Federal Court Refuses to Remand Product Liability Case to State Court, Despite Plaintiff’s Stipulation of Damages Less Than $75,000

Attorneys who practice law in the area of personal injury and wrongful death are often concerned about the timing of a lawsuit, and rightfully so. Claims not filed within the statute of limitations and statute of repose are usually dismissed by the courts.

However, the timing of a lawsuit is not the only consideration in such cases. For example, in a South Carolina product liability lawsuit, there may also be a question of where to file suit. Sometimes, there is only one possible court in which to file a claim, but sometimes multiple courts arguably have jurisdiction.

Sometimes, even after a plaintiff has filed his or her suit, there is a chance that jurisdiction may be changed – at the defendant’s request. While not every defendant has a right to remove a case to another court, there are some circumstances in which this is possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a South Carolina citizen who filed suit against an Ohio corporation, asserting claims for negligence, recklessness, and breach of warranties in relation to work done on the tires of the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff’s suit was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Lexington County, South Carolina, in November 2018. In January 2019, the defendant removed the plaintiff’s state court action to federal court based upon diversity jurisdiction. According to the defendant, the federal court had jurisdiction based upon the diversity of citizenship between the parties and the fact that the plaintiff refused to stipulate that his damages were less than $75,000, the threshold for diversity jurisdiction in federal court.

Nine months later, the plaintiff filed a motion to remand his action to state court, stating that he stipulated that the amount in controversy did not exceed $75,000. The defendant opposed the defendant’s motion to remand, arguing that it had satisfied the requirements for removal to federal court at the time of the initial removal and that the plaintiff’s post-removal stipulation, which alleged was filed merely days before the plaintiff was scheduled to be deposed, did not defeat jurisdiction.

The Court’s Decision

The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the case should be sent back to state court because, even though he could not have known so at the time of the defendant’s removal of the action to federal court, he is now more certain about the extent of his monetary damages (including additional medical care), and had determined that his damages would not exceed the $75,000 threshold. While the removal statute was to be strictly construed and doubts resolved in favor of remanding a case to state court, jurisdiction was to be determined at the time of removal – not later on in the litigation – according to the federal district court.

In the court’s opinion, the amount in controversy reasonably exceeded $75,000 at the time the plaintiff filed his complaint. His post-removal stipulation did not destroy the federal court’s subject matter jurisdiction.

South Carolina Product Injury Attorney

If you have been injured using a dangerous or defective product, get started on your South Carolina product liability suit today by contacting the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at 864-582-5118 today. The consultation is free, and legal fees are not charged until the case is settled or a favorable judgment is entered on the plaintiff’s behalf.

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