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Moon v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company SI

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 1, 2018

Barry Lynn Moon, Plaintiff,
v.
American Family Mutual Insuranc Company SI, Defendant.

          ORDER

          James A. Teilborg, Senior United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are Plaintiff Barry Lynn Moon's (“Moon”) Motion to Remand, (Doc. 18), and Defendant American Family Mutual Insurance Company SI's (“American Family”) Motion for Change of Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404, (Doc. 7). Both parties have responded, (Doc. 22 & 23), and replied (Doc. 26 & 28).

         I. Background

         In January of 2018, Moon, an insured, brought breach of contract and bad faith claims against American Family, his insurer, in Maricopa County Superior Court. (Doc. 1-1 at 1-7). Moon claims that American Family is obligated to pay the $55, 785.22 he incurred defending, and ultimately settling, a negligence claim, as well as costs and attorneys' fees incurred in compelling American Family to comply with his insurance policy. (Doc. 1-1 at 5-7).

         In February of 2018, American Family removed the case to this Court. (Doc. 1). Moon now seeks to remand to Maricopa County Superior Court, arguing that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction because American Family has failed to plead a sufficient amount in controversy to establish diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 18).

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Article III, this Court's exercise of judicial power is contingent upon the presence of subject-matter jurisdiction. See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. One such form of jurisdiction is diversity jurisdiction, see id.; 28 U.S.C. § 1332, which exists where the parties are of completely diverse citizenship and where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (2005).

         In a removed case, “[t]here is a strong presumption that the plaintiff has not claimed a large [enough] amount in order to confer jurisdiction on a federal court.” St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 290 (1938). Accordingly, the defendant bears the burden of establishing that the amount-in-controversy requirement is met by a preponderance of the evidence. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 567 (9th Cir. 1992); 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B). “Conclusory allegations as to the amount in controversy are insufficient.” Chavez v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., No. 16-55957, 2018 WL 1882908, at *2 (9th Cir. Apr. 20, 2018) (quoting Corral v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., 878 F.3d 770, 774 (9th Cir. 2017)).

         III. Discussion

         The parties agree that they are completely diverse, as Moon is a citizen of Arizona and American Family is a citizen of Wisconsin. See (Doc. 23 at 2).[1] Therefore, the only issue is whether American Family has established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

         American Family argues that the amount-in-controversy requirement is satisfied, because: (1) Moon's complaint alleges that he paid $15, 000 to settle his negligence suit and that he incurred $55, 785.22 in attorneys' fees and costs, totaling $70, 785.22; (2) Moon seeks pre- and post-judgment interest, totaling $12, 400; and (3) Moon seeks attorneys' fees incurred in the present action and punitive damages. (Doc. 23 at 2-4); see (Doc. 1 at 2). Accordingly, American Family claims, the amount in controversy is “at least $83, 000.” (Doc. 23 at 4). These three arguments will be considered in turn.

         A. Compensatory Damages

         First, American Family's argument that Moon's claimed damages total $70, 785.22 misunderstands the complaint. Moon's claimed damages of $55, 785.22 included the Settlement Amount of $15, 000. (Doc. 1-1 at 5, 7). Therefore, American Family erred in double counting the settlement amount, and Moon only seeks $55, 785.22 in compensatory damages.

         B. ...


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