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Mitchell v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 10, 2015

ANITA MITCHELL,
v.
AMICA MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., Section:

ORDER

NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN, District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Anita Mitchell's ("Plaintiff") "Motion to Remand."[1] Having considered the motion, the memoranda in support and in opposition, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will deny the motion.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Defendant Amica Mutual Insurance Company ("Amica") on August 30, 2013 in the 40th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. John the Baptist, Louisiana.[2] In her petition, Plaintiff alleges that her residence, which was covered by an insurance policy (the "Policy") issued by Amica, was rendered "uninhabitable and necessitating extensive repairs" by Hurricane Isaac.[3] Plaintiff claims that Amica has failed to "tender sufficient payment in accordance with the terms of the Policy."[4] She seeks damages for breach of contract, bad faith claims adjusting, negligent claims adjusting, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as penalties for Amica's alleged bad faith pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes §§ 22:1892 and 22:1973.[5]

B. Procedural Background

As stated above, Plaintiff filed her petition in state court on August 30, 2013.[6] On September 3, 2014, Amica filed a motion for summary judgment in the state court.[7] In opposition to that motion, Plaintiff submitted a memorandum on November 6, 2014 stating that she "does not dispute the fact that the $18, 145.02 in payments she received from Amica was sufficient with regard to her building damages, " but contends that her remaining property damage claims amount to $70, 349.98.[8] Amica removed the action to federal district court on December 5, 2014, alleging that diversity jurisdiction was appropriate because the parties are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds the federal jurisdictional minimum of $75, 000.[9] Plaintiff filed the pending Motion to Remand on January 12, 2015.[10] Amica filed a memorandum in opposition to remand on January 23, 2015, [11] and Plaintiff filed a supplemental memorandum in further support of her motion on February 2, 2015.[12]

II. Parties' Arguments

A. Plaintiff's Arguments in Support of Remand

Plaintiff argues that remand is appropriate because the amount in controversy in this case does not exceed $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.[13] Specifically, she contends that her personal property losses total $70, 349.98 "at most, " and that she "does not intend to seek recovery from Defendant of all amounts outlined in the itemization she prepared."[14] Because she is not seeking damages in excess of $75, 000, Plaintiff argues, removal of this matter to federal district court was defective.[15]

B. Amica's Arguments in Opposition to Remand

In response, Amica contends that it is "facially apparent on the record of this suit" that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum because Plaintiff alleges claims for property and contents damages, as well as penalties for Amica's alleged bad faith.[16] Amica argues that Plaintiff never issued a binding stipulation that the amount in controversy was below the jurisdictional minimum.[17] In fact, according to Amica, Plaintiff represented in responses to interrogatories that the amount in controversy did not exceed $50, 000.[18] Amica contends that it first became aware that the federal jurisdictional amount in controversy requirement was satisfied in this case on November 6, 2014, when Plaintiff submitted an itemized list of contents damages totaling $70, 349.98 in a state court pleading.[19]

Amica also argues that it has "provided payment for all of Plaintiff's property damage claims, " but that Plaintiff has not dismissed that portion of her claim.[20] Therefore, Amica contends, Plaintiff seeks approximately $70, 000 in contents damage and $20, 000 in property damage, [21] as well as penalties under Louisiana Revised Statutes § 22:1892 and § 22:1973.[22] According to Amica, a violation of § 22:1892 can result in penalties of fifty percent of the amount found to be due from the insurer to the insured or $1, 000, whichever is greater.[23] A violation of § 22:1973, Amica states, can result in penalties not to exceed two times ...


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