United States District Court, D. New Jersey
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION
HONORABLE JAMES B. CLARK, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on a motion by
Plaintiff USAA Casualty Insurance Company (“USAA”
or “Plaintiff') to remand this matter to New Jersey
Superior Court, Bergen County, Chancery Division [ECF No. 4].
Defendant CIT Bank, N.A. (“CIT Bank” or
“Defendant”) opposes Plaintiff's motion [ECF
No. 9]. Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 72.1(a)(2), the
Honorable John Michael Vazquez, U.S.D.J., referred the
present Motion to the undersigned for Report and
Recommendation. Having considered the parties' written
submissions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78,
for good cause shown and for the reasons set forth herein, it
is respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's motion to
remand be DENIED.
filed the instant action in the Superior Court of New Jersey,
Bergen County, Chancery Division, on August 22, 2017 seeking,
inter alia, injunctive relief and monetary damages
in connection with oil contamination located on
Defendant's property. See generally Complaint,
ECF No. 1-1 (“Compl.”).
forth in the Complaint, Plaintiff is a Texas corporation
authorized to conduct business in the state of New Jersey.
Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff's insured, Karen
Schuitema, owns the property located at 21 Somerville Street,
Rochelle Park, New Jersey 07662 (the “Schuitema
Property”). Id. ¶ 7. Defendant owns the
property immediately adjacent to the Schuitema Property
located at 25 Somerville Street, Rochelle Park, New Jersey
07662 (the “CIT Property”). Id. ¶
6. On February 22, 2007, a 275-gallon underground oil storage
tank was removed from the Schuitema Property. After a
thorough investigation it was determined that oil leaking
from the storage tank caused soil and groundwater
contamination. Id. ¶ 9. As a result, USAA
expended more than $800, 000 remediating the Schuitema
Property. Id. ¶ 10.
after remediating the Schuitema Property, Plaintiff alleges
that it learned of a similar fuel oil contamination located
on the CIT Property, which resulted from a separate leaking
underground oil storage tank located on the CIT Property.
Id. ¶ 12. Although part of the CIT Property was
remediated, Plaintiff alleges that the contamination located
around the foundation of the CIT Property has not been
addressed or otherwise remediated. Id. ¶ 14.
to the initiation of this action, Plaintiff alleges that two
injection wells, located on the CIT Property and the property
line between the CIT and Schuitema properties, showed
evidence of petroleum oil contamination. Id.
¶¶ 16, 18. According to Plaintiff, the existence of
this contamination on the borderline of the parties'
properties suggests that the contamination has migrated from
the CIT Property to the Schuitema Property, thereby causing
damages to the Schuitema Property. Id. ¶ 19.
September 25, 2017, Defendant removed this action to this
Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C §1441, citing this
Court's federal diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C
§ 1332(a). See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1
(“NOR”). Although Plaintiff's Complaint does
not contain a specified amount of damages, Defendant contends
that removal is proper because the parties are diverse and
because the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See
Id. On October 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant
motion to remand this matter to state court, asserting that
the amount in controversy does not exceed the jurisdictional
threshold of $75, 000. See Pl. Mot. to Remand, ECF
action brought in state court may be removed by the defendant
to a federal district court if the district court has
original jurisdiction over the claim. 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a); see also Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors Am.,
357 F.3d 392, 398 (3d Cir. 2004). Federal district courts
have original jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of
citizenship where: (1) the matter in controversy exceeds the
sum or value of $75, 000; and (2) there is diversity of
citizenship between each plaintiff and each defendant in the
case. See, e.g., Kaufman v. Allstate N.J. Ins. Co.,
561 F.3d 144, 148 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1)). Under § 1332(a)(1), “the party
asserting federal jurisdiction in a removal case bears the
burden of showing, at all stages of the litigation, that the
case is properly before the federal court.”
Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir.
2007) (citing Samuel-Bassett, 357 F.3d at 396);
Morgan v. Gay, 471 F.3d 469, 473 (3d Cir. 2006). Any
doubts must be resolved in favor of remand.
Samuel-Basset, 357 F.3d at 403.
parties do not dispute that complete diversity exists.
Plaintiff is a corporation organized under Texas law,
licensed to conduct business in New Jersey, with its
principal place of business in Texas. Compl. ¶ 1.
Defendant is a national association, organized and existing
under the National Bank Act, 12 U.S.C. 38, with its principal
place of business in California. Id. ¶ 2.
Accordingly, because the Court is satisfied that there is
complete diversity between the parties, subject matter
jurisdiction turns on whether the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000.
Third Circuit has provided a ‘roadmap' for
evaluating whether a case removed from state court should be
remanded because the amount in controversy does not exceed
$75, 000.” Venuto v. Atlantis Motor Grp., LLC,
No. CV173363RBKKMW, 2017 WL 4570283, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 13,
2017) (citing Frederico, 507 F.3d at 196). First, if
the parties dispute jurisdictional facts, the party carrying
the burden of proof must establish federal jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence. Frederico, 507 F.3d
at 194 (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance
Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)). Even if jurisdictional
facts are not expressly in dispute, a “court may still
insist that the jurisdictional facts be established or the
case be dismissed, and for that purpose the court may demand
that the party alleging jurisdiction justify his allegations
by a preponderance of the evidence.” McNutt,
298 U.S. at 189.
if jurisdictional facts are not in dispute, or the court is
satisfied with the sufficiency of the jurisdictional proof,
the analysis turns to whether the jurisdictional amount is
met with “legal certainty.” Frederico,
507 F.3d at 196. The legal certainty test has two alternative
strands. Id. If the complaint “specifically
avers that the amount sought is less than the jurisdictional
minimum, ” a defendant “seeking removal must
prove to a legal certainty that [the] plaintiff can recover
the jurisdictional amount.” Id. at 196-97
(relying on Morgan, 471 F.3d at 469). A plaintiff is
entitled to this deferential standard only if the complaint
“specifically (and not impliedly) and precisely (and
not inferentially) states that the amount sought” shall
not exceed the jurisdictional minimum. Id. at 196.
Alternatively, if the “plaintiff has not specifically
averred in the complaint that the amount in controversy is
less than the jurisdictional minimum, ” then “the
case must be remanded if it appears to a legal certainty that
the plaintiff cannot recover the jurisdictional
amount.” Id. at 197 (emphasis in original)
(relying on Samuel-Bassett, 357 F.3d at 392).