United States District Court, D. Maine
RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION TO DISMISS
H. RICH III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
defendants, following their removal of this action on
diversity grounds from state court, move to dismiss it for
lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.
See Defendants CBHH, LLC & Charles Tacker's
Motion To Dismiss (“Motion”) (ECF No. 7). Because
the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000, I
recommend that the court remand the action to the state court
and deem the defendants' motion moot.
Applicable Legal Standards
court is duty-bound to notice, and act upon, defects in its
subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte.” Spooner v.
EEN, Inc., 644 F.3d 62, 67 (1st Cir. 2011).
court has original jurisdiction over civil actions where
complete diversity exists between the parties and the amount
in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). The party seeking to invoke federal
jurisdiction bears the burden of demonstrating that
jurisdiction is proper. See, e.g., Coventry Sewage
Assocs. v. Dworkin Realty Co., 71 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir.
making a jurisdictional determination such as this, the court
is bound to “rigorously enforce the jurisdictional
limits that Congress chooses to set . . . .”
Coventry Sewage, 71 F.3d at 4. To appropriately
respect the boundaries of the federal courts' limited
jurisdiction, all doubts in this area are resolved against
removal and in favor of a remand to state court. See,
e.g., Rosselló-González v.
Calderón-Serra, 398 F.3d 1, 11 (1st Cir. 2004);
Harris Mgmt., Inc. v. Coulombe, No. 2:14-cv-41-GZS,
2014 WL 4723096, at *2 (D. Me. Sept. 23, 2014); English
v. Bank of Am., N.A., Civil No. 1:13-CV-265-DBH, 2013 WL
6448672 at *5 (D. Me. Dec. 9, 2013).
plaintiff alleges $43, 000 in damages. See
Plaintiff's Civil Complaint (“Complaint”),
Exh. C (ECF No. 1-3) to Notice of Removal
(“Notice”) (ECF No. 1), at 2. In their notice of
removal, the defendants argue that this court has subject
matter jurisdiction because of the parties' diversity.
Notice at 2. The defendants assert that diversity
jurisdiction exists because the plaintiff is a resident of
Maine, while the defendants are residents of Arkansas, and
because “the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000
exclusive of interest and costs[.]” Id. The
defendants argue that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000 because the plaintiff “is seeking $250, 000 in
punitive and exemplary damages.” Id. In
addition to punitive damages, the pro se plaintiff
also seeks attorney fees. See Complaint at 2. For
the reasons below, neither punitive damages nor
“attorney fees” enable this action to meet the
amount in controversy prerequisite for diversity
both actual and punitive damages are recoverable under a
complaint each must be considered to the extent claimed in
determining jurisdictional amount.” Bell v.
Preferred Life Assur. Soc. of Montgomery, Ala., 320 U.S.
238, 240 (1943) (footnote omitted).
the plaintiff seeks punitive damages in his complaint,
see Complaint at 2, punitive damages are not
available under Maine's Unfair Trade Practices Act
(“UTPA”), see, e.g., Maine-ly Marine Sales
& Serv., Inc. v. Worrey, No. Civ.A. CV-04-369, 2006
WL 1668039, at *4 (Me. Super. Ct. Apr. 10, 2006); Taylor
v. Philip Morris Inc., No. Civ.A. CV-00-203, 2001 WL
1710710, at *7 (Me. Super. Ct. May 29, 2001). Therefore,
because it is a “legal certainty” that he cannot
recover punitive damages, I cannot consider the $250, 000 the
plaintiff seeks in punitive damages to determine whether the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Bell, 320
U.S. at 240 (“the question remains whether it is
apparent to a legal certainty from the complaint that [the
plaintiff] could not recover . . . sufficient punitive
damages to make up the requisite [jurisdictional
though attorneys' fees are typically excluded from the
amount-in-controversy determination, there are two exceptions
to this rule: ‘when the fees are provided for by
contract, and when a statute mandates or allows payment of
the fees.'” Get In Shape Franchise, Inc. v. TFL
Fishers, LLC, 167 F.Supp.3d 173, 190 (D. Mass. 2016)
(quoting Spielman v. Genzyme Corp., 251 F.3d 1, 7
(1st Cir. 2001)).
both exceptions apply. Maine's UTPA authorizes an award
of reasonable attorney fees. See 5 M.R.S.A. §
213. Likewise, the contract between the parties entitles the
prevailing party in any dispute to attorney fees.
See Real Estate Contract (Residential)