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Valentine v. United Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 1, 2019

THOMAS VALENTINE
v.
UNITED FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, ET AL.

         SECTION "F"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. Mindful of its “independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists[, ]” the Court ordered simultaneous briefing addressing whether the amount in controversy prerequisite to diversity jurisdiction is met in this case. See Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514, 506-07 (2006)(citation omitted)(This duty persists throughout all phases of the litigation, “even after trial and the entry of final judgment.”). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the case must be remanded for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Background

         This personal injury lawsuit arises out of an alleged hit and run accident on November 11, 2017 on Third Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, when a Freightliner allegedly struck a parked Ford F150 and left the scene.

         B P Excavating & Trucking, Inc., a company owned by Billy Pounds, was doing demolition work at a construction site at 2113 Third Street in New Orleans on November 11, 2017. Pounds was leaving the site on Third Street while driving a Freightliner truck, which his company owned and which was insured by United Fire and Casualty Company. As Pounds was driving away from the site, the Freightliner he was driving struck a legally parked and unoccupied 2003 Nissan. At this same time, Thomas Valentine claims he was sitting in his 2001 Ford F-150, which was parked “next to” the unoccupied Nissan, and that the Freightliner hit his parked truck after hitting the Nissan. Valentine claims that Pounds then left the scene. Valentine claims he then notified the owner of the Nissan and called the New Orleans Police Department to investigate, which they did, arriving to the scene hours later.

         Mr. Valentine sued United Fire and Casualty Company, B P Excavating & Trucking, Inc., and Billy Pounds in state court, seeking to recover for the damage he says the collision caused to his truck and his person. He alleged that he “sustained severe and disabling injuries to his body and mind, including but not limited to neck, and back” and that he has incurred medical expenses. The parties now agree that Valentine does not seek lost wages or future lost earnings.

         The defendants dispute liability, medical causation, and damages. No. witnesses (except Valentine himself) place Valentine or his truck at the scene. Despite complaints of “severe and debilitating injuries, ” Valentine first sought medical treatment 17 days after the alleged accident presenting to Dr. Ashfaq Qureshi at Louisiana Primary Care Consultants. He has undergone soft tissue treatment. Valentine has not been treated since November 15, 2018 for any injuries he allegedly suffered in the accident. Valentine claims to have incurred $7, 650 in medical expenses related to the accident.

         United Fire and Casualty Company removed the lawsuit to this Court on July 24, 2018, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiff never moved to remand his case to state court. After the defendants answered the lawsuit, the Court conducted a scheduling conference and issued a scheduling order, selecting a July 25, 2019 pretrial conference date and an August 12, 2019 jury trial date. Discovery has closed, no party has filed any dispositive motions, and no parties contemplate filing any motions.

         In the jointly-filed pretrial order proposed by counsel, the parties submit that the Court has diversity jurisdiction because the parties are diverse and that “while defendants admits (sic) neither liability nor any element of damages, the amount in controversy herein reasonably could exceed $75, 000.” During the pretrial conference, the Court raised the issue of its jurisdiction and issued an order to show cause as to why this case should not be remanded due to the absence of diversity jurisdiction for failure to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement. Mindful that “[l]itigants cannot bestow subject matter jurisdiction on federal courts by waiver or consent[, ]” Elam v. Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 635 F.3d 796, 802 (5th Cir. 2011), the Court now considers whether it has jurisdiction.

         I.

         A.

         The removing defendant carries the burden of showing the propriety of this Court's removal jurisdiction. See Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002); see also Jernigan v. Ashland Oil, Inc., 989 F.2d 812, 815 (5th Cir. 1993). Given the significant federalism concerns implicated by removal, the removal statute is strictly construed, “and any doubt about the propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of remand.” Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248, 251 (5th ...


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