Federal Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Clearwater Slip and Fall Case

In Chase v. Hess Retail Operations LLC, a woman was apparently injured when she slipped and fell at a Clearwater gas station. As a result of her harm, the woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the owner of the gas station in a Florida state court. The gas station then removed the case to the Middle District of Florida based on diversity of citizenship because the woman denied that her damages did not exceed $75,000 in her response to certain requests for admissions.

Under federal law, the defendant in a lawsuit may remove a case to federal court for a number of reasons, including diversity jurisdiction. In order to establish diversity, the parties to a lawsuit must hail from different states, and the amount in controversy must be more than $75,000. Since a plaintiff normally selects his or her preferred venue when a lawsuit is filed, the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that diversity jurisdiction exists. In general, a federal court must construe the facts of a case in which diversity jurisdiction is disputed in favor of remand back to state court.

In the premises liability action, it was undisputed that the parties were citizens of different states. Still, whether the amount in controversy actually exceeded $75,000 was unclear. As a result, the federal court directed the gas station to supplement the record regarding the amount in controversy following removal.

After reviewing the evidence offered, the Middle District of Florida stated there was nothing in the record, the complaint, or the notice of removal to support the gas station’s claim that the lawsuit met the amount in controversy requirements for removal based on diversity of citizenship. Instead, the gas station based its request solely on the woman’s response to its requests for admissions. The federal court stated it was well established “that a plaintiff’s discovery responses concerning the amount in controversy are not sufficient to support removal of a case to federal court.”

Next, the court stated the purportedly injured woman’s denial was too speculative to merit removal without additional evidence to support the gas station’s amount in controversy claim. Since the woman made an unspecified demand for damages in a Florida court, the federal court said that the burden to show the threshold was more likely than not met was on the gas station. The court then ruled that the gas station failed to meet its burden.

Since the federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, the premises liability action was ultimately remanded back to state court.

The many procedural and other rules that govern a lawsuit can differ across state and federal courts. If you were hurt in South Florida due to a property owner’s negligence, you need a hardworking attorney on your side to help you safeguard your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Miami personal injury lawyer, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. online or give us a call at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Chase v. Hess Retail Operations LLC, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appeals Court Holds Settlement Offer Was Not Vague or Ambiguous in Fatal Car Accident Lawsuit, September 18, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Florida Appeals Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Air Show Negligence Case, September 11, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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