New Jersey-based Hess Corporation was sued in Broward Circuit Court for employment discrimination and retaliation. As far as the blog can tell, this is just a routine employment case and it would not ordinarily be covered by the blog. But what matters here is the importance of hiring attorneys who understand federal jurisdiction and the interplay between the state and federal courts.
The lawsuit was removed to federal court on October 7, 2010 citing diversity jurisdiction. But according to the notice of removal, the lawsuit was served on Hess Corporation on August 24, 2010. Under the federal removal statute, a defendant has only 30 days from the date of service to remove a case to federal court. At least on the face of the notice of removal, the notice was not timely filed.
But there’s a catch. Hess Corporation asserts that the fact forming the basis of diversity jurisdiction did not exist at the time the complaint was served. Instead, Hess did not realize diversity jurisdiction existed until September 30, 2010, when the plaintiff made a demand for $190,000, which is in excess of the $75,000 required for diversity jurisdiction. This is a popular trick being utilized by defense attorneys — use a plaintiff’s demand letter as evidence of the amount in controversy. Sounds smart, but judges are not buying it and for good reason.
A defendant’s response to a demand letter (which is normally “piss off”) or a defendant’s answer to a lawsuit (which is normally a blanket denial of allegations) is equally relevant (or not relevant) to the amount in controversy.
Most judges recognize that demand letters and responses to demand letters are nothing more than a bargaining tool and are not in any way an accurate reflection of the amount in controversy.
The removal documents are here:
Hess Corp Employment Discrimination
Sarelson Law Firm is frequently brought in to assist other attorneys on complicated issues relating to federal jurisdiction. Even routine lawsuits can be tricky. Hire wisely.
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