United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis, United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiffs Gilbert and Marygrace
Arcangel's motion to remand this case to the Circuit
Court for Montgomery County. ECF No. 9. Defendants Silver
Spring HHG Hotel Associates, LLC, and Silver Spring HHG
Hotel, Inc. oppose the motion. ECF No. 13. The Court now
rules because no hearing is necessary. See D. Md.
Loc. R. 105.6. Upon consideration of the parties'
briefing and the evidence in the record, the Court DENIES the
21, 2017, the Arcangels checked into Room 807 in the
Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Silver Spring, Maryland. ECF
No. 1-3, ¶¶2, 7. Plaintiffs aver that over the next
two days, they noticed irritating bites on their bodies, and
asked to be transferred to a different room. Id.
¶8. Mr. Arcangel alleges he then returned to Room 807,
where he saw multiple live bed bugs crawling on top of the
sheets. Id. ¶9. The hotel called a pest control
company, Ecolab, which confirmed that Room 807 was infested
with bed bugs. Id.
February 14, 2018, Plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court
for Montgomery County, alleging that Defendant Huntington
Atlantic Hotels, LLC had negligently breached a duty of care
by placing Plaintiffs in a room with a pre-existing bed bug
infestation (Count I) and had violated the Maryland Consumer
Protection Act (“MCPA”) by impliedly representing
that Room 807 was fit for lodging and omitting disclosure of
the bed bug infestation (Count II). ECF No. 1-2. Plaintiffs
each requested $75, 000 in compensatory damages as to the
negligence claim in Count I, and $75, 000 in compensatory
damages plus attorneys' fees and other costs as to the
MCPA claim in Count II. Id.
18, 2018, Plaintiffs amended the Complaint to include
Defendants Silver Spring HHG Hotel Associates, LLC, Silver
Spring HHG Hotel, Inc., (“the Silver Spring
Defendants”) and Ecolab Inc., the pest control
contractor. ECF No. 1-3. Plaintiffs also added a separate
claim of negligence against Ecolab, averring that Ecolab owed
Plaintiffs a duty to exercise reasonable care while
performing bed bug inspection and extermination services
(Count III). Id. ¶57-61. On July 27, 2018, the
Silver Spring Defendants noted removal to this Court under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, 1446, and District of
Maryland Local Rule 103.5(a), to which Defendants Huntington
Atlantic Hotels, LLC and Ecolab Inc. consented. ECF No. 1-12.
Plaintiffs timely moved to remand, ECF No. 9, which the
Silver Spring Defendants oppose. ECF No. 13.
Standard of Review
Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, we
presume “that a cause lies outside this limited
jurisdiction . . . and the burden of establishing the
contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.”
Barbour v. Int'l Union, 640 F.3d 599, 605 (4th
Cir. 2011) (en banc), abrogated on other grounds
by 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(B) (quoting Kokkonen
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377
(1994)). Federal courts construe removal statutes strictly
due to the “significant federalism concerns”
implicated, and resolve all doubts in favor of remand.
Md. Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket, Inc., 407 F.3d
255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted).
Arcangels argue that remand is necessary because the amount
in controversy does not exceed $75, 000, and so the Court
lacks diversity jurisdiction. The Arcangels more particularly
contend that they seek one recovery based on two theories of
liability: negligence and violations of the MCPA. As a
result, Plaintiffs contend, the claimed damages for each
count of $75, 000 represents the total maximum allowable
most cases, the ‘sum claimed by the plaintiff
controls' the amount in controversy determination.”
JTH Tax, Inc. v. Frashier, 624 F.3d 635, 638 (4th
Cir. 2010) (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red
Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938)). Even if no single
count exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, if the aggregate
amount is in excess of $75, 000, “jurisdiction exists
for each count.” Griffin v. Red Run Lodge,
Inc., 610 F.2d 1198, 1204 (4th Cir. 1979).
Complaint includes three ad damnum clauses. First,
the Arcangels each request $75, 000 “in compensatory
damages, together with court costs, and any such other and
further relief as this Court deems necessary, just, and
proper” for negligence by the hotel operators. ECF 1-3
at 13. Second, for the MCPA claim against the hotel
operators, Plaintiffs each request $75, 000 “in
compensatory damages, including reasonable attorney's
fees pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Comm. Law, § 13-408(b),
and [c]ourt costs, and such other and further relief as this
Court deems necessary, just, and proper, all of which not to
exceed the sum of $75, 000.” Id. at 15.
Finally, Plaintiffs each request $75, 000 for negligence by
Ecolab “in compensatory damages, together with court
costs, and such other and further relief as this Court deems
necessary, just, and proper.” Id. at 16.
Silver Spring Defendants, opposing remand, argue that these
claims are properly aggregated (or added together), such that
Plaintiffs are in fact requesting damages that are several
times more than the jurisdictional threshold. The Arcangels
counter that because the Amended Complaint offers two
different legal theories to capture one harm, $75, 000
represents the total amount of recoverable damages. The Court
agrees with the Defendants and begins its analysis with the
claims as pleaded.
Complaint pleads both common law negligence and violations of
the MCPA. Each are separate causes of action designed to
address different harms. “In Maryland, to succeed on a
negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove four
well-established elements: (1) that the defendant was under a
duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) that the
defendant breached that duty, (3) that the plaintiff suffered
actual injury or loss, and (4) that the loss or injury
proximately resulted from the defendant's breach of the
duty.” Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v.
Seymour, 387 Md. 217, 223 (2005) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). “To state a claim under the
MCPA, Plaintiff[s] must allege: “(1) an unfair or
deceptive practice or misrepresentation that (2) is relied
upon, and (3) causes [them] actual injury.” Pruitt
v. Alba Law Grp., P.A., No. DKC 15-0458, 2015 WL
5032014, at *9 (D. Md. Aug. 24, 2015). Accordingly, where