Massachusetts Court Discusses Diversity Jurisdiction

In any civil lawsuit, the plaintiff has a certain amount of leeway in deciding where the case should be filed. In some instances, however, the defendant will seek to move the case to federal court, which is often less favorable to plaintiffs. Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts discussed what a defendant seeking to move a case to federal court must establish, in a case in which the plaintiff averred that she suffered harm because of a defective product. If you were injured by a dangerous product, it is wise to speak with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your options for pursuing claims against the party responsible for your harm.

Facts and Procedural History

It is reported that the plaintiff was lying in a hammock manufactured by the defendant when it collapsed, causing the plaintiff to fracture her back. The plaintiff filed a complaint in the Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging product liability claims against the defendant. The defendant then removed the case to federal court on the basis of jurisdiction. In turn, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to remand the case to the Superior Court, on the grounds that the amount in controversy was not over $75,000.00. The court ultimately granted the plaintiff’s motion, remanding the case.

Federal Diversity Jurisdiction

Under 28 U.S.C. 1441(a), a defendant has the right to remove any action from State court to a district court that has original jurisdiction. If it appears that a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case that has been removed from State court to a federal court, however, the case must be remanded. The defendant that removed the case to federal court bears the burden of proving that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. Further, the courts strictly construe the statute pertaining to removal, and any doubts regarding whether removal is proper are resolved in favor of remanding the case.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the court had diversity jurisdiction over the matter, which required it to prove that the parties were citizens of different states and that the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000. It was not disputed that the parties were citizens of different states. Thus, the only issue was whether the defendant proved that the amount in controversy requirement was met. The court noted that the plaintiff’s complaint did not set forth a specific amount of damages.

The defendant, therefore, was permitted to set forth the amount of controversy in his notice of removal. As the plaintiff disputed the defendant’s allegation, though, the court was required to decide the issue based on a preponderance of the evidence. Upon review, the court found that the plaintiff’s alleged damages, as indicated by the complaint, were less than $60,000. Although the defendant argued the plaintiff’s damages could exceed $75,000, its assertion lacked support. Thus, the court remanded the case.

Meet with a Capable Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you sustained an injury while using a defective product, it is in your best interest to meet with a capable attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to recover. The zealous personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan are adept at aiding injured parties in the pursuit of damages, and we will work diligently to help you seek a just result. You can contact us at 508-822-6600 or via our form online to schedule a complimentary and confidential consultation.