United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
TIFFANY REYES, ET AL.
FAMILY SECURITY INSURANCE COMPANY
ORDER AND REASONS
L. C. FELDMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 5
the Court is the plaintiffs' motion to remand. For the
reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.
dispute arises from an insurer's payment of a fire-loss
claim under a homeowner's policy. Dissatisfied with the
amount paid, the insureds sued the insurer in state court.
The insurer removed the case five months later. The insureds
now move to remand, raising one issue: whether the insurer
timely removed the case.
and Tiffany Reyes owned a Metairie, Louisiana home insured
under a Family Security homeowner's policy. The policy
limit was $850, 000; it included $500, 000 in dwelling
coverage, $50, 000 in other-structures coverage, $250, 000 in
personal- property coverage, and $50, 000 in loss-of-use
coverage. The policy covered, among other risks, loss caused
summer 2018, a fire damaged the home. The Reyeses reported
the damage to Family Security, which sent an adjuster to
estimate the loss. The adjuster said the fire caused $360,
000 in damage under the policy's dwelling coverage.
Family Security paid $290, 000 under that coverage but
nothing under the personal-property coverage.
spring 2019, the Reyeses exchanged emails with Family
Security's adjuster, offering “additional
support” for their alleged losses under the
personal-property coverage. No. further payment followed.
June 6, 2019, the Reyeses sued Family Security in state
court. They alleged claims for breach of contract,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bad-faith
and negligent claims adjusting. They said Family Security
“failed to tender sufficient payment” under the
policy, including “fail[ing] to pay any proceeds
due” under the personal-property coverage. They sought
“property damages in the amount of [the]
homeowner's policy limits, ” plus penalties and
other damages. But they did not demand a specific sum or say
that their damages exceeded the federal jurisdictional
minimum. Compare La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 893(A)(1)
(generally prohibiting a prayer for a specific amount of
money damages) with Chapman v. Powermatic, Inc., 969
F.2d 160, 163 (5th Cir. 1992) (holding that a plaintiff who
wants the 30-day removal clock to begin to run from the
defendant's receipt of the initial pleading must place in
the initial pleading a “specific allegation” that
damages exceed the federal jurisdictional minimum). Family
Security was served with a copy of the petition on June 24,
August 5, 2019, Family Security sent the Reyeses a single
request for admission: Admit that “the amount in
controversy does not exceed” the jurisdictional
minimum. Family Security also moved the state court to reduce
the time for the Reyeses to respond. The state court granted
the motion and ordered the Reyeses to respond by August 20,
2019. They failed to do so.
Louisiana discovery rules, “[a]ny matter
admitted” is “conclusively established unless the
court on motion permits withdrawal or amendment of the
admission.” La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 1468. Because the
Reyeses failed to timely respond to Family Security's
request for admission, the request was deemed admitted, and
it was “conclusively established, ” as of August
20, 2019, that the federal jurisdictional minimum was not
Family Security sought further assurance. To block the
Reyeses from later claiming the case was worth more than $75,
000, Family Security moved the state court for an order
deeming the request admitted. The state court set a November
4, 2019 hearing on the motion; the Reyeses' counsel did
not appear for the hearing or respond to the motion. The
state court nonetheless continued the hearing to November 18,
November 12, 2019, the Reyeses filed a brief opposing Family
Security's motion. It confirmed that the Reyeses sought
damages exceeding the federal jurisdictional minimum:
Clearly, if Plaintiffs allege $850, 000 in damages and they
were only paid $289, 396.37, Plaintiffs never vacated their
position that the amount of their alleged losses and damages
in the Petition for Damages exceeds the sum or value of $75,
000, exclusive of interest and costs.
November 18, 2019, for reasons unknown -- and despite the
Reyeses' counsel's failure to timely respond to the
motion or appear for the original hearing -- the state court
denied Family Security's motion. The state court thus
withdrew the jurisdictional facts that had been deemed
admitted by operation of Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure
Article 1468 more than two months earlier. So, as of November
18, 2019, it was no longer “conclusively
established” that the amount in controversy was not
met. For the first time since August 20, 2019, removal became
a possibility. Family Security acted promptly.
weeks later, on December 2, 2019, Family Security removed the
case on the basis of diversity. See 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332(a)(1), 1441(a). Family Security said, in
its notice of removal, that (1) the petition did not
“set forth” a claim satisfying the jurisdictional
minimum, and (2) it could not have “ascertained”
the amount in controversy until November 12, 2019.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). That is when it
received an “other paper” allegedly establishing
the amount in controversy: the Reyses' brief in
opposition to Family Security's motion to have the
request for admission deemed admitted. See 28 U.S.C.
the Reyeses move to remand on the ground that removal was
untimely. They say the 30-day removal period began to run on
June 24, 2019, the date Family Security was served with a
copy of the petition. Alternatively, they say Family Security
had five “reasons” to “recognize” the
amount in controversy was met more than 30 days before the
December 2, 2019 removal. Family Security rejoins that
removal was timely because it was ...