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Personal Injury Suit Remanded Back to State Court Due to Failure to Meet Monetary Threshold for Federal Diversity Jurisdiction

By on August 18, 2017 in Court Rulings with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Maria Nalbone, age 87 years old, fell in her room in the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas. She injured one of her ribs due to the fall. In Nalbone v. The Mirage Casino-Hotel, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117463 (D.N.J. July 25, 2017), plaintiff argued that the matter did not meet the threshold value of $75,000 for federal court diversity jurisdiction and, thus, it should be remanded back to New Jersey state court.

Plaintiff resided in New Jersey and the defendant The Mirage Casino Hotel was a limited liability company of Nevada. Thus, in theory, the case would have qualified for federal diversity jurisdiction (because the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of different states), as long as the value of the matter in dispute exceeded $75,000.

Plaintiff fell on water on the bathroom floor of her hotel room. Her physicians in Las Vegas determined that she bruised a rib, but did not recommend any further treatment. When plaintiff returned to New Jersey, she still had pain and went to her primary care physician. She had her rib x-rayed and it was found that her eleventh rib was fractured, but no further treatment was required. Her physician discharged her.

Her attorney sent a settlement demand to the defendant for $75,000 – which would be one cent below the diversity threshold (because the value of the claim must exceed $75,000).

The lawsuit was originally filed in New Jersey state court but the defendant removed the matter to federal court based upon diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiff thereafter filed this motion to remand the matter back to state court on the basis that the case did not meet the monetary threshold required for diversity jurisdiction.

Based upon federal law, the case is subject to being remanded if, from the face of the pleadings, the Court is satisfied to a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot recover more than the jurisdictional amount of $75,000. In applying this standard, the Court reviewed the complaint, which alleged negligence and sought compensatory damages, costs and legal fees. There was no claim for punitive damages, no lost wages, no hospitalization, and legal fees are not ordinarily awarded in a personal injury suit in New Jersey.

The Court noted that, to a reasonable practitioner and to the Court, the value of the case would not exceed $30,000. Even if one factored in sympathy for the aged plaintiff and the “deep pocket” of the defendant, it would not raise the value about $75,000. Although the plaintiff’s demand was $75,000, the defendant had the burden of proof to establish the value of the claim, which had not been met in this case. Thus, the Court granted the plaintiff’s motion to remand the case back to state court.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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