United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WORLDWIDE EXECUTIVE JOB SEARCH SOLUTIONS, LLC, et al, Plaintiff,
NORTH BRIDGE GROUP, et. al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to
remand this case to state court (ECF No. 10).
argues that Defendant's Notice of Removal, was improperly
filed on March 22, 2017, after the 30-day deadline for
removal as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1) had
passed. (See Pls. Br. at 7; ECF. No. 10-1.)
Plaintiff argues that, because the Complaint was filed on
February 6, 2017, Defendant was required to remove the action
within 30 days of that date. Id. The following are
facts relevant to this motion.
February 6, 2017 Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Law
Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hunterdon
County, and Defendants were served on that date. The
Complaint contains four counts against Defendant: 1)
defamation (libel), 2) tortious interference with contractual
relations, 3) tortious interference with prospective economic
advantage, and 4) demand for permanent injunctive relief.
(See Compl. ¶ 42-62; ECF No. 1-1.)
review of Plaintiff's Complaint, on March 7, 2017,
Defendant requested a written statement of damages, pursuant
to New Jersey Court Rule 4:5-2, in order to ascertain the
amount in controversy. (Defs. Br. at pg. 1; ECF No.
12.) On March 8, 2017, Plaintiff provided a statement of
damages to Defendant, claiming damages of $4, 500, 000. (Pls.
Br. at pg. 7.)
March 22, 2017, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), based upon diversity
jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). (Defs.
Br. at pg. 1.) Federal jurisdiction based on diversity is
undisputed by the parties. Plaintiff filed the current motion
seeking to remand the matter back to New Jersey State Court.
(Defs. Br. at pg. 1.) Plaintiff allege that Defendant's
removal was untimely, as it was filed more than 30 days after
Defendants were first served with the Complaint. (Pls. Br. at
to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1), a defendant may file a notice
of removal of a civil court action, within 30-days from its
receipt of the Complaint. This general rule allows for an
exception, 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3), establishing that,
where the initial pleadings was not removable, the 30-day
timeline will be triggered by a defendant's receipt of an
amended pleading or a document “from which it may be
first ascertained that the case is one which is or has become
removable.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3).
main issue in this case is whether the 30 day removal clock
required by 28 U.S.C. § 1446 started running on February
6, 2017 when Defendant received the initial Complaint or on
March 8, 2017 when Defendant received the statement of
damages claiming $4, 500, 000.
this action was originally filed in Superior Court, New
Jersey State Court rules initially governed the pleadings.
N.J. Ct. R. 4:5-2 states, "[i]f unliquidated money
damages are claimed in any court . . . the pleading shall
demand damages generally without specifying the amount. N.J.
Ct. R. 4:5-2. Although the Complaint did not plead a specific
amount of damages, it still complied with the state rules.
for Federal Courts to have jurisdiction of civil actions
between citizens of different states, the amount in
controversy must exceeds exceed $75, 000. See 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Since the Complaint failed to state
an amount, it is unclear whether the amount-in-controversy
requirement was evident in Plaintiff's pleadings.
Jersey District Court judges have applied two approaches in
resolving matters such as the present one. Buchanan v.
Lott, 255 F.Supp.2d 326, 329-30 (D.N.J. 2003). The Third
Circuit has not endorsed either standard. Romano v.
Wal-Mart Stores E., LP, No. CV 16-7420, 2017 WL 119471,
at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 11, 2017).
first approach holds that if a Complaint does not plead
specific damages, and does not otherwise make clear that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the 30-day clock for
removal does not begin to run until the defendant receives a
document that clearly states the amount in controversy is
more than $75, 000. Vartanian v. Terzian, 960
F.Supp. 58, 61-62 (D.N.J. 1999). The Vartanian court
relied on Third Circuit authority, which states, "the
relevant test is not what the defendants purportedly knew,
but what [the pleadings or other documents] said."
Foster v. Mut. Fire, Marine & Inland Ins. Co.,
968 F.2d 48, 54 (3d Cir. 1993), overruled on other grounds,
Sikrica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214 (3d
there is an inherent tension between the federal court's
reliance upon demands in pleadings and the New Jersey court
rule prohibiting pleadings from specifying a dollar amount
for unliquidated damages, Vartanian also relied on a
Fifth Circuit rule. Vartanian, 960 F.Supp. at 61.
The Fifth Circuit uses a bright-line rule that states that, a
plaintiff who wishes to trigger the 30-day removal clock
mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1446 must include in the initial
pleading a statement that damages are "in excess of the
federal jurisdictional amount." Chapman v.
Powermatic Inc., 969 F.2d 160, 163 (5th Cir. 1992).
Vartanian adopted this approach, holding that if a
plaintiff did not include such an allegation in the
complaint, and nothing else in the complaint indicated that
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the 30-day clock
does not begin to run until the defendant receives a document
noting the damages, as outlined by 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b)(3). Vartanian, 960 F.Supp. at 62. In
summary, if the plaintiff "does not or cannot plead
damages in a specific dollar amount but wishes the 30-day
period to run from the defendant's receipt of the initial
pleading, the plaintiff must place in the initial pleading a
specific allegation that damages exceed the minimum federal
jurisdictional amount.” Id. at 61-62.
second approach holds that even if the complaint does not
include specific damages, the time for removal begins to run
from the filing date of the Complaint so long as the
defendant "can reasonably and intelligently conclude
from the pleadings that the amount in controversy exceeds the