30 March 2006

Civil Cover Sheets and Diversity Jurisdiction

If you aren't a Colorado lawyer, feel free to skip this post. If you are, read on.

CRCP 16.1

Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1, which governs state courts of general jurisdiction in Colorado, requires everyone filing a case in Colorado District Court to file a "civil cover sheet". This is a state mandated form with boxes to check on it, one of which says that your case seeks money damages in excess of $100,000. If you don't check that box, you must either follow a streamlined version of civil procedure which greatly limits the ability of the parties to seek information from each other with depositions and interrogatories and the like, or file another piece of paper that opts out of the rule. The cover sheet isn't signed, but it must accompany a signed complaint. The complaint itself, pursuant to Colorado law, often is not permitted to include a demand for a specific dollar amount of damages.

Diversity Jurisdiction and Removal

In order to transfer a case from state court to federal court, in a case where the defendant is not being sued based on federal law, you have to show both that the Plaintiff and Defendant are from different states, and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. You also have to "remove" the case within 30 days of receiving notice in writing that you are allowed to remove it. As I've described at some length previously, multi-state corporations are not considered to "live" in states which are neither their state of incorporation, nor the state where their headquarters is located.

Henderson v. Target Stores

Target is an out of state corporation in Colorado, which was sued by a Colorado resident in a slip and fall case in state court in Colorado.

The Plainiff provided a Complaint, that had no specific money demand, as required by Colorado law, and a civil cover sheet, stating that more than $100,000 was demanded. The next time there was an affirmative statement in writing from the Plaintiff that more than $75,000 was demanded was almost six months later in response to discovery in the case.

The U.S. District Court in Colorado was not impressed, when Target said that the civil cover sheet shouldn't count to start its 30 day deadline to remove the case to federal court because it wasn't signed by the attorney and had procedural purposes related to Rule 16.1 in Colorado. The rule it enunciated was quite simple:

If a complaint is accompanied by a civil cover sheet with the over $100,000 box checked, you have 30 days from receipt of that document and the Complaint that comes with it, to remove the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction.

While this case is only a trial court decision, I expect that it will be universally followed going forward.

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