Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Arboleda v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

August 29, 2017

DIEGO ARBOLEDA, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          SHERI POLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 10) filed on August 3, 2017 and Plaintiff's Corrected Supplement to Motion to Remand (Doc. 15). Defendant filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 16) and Plaintiff replied (Doc. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 9, 2017, Plaintiff Diego Arboleda filed a Complaint (Doc. 2) in State Court against Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company involving coverage for injuries Arboleda sustained in a car accident with State Farm's insured, George Percifield. Before filing suit, the underlying tortfeasor tendered his bodily injury policy limits of $50, 000 to Plaintiff.

         State Farm timely removed the case to this Court, citing diversity jurisdiction as the basis for removal. (Doc. 1). Arboleda now moves to remand the case because State Farm has not established the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 10). Plaintiff's motion to remand to state court challenges Defendant's showing that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). District courts, therefore, remand to state court any case that was “without the necessary jurisdiction.” Estate of Ayres ex rel. Strugnell v. Beaver, 48 F.Supp.2d 1335, 1339 (M.D. Fla. 1999). “Where there is any doubt concerning jurisdiction of the federal court on removal, the case should be remanded.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). The party seeking removal must meet the burden of satisfying the jurisdictional requirements for removal. See Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001).

         The removal statutes permit a defendant to move a case from state court to federal court provided the case could have brought in federal court. See28 U.S.C. § 1441 (governing removal), 28 U.S.C. § 1446 (establishing the procedure for accomplishing removal). Federal courts have original jurisdiction if the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and there is complete diversity of citizenship among the parties. See28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Morrison v. Allstate Indem. Co., 228 F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2000).

         Where, as here, a plaintiff has made an unspecified demand for damages in her Complaint, the removing defendants must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy more likely than not exceeds the $75, 000 jurisdictional requirement. Leonard v. Enterprise Rent a Car, 279 F.3d 957, 972 (11th Cir. 2002); Williams, 269 F.3d at 1319; Kirkland v. Midland Mortgage Co., 243 F.3d at 1281 n.5; Tapscott v. MS Dealer Svc. Corp., 77 F.3d 1353, 1357 (11th Cir. 1996), overruled on other grounds, Cohen v. Office Depot, Inc., 204 F.3d 1069, 1072 (11th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 957 (2000). Thus, the issue here is whether Defendant has shown that it is more likely than not that as of July 19, 2017, the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. Ultimately, the question is whether the notice of removal plausibly alleges that “the amount in controversy at the time of removal” exceeds $75, 000. S. Fla. Wellness, Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 745 F.3d 1312, 1315 (11th Cir. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         In asserting the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000 at the time of removal, Defendant relies on Plaintiff's May 2, 2017 and June 7, 2017 pre-suit demands (Doc. 1-1, Doc. 1-2), seeking the combined policy limits of $150, 000 to settle the case. To support the demands, Plaintiff described the accident, and listed his medical bills, which amounted to $31, 564.38, excluding charges of Gulf Coast Medical Center for a right hip surgery. The May 2, 2017 demand also enclosed copies of medical records and bills that specifically identify the injuries suffered by Arboleda. (Doc. 1-1 at 5.) Plaintiff also attached a $50, 028.61 bill from Lee Memorial Health System associated with the hip surgery to the June 7, 2017 demand letter. (Doc. 1-2 at 3-4). Defendant states in its Notice of Removal that combining the representations made in both Demands, Plaintiff's medical expenses totaled $81, 592.99 at the time of removal. (Doc. 1, at 9-10).

         In moving for remand, Plaintiff argues that the amount of medical expenses should be reduced/set-off by the payment to Plaintiff of PIP benefits, health insurance benefits, or monies from other collateral sources. In support, Plaintiff offers medical bills and statements, showing that the amount of charges Plaintiff actually incurred are significantly less after the health insurance claims were processed and other amounts were reduced prior to the date of removal.

         A pre-suit demand letter “supported by documented medical bills and specific medical diagnoses[ ]...may be sufficient to plausibly allege that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Hernandez v. Burlington Coat Factory of Fla., LLC, No. 2:15-CV-403-FTM-29CM, 2015 WL 5008863, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 20, 2015) (citing Scott v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. 11-62426-CIV, 2012 WL 86986, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 11, 2012)). Here, Plaintiff's pre-suit demands not only references medical bills totaling $81, 592.99 and attaches supporting documentation, it also lists multiple medically-diagnosed conditions. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiffs' pre-suit demands credibly supports the conclusion that the value of Mr. Arboleda's claim exceeded $75, 000 at the time of removal.[2] Id.; see also Moraguez v. Walgreen Co., No. 6:15-CV-1579-ORL-28TBS, 2015 WL 7863008, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 3, 2015). Because Defendant has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy more likely than not exceeds $75, 000 at the time of removal, the Motion to Remand is denied.

         Finally, although the Notice of Removal states that Defendant was served with the Complaint on June 22, 2017 (Doc. 1, ¶ 9), the Court notes that no answer or other responsive pleading has ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.