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Love v. Safeco Insurance

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 18, 2019

Chris Love, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Safeco Insurance, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          G. Murray Snow, Chief United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, (Doc. 10). For the following reasons the motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Chris and Christina Love filed an action against their insurance carrier, Defendant Safeco Insurance on April 10, 2019 in the Maricopa County Superior Court. (Doc. 1-4, Ex. A at 2.) On January 10, 2018, the Loves' vehicle received extensive damage when it was involved in an auto accident. (Id. at 3.) After the accident the Loves filed a claim with Safeco seeking to cover the costs of repairs made to the vehicle. (Id. at 4.) The estimated cost of the repair and storage of the vehicle was $51, 249.16 as of April 30, 2018. (Doc. 10 at 2-3.) Of this balance Safeco has paid a total of $29, 413.54 and has refused to make any further payments. (Id. at 3.) As of June 20, 2019, the vehicle remains with the repair company and continues to accumulate storage fees, and interest. (Doc. 13 at 3.)

         The Loves allege that Safeco's failure to pay the full value of the repair without a reasonable basis constitutes a breach of contract. (Doc. 1-4, Ex. A at 5.) The complaint also alleges a claim of bad faith and seeks punitive damages in addition to special damages because Safeco is alleged to have breached its implied covenant of fair dealing “with an evil mind . . . and with a consistent pattern to undermine the security of its own insurance policies.” (Id. at 4-5.) The Loves have also asserted a right to recover attorney's fees pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-341.01. (Id. at 6.) The complaint does not allege a specific amount in damages other than to say that the total “cost of repairs, including labor, parts, administration, and storage was in excess of $50, 0000.” (Id. at 4.)

         On May 15, 2019, Safeco filed a petition for removal asserting that this Court has jurisdiction “because it is a civil action between citizens of different states and the matter in controversy . . . exceeds the sum of $75, 000.”[1] (Doc 1 at 1, 5.) In support of its assertion that the amount of controversy exceeds $75, 000 Safeco has provided the Loves' initial complaint, certification of arbitration, and estimated repair bill. (Doc. 13 at 5-6.) On June 10, 2019, the Loves filed a motion to remand alleging that Safeco had failed to demonstrate that the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000. (Doc. 10 at 1, 3.) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447 (c)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         Any civil action brought in state court over which the federal district courts have original jurisdiction may be removed to the federal district court where the action is pending. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Typically, courts strictly construe the statute against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). There is a “strong presumption” against removal and “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Id. “The ‘strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Id. “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003) (“Where doubt regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be remanded to state court.”).

         Where a complaint does not demand a specific dollar amount, the defendant “bears the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds [$75, 000].” Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996); see Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090 (“Where it is not facially evident from the complaint that more than $75, 000 is in controversy, the removing party must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy meets the jurisdictional threshold.”). To meet its burden, Defendant “must provide evidence establishing that it is ‘more likely than not' that the amount in controversy exceeds [$75, 000].” Sanchez, 102 F.3d at 404; see Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566-67 (“If it is unclear what amount of damages the plaintiff has sought . . .then the defendant bears the burden of actually proving the facts to support jurisdiction, including the jurisdictional amount.”) (emphasis in original).

         First, “[t]he district court may consider whether it is ‘facially apparent' from the complaint that the jurisdictional amount is in controversy.” Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997). “If not, the court may consider facts in the removal petition, and may ‘require parties to submit summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.'” Id. (quoting Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335-36 (5th Cir.1995)).

         II. Analysis

         A. Amount in Controversy

         Safeco's Notice of Removal contains sufficient evidence to show that the amount in controversy is $75, 000. Safeco alleges that the amount is met by adding together the unpaid repair bill ($21, 835.62), the additional storage fees ($41, 600.00), the bad faith damages, punitive damages, and the attorney's fees. As such the Court finds that Safeco has provided ...


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