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Krueger v. Stively

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 25, 2019

GABRIELLE KRUEGER, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON STIVELY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye Chief U.S. District Court Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Gabrielle Krueger's (“Krueger”) Motion to Remand (Dkt. 6), and Defendant Jason Stively's (“Stively”) Motion to Amend/Correct the Notice of Removal and Answer (Dkt. 10). Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the Motions without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds good cause to DENY Krueger's Motion to Remand (Dkt. 6) and DISMISS Stively's Motion to Amend/Correct the Notice of Removal and Answer (Dkt. 10) as MOOT.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Krueger and Stively both own real property on Stagecoach Road in Ada County, Idaho. Both properties were at one time owned by Plaintiff's father. A portion of Stagecoach Road runs along Stively's property and provides the only access to Krueger's property. Plaintiff contends that her family has “continuously used Stagecoach Road for access to the Krueger Property . . . since [the] parcel was purchased [in 1999].” Dkt. 1-1, at 3.

         In 2015, Krueger began drafting business plans to develop the Krueger Property into a riding stable-where she intends to provide riding lessons and horse boarding services. In furtherance of this project, Krueger plans to improve Stagecoach Road. In 2016, she applied for a special use permit from Ada County and requested a public hearing before the Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission. A hearing was held, and the Commission found that Krueger's plan was in line with the County's comprehensive plan and all applicable County ordinances.

         In 2017, Stively purchased his property-previously owned by Plaintiff's father- on Stagecoach Road. In 2018, Plaintiff's father deeded a parcel of land (referred to as the “Krueger Property”) to her. A dispute soon arose between Krueger and Stively regarding the scope of Krueger's easement over Stagecoach Road. Krueger ultimately filed this matter in state court on August 23, 2018.

         Krueger's complaint includes two causes of action: (1) Quiet Title for an easement by implication over Stagecoach Road; and (2) Declaratory Relief for judicial determination of the rights, obligations, and interest of the parties with regard to the easement. On September 17, 2018, Stively removed the case to federal court on the grounds of diversity jurisdiction. Krueger then filed a Motion to Remand arguing that removal was improper because complete diversity does not exist, and the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Removal from state court is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Section 1441(b) allows for removal based on diversity of citizenship. For this to occur, there must be complete diversity of citizenship between the parties (meaning each of the plaintiffs is a citizen of a different state than each of the defendants), and the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Whether diversity exists is generally determined from the face of the complaint. Gould v. Mutual Life Ins. Co. of New York, 790 F.2d 769, 773 (9th Cir.1986).

         Federal courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal. See Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.1992). In diversity cases where the amount in controversy is in doubt, there is a presumption against removal jurisdiction, which means the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper. Id. This burden is satisfied if the plaintiff claims a sum greater than the jurisdictional requirement of $75, 000, or if the amount claimed is unclear from the complaint and the defendant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that “more likely than not” the jurisdictional requirement is met. See Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir.1996). This “more likely than not” standard strikes an appropriate balance between the plaintiff's right to choose their forum and the defendant's right to remove. Id.

         To determine whether the amount in controversy requirement has been met, the Court may consider “facts presented in the removal petition as well as any summary judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.” See Cohn v. Petsmart, Inc., 281 F.3d 837, 839 (9th Cir. 2002). Conclusory allegations by the defendant, or speculative arguments about the potential value of an award, however, will not suffice to overcome the traditional presumption against removal jurisdiction. See Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 375-77 (9th Cir.1997); Gaus, 980 F.2d at 567. “[T]he defendant bears the burden of actually proving the facts to support . . . the jurisdictional amount.” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 567.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Diversity ...


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