United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
October 18, 2017, Plaintiff David Rockefeller filed this
Complaint against Comcast and four of its employees
(Cokiliar Smith, James Scarbrough, Shawn Wiggins, and Cathy
Brown). He later submitted an application to proceed in
forma pauperis dated November 6, 2017. The Court has
reviewed the plaintiff's application to proceed in
forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).
Based upon the financial information in Mr. Rockefeller's
application to proceed without prepaying fees or costs, Mr.
Rockefeller qualifies to proceed without prepayment of fees,
and his application to do so will be GRANTED.
a Plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, the Court is required to pre-screen this
Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and to
dismiss the case if the court determines that the action is
frivolous or malicious or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is also required to dismiss any
complaint if it appears that subject matter jurisdiction is
lacking, see Rule 12(h)(3) [“if the court determines at
any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court
must dismiss the action.”]
purposes of this preliminary review, the Court will assume
that all of the allegations in Mr. Rockefeller's
Complaint are true. The Court makes no findings, however, as
to the truthfulness of these allegations. Mr. Rockefeller
alleges that this is a contract case in which he receives
services from Comcast, with which he has a billing dispute.
He alleges that “Comcast/Xfinity stole $100.00. I have
proof. Look at Bill dated 7/1/2017 -- they took off and added
back $112.” The Complaint alleges Defendant James
Scarbrough “mislead the FCC making me to be a fool and
Cokiliar Smith promised to help. She and Mr. Scarbrough will
mislead court 100%.” He attaches a copy of the disputed
Comcast bill (Docket Item 1-1, pages 11-15), and he alleges
Defendants have harassed and threatened him about this
service or billing dispute. Plaintiff seeks damages of $10,
000 according to his Civil Cover Sheet, § VII.
Rockefeller asserts that this Court has subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, as Mr.
Rockefeller is a citizen of New Jersey, and he alleges that
the four individual defendants are in Delaware and that
Comcast is headquartered in Pennsylvania.
is not sufficient that plaintiff and defendants be citizens
of different states. It is also a requirement of diversity
jurisdiction that at least $75, 000 be in dispute. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). In this contract case, Mr. Rockefeller
alleges a monetary dispute for $100 and personal computer
repairs. The Complaint also alleges that Mr. Rockefeller lost
his job working from home and sustained unspecified medical
bills. Regarding Mr. Rockefeller's job from his home for
which he has lost some hours of work due to Comcast's
failure to install his equipment properly, the Complaint
provides no information about what sort of work this was or
what his hourly income from his self-employment is. Mr.
Rockefeller's application to proceed in forma
pauperis dated November 6, 2017, however, lists no
income other than “retirement” which provides a
monthly income, and does not claim any employment or
self-employment income for the past two years in Part 2 of
the Application. This would mean that, during the two years
prior to filing the application in November of 2017, Mr.
Rockefeller has had no self-employment income. The events
giving rise to this lawsuit, however, did not occur until the
dates indicated in the Complaint, July 1, 2017 and September
25, 2017. [Compl., Parts III. A and B.] The facts in his own
papers negate his generalized claim of lost self-employment
income. In any event, he seeks damages of $10, 000, as noted.
Where a party alleges $75, 000 in dispute but provides no
basis for such a recovery in the Complaint and accompanying
papers, a court may dismiss for lack of meeting the
“amount-in-controversy” threshold. The court in
such a situation must determine, “from the face of the
pleadings, [if] it is apparent, to a legal certainty, that
the plaintiff cannot recover the ‘minimum
jurisdictional' amount claimed, or if, from the proofs,
the court is satisfied to a like certainty that the plaintiff
never was entitled to recover that amount....” St.
Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283,
289 (1938). To determine the amount-in-controversy, and
whether it is “legally certain” that the
plaintiff could not recover at least $75, 000, a value must
be placed on the relief sought. See Samuel-Bassett v. Kia
Motors Am., Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 398-400 (3d Cir. 2004).
In the present case, if the plaintiff is successful, the
maximum amount of his recovery, based upon the allegations in
the Complaint, would be equivalent to the disputed sum of
$100, unspecified repairs to his computer, and lost wages of
zero. The Court is aware of no theory of New Jersey law under
which a plaintiff can receive compensation for taking
medicine due to a breach of contract. Generally, in a breach
of contract action under New Jersey law, the plaintiff's
recovery is limited to the value of the contractual services
and not additional compensation for emotional harm and
aggravation caused by the breach of the contract.
appears to a legal certainty, based upon the above facts,
assuming them to be true, that the value of plaintiff's
recovery in this contract case could never meet the $75, 000
threshold required for federal court jurisdiction. Nothing
prevents plaintiff from filing this case in a court of
competent jurisdiction, such as the Small Claims Court of the
Superior Court of New Jersey, but this federal court lacks
jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Accordingly, the accompanying Order will be entered granting
leave to file in forma pauperis, directing the Clerk
to file the Complaint upon the docket, and dismissing the
Complaint without prejudice to Mr. Rockefeller's right to
refile a suit in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Because Mr. Rockefeller is proceeding pro se, he
will be given one opportunity, if he chooses to do so, to
seek to amend the Complaint to cure these jurisdictional
deficiencies. If Mr. Rockefeller, despite this dismissal,
seeks to maintain this case in federal court, he may file a
motion to amend the Complaint, attaching a proposed Amended
Complaint, and explaining how the amendment would cure the
jurisdictional deficiency regarding the $75, 000
amount-in-controversy. Any such motion to amend the Complaint
must be filed within 30 days.
 Plaintiff subsequently filed a
Complaint captioned Rockefeller v. Scarbrough,
18-cv-9588 (JBS), which is screened and addressed in a
separate Opinion ...