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JURISDICTION - EX PARTE SAFETY-KLEEN SYSTEMS, INC

Ex parte Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc., [Ms. 2120980, Dec. 13, 2013] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2013). The Court of Civil Appeals grants mandamus ordering the circuit court to grant a motion to transfer an action to district court. The plaintiff did not specify an amount of damages other than saying that the recovery would be less than $74,500 (obviously to avoid federal-court diversity jurisdiction). The defendant filed an affidavit establishing that the special damages of the plaintiff in one of the two actions would not exceed $88.60 and the damages of the other plaintiff would not exceed $25.00. Defendant pointed out that for punitive damages to take the award over the $3,000 jurisdictional maximum of the district court, the punitive damages would have to be awarded at 33 times the compensatory damages in the first action and 120 times the compensatory damages in the second action. Finding that the plaintiffs did not rebut this showing, the Court of Civil Appeals holds that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in delaying its ruling on the motions to transfer for discovery purposes. "The circuit court should have ruled based solely on the evidence before it, which evidence conclusively proved that the amounts in controversy did not exceed $3,000 and that the motions to transfer were due to be granted."
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