United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
Charles B. Goodwin United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc.
No. 2). Defendants have responded in opposition to the Motion
(Doc. No. 4), and Plaintiff has replied (Doc. No. 6). Based
on the case record, the parties' arguments, and the
governing law, Plaintiff's Motion will be granted.
initially filed this action on November 8, 2017, in the
District Court of Grant County, Oklahoma, seeking to pierce
the corporate veil of two limited liability companies (Venus
Energy, LLC, or “Venus, ” and Blue Mesa
Properties, LLC, or “Blue Mesa”). Specifically,
Plaintiff-invoking two prior judgments entered against those
companies-seeks to enforce the judgments against, and collect
monies from, Defendant Todd Hurd as an alter ego of Venus and
Defendants Leon Goble and Shannon Goble as alter egos of Blue
Mesa. See Pet. (Doc. No. 1-2).
March 8, 2019, Defendants removed this action to this Court
on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, contending that
Plaintiff is a citizen of Oklahoma and all Defendants are
citizens of Texas for diversity purposes. See
Defs.' Notice of Removal (Doc. No. 1). On April 3, 2019,
Plaintiff filed its Motion to Remand, alleging that the
statutory amount-in-controversy requirement is not
Removal and Diversity Jurisdiction Under 28 U.S.C. §
civil action filed in state court satisfies the requirements
for original federal jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)
authorizes a defendant to remove the action “to the
district court of the United States for the district and
division embracing the place where such action is
pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “It is
well-established that statutes conferring jurisdiction upon
the federal courts, and particularly removal statutes, are to
be narrowly construed in light of [the federal courts']
constitutional role as limited tribunals.”
Pritchett v. Office Depot, Inc., 420 F.3d 1090,
1094-95 (10th Cir. 2005). “[A]ll doubts are to be
resolved against removal.” Fajen v. Fndn. Res. Ins.
Co., Inc., 683 F.2d 331, 33310th Cir. 1982).
party invoking diversity jurisdiction-here,
Defendants-“bears the burden of proving its existence
by a preponderance of the evidence.” Middleton v.
Stephenson, 749 F.3d 1197, 1200 (10th Cir. 2014);
see also McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529 F.3d 947,
955 (10th Cir. 2008) (“It is only the jurisdictional
facts that must be proven by a preponderance-not the legal
conclusion that the statutory threshold amount is in
controversy.”). Subject-matter jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a) requires, in addition to diversity of
citizenship, that “the matter in controversy exceed
the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Where removal is
sought on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, “the sum
demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be
deemed to be the amount in controversy, ” subject to
certain statutory exceptions. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2).
state-court Petition, Plaintiff seeks judgment against
Defendant Hurd in the amount of $144, 933.23, plus interest,
and judgment against Defendants Leon Goble and Shannon Goble
in the amount of $43, 171.59, plus interest. Pet. at 5. The
parties agree that these claims, which seek to recover on
prior judgments that were several in nature, may not be
aggregated to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement.
See Watson v. Blankinship, 20 F.3d 383, 386 (10th
Cir. 1994) (“Every separate and distinct claim must
individually meet the amount in controversy.”); see
also Elliott Ind. Ltd. P'ship v. BP Am. Prod. Co.,
407 F.3d 1091, 1105 (10th Cir. 2005). The parties also agree
that Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Hurd satisfies
the amount-in-controversy requirement.
parties disagree as to Plaintiff's claim against the
Goble Defendants, however. Plaintiff seeks remand on the
basis that “the sum demanded in good faith”
against the Goble Defendants in the Petition was only $43,
171.59, and so the § 1332(a) requirement of an amount in
controversy exceeding $75, 000 is not met. Defendants resist
remand for several reasons. The Court addresses each of
Defendants' objections in turn.
Defendants argue that the amount sought by Plaintiff includes
the interest that was awarded and is accruing on the
underlying state-court judgments (although not the interest
that might be awarded in this federal-court proceeding,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). Plaintiff does not
dispute this contention but correctly points out that, even
assuming Defendants' interest calculations are accurate,
the total judgment up to the date of removal is only $50,
820.88, or possibly $58, 273.64-either of which is still
considerably below the $75, 000 jurisdictional minimum.
See Defs.' Resp. at 5; id. Ex. 1 (Doc.
Defendants point to Plaintiff's expert costs as
increasing the amount in controversy by $10, 000 to $15, 000,
but they offer no evidence for this proposition, and neither
the Oklahoma nor the federal statute specifically provides
for an award of such costs. Defs.' Resp. at 5, 6-7; Okla.
Stat. tit. 12, § 942; 28 U.S.C. § 920.
Defendants contend, based on Defendant Shannon Goble's
own testimony, that Plaintiff's attorney's fees will
amount to $24, 000 or more in this action. They assert that
such fees are part of the amount in controversy because,
“Plaintiff is setting up its case for statutory
recovery under 12 O.S. § 936, which allows for recovery
of attorney fees in a collection action based on a contract
for services.” Defs.' Resp. at 5; see Id.
Ex. 2 (Doc. No. 4-2); Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 936
(allowing attorney's fees to the prevailing party
“in any civil action to recover for labor or services