently imprecise, and the extent of a civil
cover sheet's role in determining the amount in
controversy is not settled in this Circuit." Toro v.
CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc., __ F. supp. 3d __, 2016
WL 4212238, at *4 (D. Mass. Aug. 9, 2016) . Courts in this
district and elsewhere have held that although a civil cover
sheet may provide evidence of the amount in controversy, it
is "not in itself dispositive." Laughlin Kennel
Co. v. Gatehouse Media Inc., __ F.3d __, 2016 WL
4445740, at *2 (D. Mass. Aug. 22, 2016); Holladay v.
Kone, Inc., 606 F.Supp.2d 1296, 1298 (D. Colo. 2009);
Valley v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 504
F.Supp.2d 1, 6 (E.D. Pa. 2006). Other courts have reasoned
that a civil cover sheet "is simply too imprecise to
make the requisite demonstration of the amount in controversy
for purposes of diversity jurisdiction." Magdaleno
v. L.B. Foster Co., No. CIV.A. 06-CV-01882MS, 2008 WL
496314, at *6 (D. Colo. Feb. 19, 2008) .
court agrees, at least in the instant case, where the civil
cover sheet lists total damages of "$60, 000, "
meaning $60, 000 or more. Merely stating the low end
of a range of damages does not establish the amount in
controversy. Therefore, the court must weigh the proof
submitted by both sides and decide, by a preponderance of
evidence, whether the amount in controversy requirement is
met. See Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 554.
court begins with the governing state law. See Stewart v.
Tupperware Corp., 356 F.3d 335, 339 (1st Cir. 2004).
Chapter 151B permits recovery of actual and punitive damages.
See M.G.L. c. 151B, §9. In wrongful termination
cases, actual damages include back pay, which
"compensates a plaintiff for lost wages up to the time
of the trial court judgment, " and front pay, which
"is awarded for lost salary during the period between
judgment and reinstatement, or in lieu of
reinstatement." Tobin v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.,
553 F.3d 121, 141 n.29 (1st Cir. 2009). Chapter 151B allows
up to treble damages "if the court finds that the act or
practice complained of was committed with knowledge, or
reason to know, that such act or practice violated [the
statute]." M.G.L. c. 151B, §9. It also allows
recovery of reasonable attorney's fees. See id.
Both the damage multiplier and the attorney's fees must
be included in the amount in controversy if applicable.
See Spielman v. Genzyme Corp., 251 F.3d 1, 7 (1st
Cir. 2001); Huston v. FLS Language Centres, 18
F.Supp.3d 17, 22 (D. Mass. 2014).
the court must calculate the damages supported by the
complaint at the time of removal. See Magerer, 912
F.2d at 529. As a court in the District of New Hampshire has
Though the amount in controversy in a case removed to federal
court depends on the circumstances existing at the time of
removal, see [Magerer, 912 F.2d at 529],
the calculation includes monies not yet due the plaintiff at
that point-so long as the "judgment will clearly and
finally create an obligation to pay, over a number of years,
a sum in excess of the jurisdictional amount, even though
future events may alter or cut off the defendant's
obligation." 14B Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller,
Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure §
3702, at 87 (3d ed.1998). The amount in controversy in a
wrongful discharge suit, then, includes what the plaintiff
would have earned but for the termination of his employment,
even if those sums had not ...