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GANDOLFO v. U-HAUL INT'L

December 19, 1996

SUZANNE GANDOLFO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOLIN

 Defendant U-Haul International, Inc. ("U-Haul") has moved to dismiss several of the plaintiffs' claims. First, U-Haul has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims for emotional distress and for punitive damages. Second, U-Haul has moved to dismiss the claims of Ingrid Chen, Michael Gandolfo, Suzanne Gandolfo, Chris Hansen, and Marianne Peterson for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, alleging that these plaintiffs fail to meet the $ 50,000 jurisdictional threshold amount. For the following reasons, defendant's motions to dismiss will be denied.

 BACKGROUND

 On August 23, 1994, plaintiff Michael Gandolfo rented a truck from U-Haul to transport personal items belonging to himself, Ingrid Chen, Suzanne Gandolfo, Chris Hansen, and Marianne Peterson from California to New Jersey. On August 30, 1994, early in the morning, the truck mechanically malfunctioned in New Jersey. Michael Gandolfo contacted U-Haul, which sent its employee mechanic Karl Padilla to repair the vehicle. Padilla was unsuccessful.

 U-Haul then arranged to tow the vehicle to its facility in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. When the vehicle arrived at the Saddle Brook facility, at about 3:00 a.m., U-Haul assured the plaintiffs that the vehicle and its contents would be safe. Padilla took Gandolfo to a nearby hotel. At about 8:30 a.m. Gandolfo received a telephone call from the Saddle Brook Police Department advising him that the truck was missing from defendant's Saddle Brook facility. All of the contents were missing and none have been recovered.

 Each plaintiff claims losses due to property damage, emotional distress, inconvenience, and emotional instability. Suzanne Gandolfo claims property damage and other losses totaling $ 53,263 and $ 10,000 for mental anguish, inconvenience, and emotional instability. Michael Gandolfo claims property damage and other losses totaling $ 2,120.22 and $ 1,000 for mental anguish, inconvenience, and emotional damages. Marianne Peterson claims property damage and other losses totaling $ 55,295 and $ 10,000 for mental anguish, inconvenience, and emotional instability. Chris Hansen claims property damage and other losses totaling $ 30,767 and $ 10,000 for mental anguish, inconvenience, and emotional instability. Ingrid Chen claims property damage and other losses totaling $ 16,331 and $ 10,000 for mental anguish, inconvenience, and emotional instability. In addition, the plaintiffs claim they are entitled to $ 3,000 for moving expenses and the costs associated with this litigation.

 DISCUSSION

 Currently before the Court are U-Haul's motions to dismiss: (1) plaintiffs' claims for emotional distress and for punitive damages, and (2) the claims of the various plaintiffs for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

 The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Sturm v. Clark, 835 F.2d 1009, 1011 (3d Cir. 1987). A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if the facts pled and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom are insufficient as a matter of law to support the relief requested. Commonwealth of Pa. ex rel. Zimmerman v. PepsiCo, Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 1988). The Court must limit its consideration to the facts alleged in the complaint. Biesenbach v. Guenther, 588 F.2d 400, 402 (3d Cir. 1978). Moreover, the Court must assume that the factual allegations and the inferences arising therefrom are true. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984). The motion can be granted only if it appears that under no facts that could be proven would the plaintiff be entitled to relief. D.P. Enterprises, Inc. v. Bucks County Community College, 725 F.2d 943 (3d Cir. 1984).

 A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

 a. Suzanne Gandolfo and Marianne Peterson

 Diversity jurisdiction requires an amount in controversy in excess of $ 50,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1044 (3rd Cir.) (citing 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332(a)), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 964, 126 L. Ed. 2d 373, 114 S. Ct. 440 (1993). The person asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the court. Id. The plaintiff's allegations on the face of the complaint are determinative if the claim appears to be made in good faith: "The rule governing dismissal for want of jurisdiction in cases brought in the federal court is that . . . the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently made in good faith." Id. at 1045-46 (citing St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89, 82 L. Ed. 845, 58 S. Ct. 586 (1938)). Jurisdiction is deemed to be proper unless it appears to a legal certainty that the claim does not exceed $ 50,000. 994 F.2d at 1046.

 In this case, the damages alleged by plaintiffs Suzanne Gandolfo and Marianne Peterson on the face of the complaint as elaborated by their Response to Request for Damages are adequate to withstand defendant's motion to dismiss. Suzanne Gandolfo claims damages of $ 53,263 and Marianne Peterson claims damages of $ 55,295. *fn1" These plaintiffs not only have stated the amount of property damages that they seek to recover, but they have itemized the damages. There is no indication their ...


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