United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT
cause comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff John
Lutz's Motion to Remand (Doc. # 5), which was filed on
November 29, 2017. The Court grants the Motion and remands
this action to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1447(c) because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
January 20, 2017, Lutz was involved in a car crash with an
“uninsured/underinsured motorist” in Clearwater,
Florida. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 4). Lutz was insured by
Defendant State Farm at the time of the accident under Policy
number E17670559. (Id. at ¶ 9). On October 13,
2017, Lutz filed a Complaint against State Farm in state
court “for damages that exceed fifteen thousand $15,
000 dollars.” (Id. at ¶ 1).
describes his injuries in the Complaint as “serious and
permanent injuries or his head, neck, body, back and legs and
aggravat[ion] of a pre-existing condition.”
(Id. at ¶ 6). The Complaint also indicates that
Lutz has incurred medical expenses and has sustained a loss
of earnings. (Id. at ¶ 8).
Farm removed the case on November 22, 2017, on the basis of
complete diversity of citizenship. (Doc. # 1). In the Notice
of Removal, State Farm indicates that it is an Illinois
insurance company organized under the laws of the State of
Illinois, and is thus a citizen of Illinois. (Id. at
¶ 14). The Notice of Removal also states that Lutz
“is a citizen of the State of Florida.”
(Id. at ¶ 15).
the amount in controversy, State Farm alleges in a conclusory
manner that “this is a civil action in which the amount
in controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000 exclusive of
interest and costs.” (Id. at ¶ 16). State
Farm highlights that the relevant insurance policy's
limits are $100, 000, that Lutz “sustained a comminuted
fracture of the right calcaneus, ” that a $50, 000
medical procedure is contemplated, and that Lutz has incurred
$34, 854.30 in medical bills. (Id. at ¶¶
3, 10, 12). At this juncture, Lutz has filed a Motion to
Remand arguing that this Court should reject State Farm's
assertions regarding the amount in controversy.
jurisdiction is premised upon diversity of citizenship, 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a) requires, among other things, that
“the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of
$75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs.” “If
the jurisdictional amount is not facially apparent from the
complaint, the court should look to the notice of removal and
may require evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at
the time the case was removed.” Williams v. Best
Buy Co., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001). Further,
if “damages are unspecified, the removing party bears
the burden of establishing the jurisdictional amount by a
preponderance of the evidence.” Lowery v. Ala.
Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1208 (11th Cir. 2007).
does not make a specified claim for damages. (Doc. # 2 at
¶ 1) (generally alleging damages exceeding $15, 000). In
the Motion to Remand, Lutz suggests that the only evidence of
the amount in controversy is two competing letters of
counsel. Lutz's demand letter is discussed in the Notice
of Removal; however, it is not before the Court. The Court
gathers that Lutz demands an amount greater than the
jurisdictional minimum, but the medical bills described in
the demand letter amount to $34, 854.30, which is far less
than the amount required for removal. And, Lutz has filed
State Farm's September 20, 2017, letter authored in
response to the presuit demand letter in which State Farm
offered to settle the case for $11, 753.51. (Doc. # 5-1).
letters of counsel do not convince the Court that the
jurisdictional amount is satisfied. See Standridge v.
Wal-Mart Stores, 945 F.Supp. 252, 256 (N.D.Ga.
1996)(holding that a pre-suit demand letter was
“nothing more than posturing by plaintiff's counsel
for settlement purposes and cannot be considered a reliable
indicator of the damages plaintiff is seeking”).
Court agrees with Lutz that State Farm has not met its burden
as to the amount in controversy requirement for the removal
of this case. The Court is aware that “district courts
are permitted to make reasonable deductions and reasonable
inferences and need not suspend reality or shelve common
sense in determining whether the face of a complaint
establishes the jurisdictional amount.” Keogh v.
Clarke Envtl. Mosquito Mgmt., Inc., No.
8:12-cv-2874-T-30EAJ, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20282, at *4-5
(M.D. Fla. Jan. 17, 2013)(internal citations omitted). But,
overall, the record is devoid of evidence to suggest that
Lutz's damages from this incident exceed the $75, 000
amount in controversy threshold.
Court recognizes that Lutz has alleged “serious and
permanent injuries, ” and “significant and
permanent loss of bodily function, or permanent injury within
a reasonable degree of medical probability other than
scarring or disfigurement, or significant and permanent
scarring or disfigurement.” (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶
6-7). However, the Court has not been provided with
sufficiently specific information about these broad
categories of damages to find that the amount in controversy
has been met. And, Lutz has described these categories of
damages in such a vague and inexact manner that the Court
would be required to engage in rank speculation to ascribe
these damages with any monetary value.
instance, Lutz seeks redress for lost wages, but does not
provide any earnings records or state the nature of his
employment. See Robinson v. Peck, No.
1:14-cv-1628-WSD, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159198, at *11-12
(N.D.Ga. Nov. 12, 2014)(granting motion to remand in slip and
fall action where plaintiff “allege[d] a generic
scattershot list of unspecified damages, ” which
included personal injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish,
loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life, impaired