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Dias v. Genesco, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 19, 2019

LINDSEY DIAS, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
GENESCO, INC. and HAT WORLD, INC. d/b/a LIDS, Defendants.




         In 2011, Congress enacted the Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act (the “Clarification Act”), Pub. L. No. 112-63, 125 Stat. 758 (codified at 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446). Among other things, the Clarification Act elucidated the procedure for analyzing whether removing defendants meet the amount-in-controversy requirement. See Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). Here, the named plaintiff, Lindsey[1] Dias (“Dias”), challenges the removal of her suit from the Massachusetts Superior Court on the ground that the Defendants, Genesco, Inc. and Hatworld, Inc. (collectively, “Lids”), miscalculated the damages that her suit seeks. Pl.'s Mot. Remand (“Mot. Remand”) 1, ECF No. 11. Because the parties' briefing does not reflect the Clarification Act's standards for analyzing the amount in controversy, this Court ORDERS further briefing.


         This action arises out of Dias's employment as a store manager at a North Attleboro, Massachusetts retail store, Lids, from January 2015 until September 2015. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4, ECF No. 1-1. In March 2018, Dias filed a putative class action complaint in the Massachusetts Superior Court alleging that Lids failed to pay store managers overtime. Id. ¶ 1. Dias claims this conduct violated the Massachusetts Overtime Law (the “Overtime Law”), Massachusetts General Laws chapter 151, section 1A, and seeks back pay, treble damages, interest, and attorney's fees and costs. Id. at 7-8. Her complaint does not specify a particular amount of damages, and the civil cover sheet that she filed alongside her complaint lists damages as “TBD.” Id.; Certified Massachusetts Ct. R. 12, ECF No. 8.

         In April 2018, Lids timely filed a notice of removal, citing diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Notice Removal ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. On April 20, 2018, Dias moved to remand, arguing that her damages fell short of the amount required for diversity jurisdiction. Mot. Remand 1. Although Dias and Lids briefed Dias's motion to remand, neither Dias nor Lids cited the Clarification Act's standards for calculating the amount in controversy. See generally Defs.' Opp'n Mot. Remand (“Defs.' Opp'n”), ECF No. 18; Pl.'s Reply Supp. Mot. Remand (“Pl.'s Reply”), ECF No. 22. This Court heard oral argument on Dias's motion on July 23, 2018 and took the matter under advisement. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 29. On September 19, 2018, the parties jointly moved to stay the case for 45 days. Joint Mot. Stay 1, ECF No. 32. The Court granted the motion and administratively closed the case on September 20, 2018. Order Closure, ECF No. 34.

         Considering more than 45 days have passed without update from either party, the Court turns its attention to Dias's motion to remand.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Dias suggests that this Court remand this action to the Superior Court because the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. Mot. Remand 1, 3. In response, Lids posits that if Dias were to succeed in her suit, she would be entitled to damages totaling more than $75, 000, accounting for the attorney's fees she incurred throughout the suit. Defs.' Opp'n 2-3. Dias disputes whether this Court ought include her prospective attorney's fees in its calculation of the amount in controversy. Pl.'s Reply 2-3.

         A. Standard of Review

         A defendant may remove a case filed in state court to the local federal district court so long as the district court has original jurisdiction over the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Universal Truck & Equip. Co., Inc. v. Southworth-Milton, Inc., 765 F.3d 103, 107-08 (1st Cir. 2014). Courts strictly construe the removal statute, In re Pharmaceutical Industry Average Wholesale Price Litigation, 509 F.Supp.2d 82, 89 (D. Mass. 2007) (Saris, J.), and removing defendants bear the burden of showing federal jurisdiction, Coventry Sewage Associates v. Dworkin Realty Co., 71 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 1995).

         Here, Lids suggests that this Court only has diversity jurisdiction over this case.[2] Notice Removal ¶ 6. Section 1332(a) of chapter 28 of the United States Code provides district courts with original jurisdiction “where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between citizens of different states.” Although “[n]ormally” courts exclude attorney's fees from the calculation of the amount in controversy, they include such expenses where state law “allows plaintiffs to collect attorney's fees as part of their damages.” Spielman v. Genzyme Corp., 251 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2001). Both Dias and Lids agree that the Overtime Law is such a state law. Defs.' Opp'n 3; Pl.'s Reply 4.

         The Clarification Act provides the procedure for determining the amount in controversy in diversity-jurisdiction removal cases. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2). It instructs district courts to “deem[] . . . the amount in controversy” the “sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading.” Id. The district court may, however, rely on the damages figure asserted in the notice of removal when the “initial pleading seeks nonmonetary relief; or a money judgment, but the State practice either does not permit demand for a specific sum or permits recovery of damages in excess of the amount demanded.” Id. § 1446(c)(2)(A). In either situation, the district court may rely on the notice of removal's asserted amount in controversy only where it is supported by the “preponderance of the evidence.” Id. § 1446(c)(2)(B).

         As an initial matter, the Court cannot deem the amount in controversy the sum that Dias demanded in her initial pleading for a simple reason: her complaint makes no specific demand. Nor does the civil cover sheet she filed in the Superior Court. See id. § 1446(c)(2); see also Compl. 7-8; Certified Massachusetts Ct. R. 12. The Court thus must analyze whether it may accept the figure asserted in Lids's notice of removal.[3] Although the notice of ...

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