Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Plaintiff's Motion to Remand Auto Law Bad Faith Claim Back to State Court Granted in Western District of PA

In the Federal Western District of Pennsylvania Court case of Brewer v. GEICO, No. 13-1809 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 22, 2014 Fischer, J.) (mem.), Judge Nora Barry Fischer addressed a plaintiff's Motion to Remand and ruled that an uninsured motorists carrier's removal of the state court filed matter to Federal Court had not met the requirements to support such a maneuver and the case was therefore sent back to state court.

In Brewer, the plaintiff filed breach of contract and bad faith claims along with a request for punitives and attorney's fees against his own uninsured motorist insurer in state court.

The carrier removed case on basis that recovery under the bad faith claim may exceed $75,000.

In this matter, although plaintiff agreed to stipulate that all claims combined would not exceed $75,000, defendant refused to accept the proposed stipulation, noting that a jury would be available in federal court on the bad faith claims presented.

The court noted that, under 28 USC § 1446(c) and the prevailing case law, the first question to be analyzed was whether the defendant carrier met its burden of showing by a preponderance of evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000 on the date the case was removed.

The court found that the defendant carrier's good faith averment in its Notice of Removal that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 was insufficient.

According to the record before the court, the plaintiff had demanded only policy limits in the breach of contract claim which was $15,000.  Moreover, the plaintiff only alleged in the Complaint that the bad faith claim exceeded $30,000 which was the county court's arbitration limit.

Judge Fischer found that the defendant carrier had failed to establish that the bad faith claim even approached $60,000, let alone exceeded it.  Consequently, since the case presented was not found to meet the $75,000 federal jurisdictional threshold, removal was ruled improper, and the plaintiff's Motion for Remand was granted.

Anyone wishing to review the Opinion issued in the Brewer case may click this LINK.

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