United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, United States District Judge.
Farrah Gilot brings this pro se action and invokes
the Court's federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiffs request to proceed in
forma pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 is granted. Plaintiffs complaint is dismissed for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. However, Plaintiff is
granted thirty (30) days leave from the date of this
memorandum and order to submit an amended complaint.
alleges that in February, she took a Greyhound bus from
Colorado to Texas. Compl. at 5-6, ECF No. 1. When she went to
retrieve her bags, she was asked for identification.
Id. Plaintiff attempted to use her student
identification to retrieve her bags, but was informed that
the student identification was not considered valid
identification. Id. at 6. Plaintiff submitted her
green card which was not returned. Id. Plaintiff
further alleges that on May 16, she took a Greyhound bus; the
trip was expected to last 25 hours and instead lasted 96
hours. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary compensation,
including punitive damages. Id.
Standard of Review
pleadings stage of the proceeding, the Court must assume the
truth of "all well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual
allegations" in the complaint. Kiobel v. Royal Dutch
Petroleum Co., 621 F.3d 111, 124 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009)). A
complaint must plead sufficient facts to "state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). It is
axiomatic that pro se complaints are held to less
stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and
the Court is required to read the plaintiffs pro se
complaint liberally and interpret it raising the strongest
arguments it suggests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980);
Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185,
191-93 (2d Cir. 2008).
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a district court shall
dismiss an in forma pauperis action where it is
satisfied that the action "(i) is frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant
who is immune from such relief." An action is
"frivolous" when either: (1) "the 'factual
contentions are clearly baseless,' such as when
allegations are the product of delusion or fantasy"; or
(2) "the claim is 'based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory.'" Livingston v.
Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir.
1998) (internal citation omitted).
district courts of the United States are "courts of
limited jurisdiction" and may not preside over cases
absent subject matter jurisdiction. Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
"Congress has granted district courts original
jurisdiction over cases in which there is a federal question,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and certain cases between
citizens of different states, so long as the requirements of
complete diversity and amount in controversy are met,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1332." Perdue Pharma
L.P. v. Kentucky, 704 F.3d 208, 213 (2d Cir. 2013).
"[B]ecause [subject matter jurisdiction] involves a
court's power to hear a case, [it] can never be forfeited
or waived." United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S.
625, 630 (2002). "[W]hen a federal court concludes that
it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss
the complaint in its entirety." Arbaugh v.
Y&HCorp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006).
complaint fails to present a substantial federal question.
Section 1331 gives the court "original jurisdiction of
all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331;
Bracey v. Bd. of Educ. of Bridgeport, 368 F.3d 108,
113 (2d Cir. 2004). A case arises under federal law where
federal law creates the plaintiffs cause of action or where
"the well-pleaded complaint 'necessarily depends on
resolution of a substantial question of federal
law."' Id. (quoting Franchise Tax Bd.
v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr., 463 U.S. 1, 28
(1983)). Even when construed liberally, it does not appear
that Plaintiffs claims are premised on a violation of any
federal constitutional or statutory right.
determined that the allegations in Plaintiffs complaint do
not support federal question jurisdiction in this case, the
Court now considers whether Plaintiff adequately asserts a
basis for the Court to exercise diversity of citizenship
jurisdiction over her claims. According to the facts alleged
in the complaint, complete diversity of citizenship exists
between the parties, as Plaintiff is a citizen of Brooklyn,
New York, while Defendant is alleged to be a citizen of
Dallas, Texas. However, it appears that Plaintiff fails to
satisfy the $75, 000 amount in controversy that is required
by 28 U.S.C. § 1332. "A party invoking the
jurisdiction of the federal court has the burden of proving
that it appears to a 'reasonable probability' that
the claim is in excess of the statutory jurisdictional
amount." Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A. v. Am. Nat'l
Bank & Tr. Co. of Chi., 93 F.3d 1064, 1070
(2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Tongkook Am., Inc. v. Shipton
Sportswear Co., 14 F.3d 781, 784 (2d Cir. 1994)). The
amount in controversy must be non-speculative in order to
satisfy the statute. Baltazar v. Earth Ctr. of Maanu,
Inc., 14-CV-3543, 2014 WL 3887717, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. July
11, 2014) (Vitaliano, J.).
as here, the jurisdictional amount is met only by inclusion
of a claim for punitive damages, such calculation must be
considered with "heightened scrutiny." Nwanza
v. Time, Inc., 125 Fed.Appx. 346, 349 (2d Cir. 2005)
(citation omitted); Cohen v. Narragansett Bay Ins.
Co., 14-CV-3623, 2014 WL 4701167, at *3 n.4 (E.D.N.Y.
Sept. 23, 2014) (Chen, J.) ("[T]he Court is not
obligated to accept, on face value, a claimed amount of
punitive damages, particularly where there would be no
diversity without such damages." (citation omitted)).
Plaintiff alleges damages in the amount of $800.00 for the
loss of her green card, $2, 000.00 for her lost luggage,
$231.00 for the cost of her bus ticket, and $500, 000.00 in
punitive damages. Compl. at 7. Plaintiffs "actual
damages" are $3, 031.00, far below the jurisdictional
threshold. Moreover, Plaintiff fails to allege any facts to
show that she is entitled to punitive damages. Thus, it
appears that diversity of citizenship jurisdiction is
lacking. See Bracken v. MH Pillars Inc., 290
F.Supp.3d 258, 268 (S.D.N.Y. 2017) (Gorenstein, M.J.)
("Because the complaint is devoid of allegations that
meet the punitive damages standard, the potential for
punitive damages may not be used to meet the diversity
Leave to Amend
abundance of caution, and in light of Plaintiff s pro
se status, she is granted thirty (30) days leave to file
an amended complaint. See, e.g., Maitlandv. Lunn,
14-CV-5938, 2017 WL 1088122, at *10 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2017)
(Seybert, J.) (granting plaintiff leave to file an amended
complaint to plead sufficient facts in order to satisfy the
$75, 000.00 amount-in- controversy requirement). If Plaintiff
elects to file an amended complaint, she is directed that her
amended complaint must comply with Rule 8(a) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure and it must plead "enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Plaintiffs
amended complaint must clearly state the basis for the
Court's jurisdiction. If Plaintiff is ...