United States District Court, D. Oregon
Michael J. McShane, United States District Judge
brings this negligence action alleging that Defendant's
employee damaged an antique sleigh during transport.
Defendant removed this action, alleging that Plaintiff's
claims are preempted by federal law. Plaintiff moves to
remand, arguing this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over this action because her claim does not meet the
jurisdictional minimum required for removal under the Carmack
Amendment. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's
motion to remand, ECF No. 6, is GRANTED.
2017, Plaintiff contracted with Defendant to ship a newly
purchased antique Studebaker horse drawn sleigh to Redmond,
Oregon. After the sleigh's arrival in Redmond, the sleigh
was significantly damaged when it fell off a loading dock due
to the alleged negligence of Defendant's employee.
2, 2018, Plaintiff filed her complaint in the Circuit Court
of the State of Oregon for Deschutes County. Defendant was
served on May 4, 2018 and filed a timely Notice of Removal on
June 4, 2018.
defendant may remove a civil action from state court to
federal district court if the federal court would have had
original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). District courts have original jurisdiction over all
civil actions arising under the Constitution and laws of the
United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. When, as here, the
court lacks diversity jurisdiction, removal is proper only
when the court has federal-question jurisdiction over the
subject matter of the complaint. Caterpillar Inc. v.
Willaims, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). “The presence
or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by
the well-pleaded complaint rule, which provides that federal
jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented
on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint. The rule makes the plaintiff the master of the
claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive
reliance on state law.” Id. (internal
quotations and citation omitted).
exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule is the
“artful pleading” doctrine. Hall v. N. Am.
Van Lines, Inc., 476 F.3d 683, 687 (9th Cir. 2007). When
a federal statute completely preempts a particular area of
law, the artful pleading doctrine provides that even a
well-pleaded state law claim may be brought in federal court.
Id. “When the federal statute completely
preempts the state law cause of action, a claim which comes
within the scope of that cause of action, even if pleaded in
terms of state law, is in reality based on federal
law.” Beneficial Nat'l Bank v. Anderson,
539 U.S. 1, 8 (2003).
following removal, the court determines it lacks original
jurisdiction, and that the case was therefore improperly
removed, it must remand the matter to state court. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(c); Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers
Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 8 (1983). “Federal
jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the
right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus v.
Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
“The ‘strong presumption' against removal
jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden
of establishing that removal is proper.” Id.
(quoting Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach &
Assoc., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n.3 (9th Cir. 1990)). While a
defendant's standard of proof is unclear when, as here,
the plaintiff has claimed less than the required amount in
controversy some district courts have held that the defendant
must prove the amount in controversy by a preponderance of
the evidence. Graybill v. Khudaverdian, No. SACV
15-01627-CJC(JCGx), 2015 WL 7295378, at *2-3 (C.D. Cal. Nov.
17, 2015) (“[T]he preponderance of the evidence should
apply . . . when a defendant attempts to remove a case where
a single plaintiff has affirmatively pled an amount below the
Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706, “is the
exclusive cause of action for interstate-shipping contract
claims alleging loss or damage to property.”
Hall, 476 F.3d at 688. As such, the Carmack
Amendment completely preempts a contract claim alleging loss
or damage to property. Id. However, a defendant may not
remove an action against a carrier for damage to shipments
unless the matter in controversy exceeds $10, 000. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1445(b). Removal under § 1445(b) is only proper
if the matter in controversy for each bill of lading exceeds
$10, 000. See Hunter v. United Van Lines, 746 F.2d
635, 652 (9th Cir. 1985); 28 U.S.C. § 1337(a).
contends that removal is proper in this case because
Plaintiff's negligence claims are completely preempted by
the Carmack Amendment and the matter in controversy exceeds
$10, 000. As proof of the actual amount in controversy,
Defendant points to Plaintiff's demand letter,
which Plaintiff wrote that the “total cost of
remediation and repair in this matter could well exceed $10,
000.” ECF No. 1-3. Defendant also claims that
Plaintiff's settlement demand for $10, 000 in the same
letter demonstrates that Plaintiff is seeking more than $10,
000 in this action. Defendant argues that Plaintiff's
statements are sufficient evidence that the amount in
controversy “exceeds” $10, 000.
response, Plaintiff argues that her demand letter and
complaint capped the damages at $10, 000. Plaintiff notes
that her demand letter and complaint clarifies her intent to
bring her claim under ORS 20.080. ORS 20.080 is titled
“Attorney fees for certain small tort claims, ”
and provides for fees “where the amount pleaded is $10,
000 or less[.]” Plaintiff also notes her complaint
expressly limits the damages to $10, 000. See Compl.