Amount in controversy refers to the amount of money a plaintiff seeks in a lawsuit. The monetary value of a non-monetary remedy such as an injunction can also be included in the amount in controversy. For a case to be heard in district court on grounds of diversity jurisdiction, the amount in controversy a plaintiff pleads must exceed $75,000.
As established in St. Paul Mercury v. Red Cab Co, courts exercising diversity jurisdiction will defer to the plaintiff’s pleadings as to the amount in controversy so long as they were filed in good faith and the defense cannot show to a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot recover above $75,000. Amount in controversy is determined at the start of the trial and, therefore, a verdict from a court exercising diversity jurisdiction will not be thrown out if a jury determines that a plaintiff is entitled to less than $75,000.
Multiple claims can occasionally be aggregated to meet the amount in controversy requirement. For more information, see aggregation of jurisdictional amount.
In addition to diversity jurisdiction, amount in controversy is relevant to a few other situations:
- As established by the Class Action Fairness Act, a district court only has jurisdiction over a class action if the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000.
- State courts also can have amount in controversy requirements, usually appearing in the form of tiered court systems.
- For example, Massachusetts small claims court only has jurisdiction over the cases of individuals where the amount in controversy does not exceed $7000.
Amount in controversy is also referred to as jurisdictional amount.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]