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New Skete Farms, Inc. v. Murray

August 18, 2006

NEW SKETE FARMS, INC. A/K/A THE MONKS OF NEW SKETE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW MURRAY, INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A ATMOSPHERE ENTERTAINMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

The Monks of New Skete (New Skete) allege that Matthew Murray, through his company, breached an agreement to pay film royalties. See Dkt. No. 1. Pending is plaintiff's motion to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). See Dkt. No. 5. For the reasons that follow, the motion to remand is denied.

II. Procedural History

On April 19, 2006, Murray filed a notice of removal with this court. See Dkt. No. 1. On May 18, New Skete filed the instant motion seeking remand to the Supreme Court of New York, Washington County. See Dkt. No. 5.

III. Facts

In September 1994, New Skete and Murray formed a contract to memorialize the production and distribution rights for a dog training film.*fn1

See Compl, ¶4; Dkt. No. 1. The agreement stated that New Skete would provide the training instruction, while Murray was given the film rights. See id. The agreement also provided that New Skete "was to receive no less than twenty percent of the net profits after the initial investment and applicable costs are recouped." See id. at ¶5. Since the distribution of the training series began in 1996, New Skete has not received any royalties from the sale of the series except for an initial advance of $5,000.00. See id. at ¶16.

IV. Discussion

A. Remand

New Skete argues that remand is proper because this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) "authorizes a remand on the basis of any defect in removal procedure or because the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction." LaFarge Coppee v. Venezolana De Cementos, S.A.C.A., 31 F.3d 70, 72 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "On a motion to remand, the party seeking to sustain the removal, not the party seeking remand, bears the burden of demonstrating that removal was proper." Wilds v. UPS, Inc., 262 F. Supp. 2d 163, 171 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Unless that burden is met, the case must be remanded back to state court." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

B. Amount in Controversy

There is no dispute that diversity of citizenship exists. See Dkt. No. 5. However, New Skete contends that Murray cannot show with "reasonable probability" that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00. In response, Murray offers estimates on the full value of the film, including its estimated profits from broadcast rights and production costs. The court concludes that the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory amount.

It is well established that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000...between citizens of different states[.]..." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). "A party invoking the jurisdiction of the federal court has the burden of proving that it appears to be a 'reasonable probability' that the claim is in excess of the statutory jurisdictional amount." Scherer v. Equitable Life Assurance Soc'y of U.S., 347 F.3d 394, 397 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). Moreover, "[i]n actions seeking declaratory or injunctive relief...the amount in controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation." Davies v. Belden & Blake Corp., 00-CV-0245E(F), 2001 WL 210471, at *6 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2001) (citing Hunt v. Wash. Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347 (1977)). "Where the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, the value of his claim is generally assessed with reference to the right he seeks to protect and ...


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