Suit claiming defective table lamp caused house fire to remain in federal court

By John Breslin | Jun 12, 2018

ST. LOUIS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, recently decided that a case involving a Missouri woman claiming her house and all its contents were destroyed in a fire caused by a defective table lamp will remain in federal court.

The defendants in the case – manufacturer Fangio Enterprises Inc. and retailer Tuesday Morning Inc. – successfully argued that there is a diversity of jurisdiction as both companies are based outside the state.

The plaintiff, Debra Baker, initially filed suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court claiming her home was destroyed because of the defective lamp sold by Tuesday Morning and made by Fangio Enterprises. 

The defendants then removed the case to the federal court. 

U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw has ruled he has jurisdiction because of Tuesday Morning is a Texas corporate citizen and Fangio Enterprises is based in Pennsylvania. Further, the amount involved in the case exceeds $75,000, which has to be matched or exceeded for a federal court to hear a case.

Baker alleges "that her home and the contents thereof were destroyed by a fire and smoke damage caused by the alleged negligent design, manufacture, and sale of a table lamp."

In court filings, the plaintiff's lawyer stated that the amount Baker is claiming is $100,000.

Tuesday Morning, a discount home decor store, removed the suit to federal court, and Fangio Enterprises, which manufacturers and sells lamps, consented.

"Upon consideration, the court finds defendant has met its burden to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that an amount in excess of $75,000 is actually in controversy," Shaw said in a May 22 ruling.

The judge was unable to come to a conclusion as to the defendants' citizenship, statingthat "the allegations of plaintiff’s petition and the notice of removal therefore do not contain sufficient allegations regarding the state of plaintiff’s citizenship or the states of defendants’ citizenship."

Shaw ordered the defendants to file an amended notice of removal, which they did. The judge then ruled the case should remain in federal court.

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