Important Decision on Removal of Tort Cases to Federal Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that the 30-day period  for removing a case to federal court does not begin to run until "the plaintiff serves the defendant with a paper that explicitly identified the amount of damages sought."

Moltner sued Starbucks in state court in New York but did not state the amount of damages he sought. Moltner’s lawyer later sent a three million dollar demand letter to Starbucks.  Starbucks filed a petition to remove the case to federal court more than 30 days after it received the complaint but less than 30 days after receiving the $3 million demand.   The Second Circuit permitted the removal, rejecting the argument that Starbucks should have deduced from reading the complaint that the case sought damages in excess of the jurisdictional amount of the federal courts.

Here is the opinion in Moltner v. Starbucks Coffee Company, No. 09-4943 (2nd Cir. Nov. 2, 2010).