Chase v. Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc.

Decision Date27 March 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-2037,96-2037
Citation110 F.3d 424
PartiesJacqueline C. CHASE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SHOP 'N SAVE WAREHOUSE FOODS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

James R. Williams (argued), Norton, Williams & Caponi, Belleville, IL, for plaintiff-appellant.

Kurt E. Reitz (argued), Mary S. Juen, Thompson Coburn, Belleville, IL, for defendant-appellee.

Before ESCHBACH, KANNE, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge.

Chase twice brought a negligence action against Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc. ("Shop 'N Save") in Illinois state court arising from a 1992 assault in one of defendant's grocery store parking lots. The first time around, Shop 'N Save removed the case to federal court on diversity grounds. Chase moved to remand for insufficient jurisdictional amount, was denied, and then voluntarily withdrew the action. Two years later she returned to litigate the identical claim. Again, Chase filed in Illinois state court, again Shop 'N Save removed the action, again Chase moved for remand on the grounds of jurisdictional amount, and again the district court denied the remand. The deja vu ends here, however, because Chase did not withdraw the second claim, and the district court went on to award summary judgment for Shop 'N Save and to assign Chase costs for the time defendant spent preparing its second motion in opposition to remand. Chase asks our court to reverse the district court's denial of remand and award of costs. For the reasons below, we affirm the district court.

I. Background

In 1992, Jacqueline Chase was attacked in defendant's grocery store parking lot by an unknown assailant. On January 7, 1993, Chase filed a one-count complaint against Shop 'N Save in Illinois state court (the "first action") alleging that its failure to properly light, patrol, and post warnings in the parking lot proximately caused her injuries. In the complaint, Chase alleged a long list of injuries including extensive and disabling internal and external head injuries, past and future pain and suffering and mental anguish, disability, lost wages, and impairment of future earning capacity. Because Illinois civil procedure law does not allow specific prayers for relief in personal injuries cases, Chase's complaint contained only a general prayer for relief alleging damages "in excess of $15,000." In an attempt to discover the amount in controversy, Shop 'N Save sent Chase a request to admit that she would not seek more than $50,000 in damages. Chase refused to answer, on the grounds that discovery of the amount in controversy was "not subject matter which is subject to a request to admit." In April of 1993, Shop 'N Save removed the action to United States District Court on diversity grounds. Chase responded with a motion to remand for failure of jurisdictional amount, which the district court denied. In October of 1993, the parties held a settlement conference, but the negotiations elicited only one settlement offer from Chase for $120,000, which Shop 'N Save did not accept. Shop 'N Save also made one offer at the conference to settle for $4,400, the actual medical costs Chase had incurred up to the date of the conference. Chase did not accept this offer. Finally, in February of 1994, after Shop 'N Save filed a motion for summary judgment, but before the district court ruled, Chase sought and obtained an order granting voluntary dismissal of her claim. In the court's dismissal order, the judge noted that all discovery conducted by the parties in the first action would be usable in any subsequently filed case arising out of the 1992 assault.

Just as the district court predicted, Chase returned to Illinois state court in 1995 to take a second bite at the apple, filing another negligence action (the "second action") arising out of the 1992 parking lot assault. The second complaint, except for typographical errors, was identical to the first, and included the same general prayer for relief. The remove and remand two-step began again. On March 8, 1995, Shop 'N Save removed the action to federal court under diversity jurisdiction, simultaneously filing a motion for summary judgment. On March 13, 1995, Chase filed a motion to remand the cause to state court, again on the grounds that Shop 'N Save put forth no evidence that the matter was worth more than $50,000. Neither Chase's second complaint nor her motion to remand contained a stipulation that she would not seek damages over $50,000. No new settlement negotiations took place during the pendency of the second action; thus, the only offer Chase made to settle the 1992 assault was her original offer of $120,000 made in the first action.

After removal, but before the district court ruled on the remand order, several things happened. First, Shop 'N Save filed a motion in opposition to Chase's motion to remand, asserting that it had met its burden to show that the amount in controversy exceeded $50,000. It also sent Chase a second set of requests to admit that her claim was not worth more than $50,000. Finally, on April 4, 1995, Chase answered the requests, stipulating that she would not seek over $50,000. A month later, some two months after removal, Chase sought leave to amend her complaint to request "an amount no greater than $49,999.99 plus costs." On June 23, 1995, the district court denied Chase's motion to remand and assessed costs against Chase for Shop 'N Save's preparation of its memorandum in opposition to Chase's motion to remand in the second action. Then, asserting its diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Shop 'N Save.

Chase now appeals the denial of remand, asserting that the amount in controversy required for diversity jurisdiction was not met. She also appeals as improper the court's award of costs for Shop 'N Save's preparation of its motion in opposition to remand in the second action. 1 We take jurisdiction of this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and note our inherent jurisdiction to decide issues of contested subject-matter jurisdiction. See Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 798 F.2d 1051, 1055 n. 3 (7th Cir.1986), citing Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541, 106 S.Ct. 1326, 1331, 89 L.Ed.2d 501 (1986).

II. Removal

Chase argues that the district court should have remanded the case for lack of jurisdiction because Shop 'N Save did not prove that the requisite amount in controversy for diversity jurisdiction was met. We review de novo the propriety of removal of a state action to federal court. Seinfeld v. Austen, 39 F.3d 761, 763 (7th Cir.1994).

Removal is proper over any action that could have originally been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Here, defendant removed the case on diversity grounds. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. As the party seeking to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction, Shop 'N Save bears the burden of demonstrating that the complete diversity and amount in controversy requirements are met. See NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-America, Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 237 (7th Cir.1995); Jones v. General Tire & Rubber Co., 541 F.2d 660, 664 (7th Cir.1976). A defendant meets this burden by supporting her allegations of jurisdiction with "competent proof," McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct. 780, 785, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936), which in our circuit requires the defendant to offer evidence which proves "to a reasonable probability that jurisdiction exists." Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir.1993) (quoting Shaw v. Dow Brands, Inc., 994 F.2d 364, 366 (7th Cir.1993)). Because the parties do not dispute the complete diversity requirement, Shop 'N Save must show, to a reasonable probability, that the amount in controversy exceeds $50,000.

The starting point in determining the amount in controversy is typically the face of the complaint, where the plaintiff indicates the claim's value in her request for relief. This inquiry was unhelpful for Shop 'N Save, however, because Illinois civil procedure law prohibited Chase from praying for specific relief in her complaint:

in actions for injury to the person, no ad damnum may be pleaded except to the minimum extent necessary to comply with the circuit rules of assignment where the claim is filed.... [If more than the minimum is pleaded] the claim ... shall, on motion of a defendant or on the court's own motion, be dismissed without prejudice....

735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-604. In accordance with this rule, both negligence complaints filed by Chase properly prayed for relief "in excess of $15,000." While this rule frustrates a defendant's ability to determine the amount in controversy solely from the complaint, we have held that in such instances the district court may look outside the pleadings to other evidence of jurisdictional amount in the record. See Shaw, 994 F.2d at 366; Jadair, Inc. v. Walt Keeler, Co., Inc., 679 F.2d 131, 132-33 (7th Cir.1982). The court, however, is limited to examining only that evidence of amount in controversy that was available at the moment the petition for removal was filed. In re Shell Oil Co., 970 F.2d 355, 356 (7th Cir.1992) (per curiam).

The germane questions, then, are (1) what evidence of amount in controversy was before the district court in the second action at the point of removal, and (2) does this evidence prove, to a reasonable probability, that the jurisdictional amount was met? To meet its burden on the latter, Shop 'N Save relies on the following evidence of amount in controversy:

1. Chase's sole settlement offer of $120,000, made at an October, 1993 settlement conference in the first action; 2

2. Chase's refusal to respond to Shop 'N Save's request to admit that the case was worth less than the jurisdictional amount in the first action; 3

3. Chase's allegations, made in both (identical) complaints, of serious, disabling physical and mental...

To continue reading

Request your trial
354 cases
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Illinois
    • February 26, 2010
    ...the defendant to offer evidence which proves `to a reasonable probability that jurisdiction exists.'" Chase v. Shop `N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir.1997) (citations omitted). However, if the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the action must be reman......
  • Morales v. Fagen, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of Illinois
    • July 31, 2009
    ...stipulation is evidence that amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum." Id. at *2, citing Chase v. Shop `N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 428 (7th Cir. 1997) (where plaintiff's "refusal to respond to [Defendant's] request to admit that case was worth less than the......
  • Brokaw v. Boeing Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • October 5, 2015
    ...the defendant to offer evidence which proves to a reasonable probability that jurisdiction exists." Chase v. Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir.1997) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)."In considering a motion for remand, the court must examine the ......
  • Brand Name Prescription Drugs Antitrust Litigation, In re
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • August 15, 1997
    ...evidence of federal jurisdiction once the existence of that jurisdiction is fairly cast into doubt. Chase v. Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir.1997); Wellness Community-National- "National v. Wellness House, 70 F.3d 46, 49 (7th Cir.1995); Selcke v. New England I......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT