Diversity Jurisdiction at Issue in Florida Premises Liability Case: Mortensen v. Omni Hotels Management Corp.

A federal district court in Florida has ordered that a man’s premises liability lawsuit be tried before a Nassau County court. In Mortensen v. Omni Hotels Management Corp., a man was allegedly injured when he slipped and fell while visiting a restaurant located inside of an Omni Hotel franchise. Prior to filing his case, the man offered to settle his claim against the hotel for $250,000. After the hotel refused the man’s settlement offer, he filed a premises liability lawsuit against the company in Nassau County, Florida. In his complaint, the man asked the court to award him “more than $15,000” in compensation for his medical care, pain and suffering, and a number of other supposedly continuing damages. The hotel removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction and the man promptly asked the federal court to remand the case back to state court.

In order to remove a lawsuit to federal court, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) states the parties must be citizens of different states and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. According to the Middle District of Florida, the injured man and the hotel chain agreed that they hailed from different states. The only question at issue in the case related to the amount in controversy. Since the hotel sought to remove the case to federal court and the injured man did not specify the amount of damages he sought, the federal court stated the burden of demonstrating the amount in controversy was more than $75,000 fell on the business. Additionally, the court said any doubts regarding proper federal jurisdiction should be decided in favor of remanding the case to state court.

Next, the Florida federal court examined the facts of the case. Although a settlement offer may provide evidence regarding the amount in controversy, the court stated the man’s request for $250,000 appeared to be simple settlement posturing when compared to his accrued medical expenses. The court also found that the man’s purported ongoing medical needs did not support a finding that the amount in controversy requirement was met. Likewise, the court stated that the fact that no stipulation existed regarding the amount of damages the man expected to recover did not suggest the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000. Finally, the federal court said although awards from similar cases can assist a court in determining the amount in controversy, none of the cases offered as supporting evidence by the hotel suggested the injured man would likely recover more than $75,000. Since the hotel did not offer sufficient evidence to suggest the amount in controversy supported federal jurisdiction, the court remanded the man’s premises liability lawsuit to state court.

Procedural, scheduling, and many other rules that govern a lawsuit are often different in state and federal court. The differences can be confusing to individuals who are not accustomed to navigating the legal system. In order to protect your personal injury claim, it is important to file your case with the correct court. If you were hurt in Miami as a result of someone else’s negligent act, you should have a skilled lawyer on your side to explain your legal rights and help you protect your interests. To schedule a free confidential consultation with a hardworking attorney, please contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website or give us a call at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Mortensen v. Omni Hotels Management Corp., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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