Sometimes, a civil litigant does not have a choice as to where he will file his claim against the opposing party. Other times, the plaintiff does have a choice, and there may be a specific reason for her to choose one court over another.
Typically, the defendant has no say in determining the forum in which the matter will be proceed – except in cases in which there is diversity of citizenship between the parties and more than $75,000 in controversy. In such cases, the defendant has the option of “removing” a case filed in state court to federal court, where there is concurrent jurisdiction.
Just as a plaintiff chooses to file in state court for a particular reason, there is often an ulterior motive for a removal to federal court by the defendant.
Facts of the Case
In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against the defendant insurance company, alleging that it had failed to timely and sufficiently pay certain benefits that she alleged she was due following an automobile accident. She sought actual damages, exemplary damages, prejudgment interest, post-judgment interest, court costs, and attorney’s fees. As required by Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 47(c)(1)-(5), the plaintiff selected one of five possible categories of relief when she filed her complaint, choosing “only monetary relief of $100,000 or less” (as opposed to monetary relief of $100,000 or less and non-monetary relief; monetary relief between $100,000 and $200,000; monetary relief between $200,000 and $1,000,000; or monetary relief over $1,000,000).
The defendant removed the action to federal court, contending that there was complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and that there was at least $75,000 in controversy, thus triggering federal jurisdiction over the matter.
Decision of the Court
The United States District Court sua sponte remanded the action back to the state court, holding that the federal courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. The defendant relied upon the plaintiff’s choice of “monetary relief up to $100,000” as establishing that the amount in controversy was at least $75,000, but the court disagreed with this reasoning. Instead, the court pointed out that the mere selection of a category as required by Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 47 does not, in and of itself, establish jurisdiction in the federal court system.
In reviewing the plaintiff’s complaint, the court found nothing upon which to assume that the jurisdictional requirements of the court had been met. Instead, the court noted that the plaintiff’s pleadings did not state a specific amount with respect to the amount in controversy; considering that the plaintiff stated that she was treated for minor injuries at the scene and suffered a soft tissue type of injury due to the crash, the federal court held that there was nothing to support a finding that, more likely than not, the controversy exceeded $75,000.
Thus, the federal district court sent the case back to the state court in which the plaintiff had filed her original complaint, allowing her to proceed in the venue of her choice.
Get Reliable Advice About Your Car Wreck Case
At Earl Drott Law, we offer a free consultation regarding your East Texas car accident case. Call 903-531-9300 to schedule an appointment at your convenience. We have been assisting injured people in and around Tyler and Smith County for more than 34 years, and we look forward to speaking to you about how we can help you seek maximum compensation for your injuries.
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