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Mt. Hawley Insurance Co. v. Adams Homes of Northwest Florida, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

August 15, 2019

MT. HAWLEY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ADAMS HOMES OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA, INC. and MARIE JEAN-FRANCOIS, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SUSAN C. BUCKLEW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause comes before the Court on Defendant Adams Homes of Northwest Florida, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 12). Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 17). As explained below, the motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Mt. Hawley Insurance Company filed this declaratory judgment action, in which it asks this Court to declare that there is no coverage for its insured, Adams Homes of Northwest Florida, Inc. (“Adams Homes”), for the claims asserted by Defendant Marie Jean-Francois in the underlying state court action. Specifically, according to the state court complaint, Adams Homes and its subcontractors violated certain building codes and negligently constructed Marie Jean-Francois' home. In the instant declaratory judgment action, Plaintiff asks the Court to declare that it has no duty to defend Adams Homes in the underlying state court action or to indemnify Adams Homes for any liability that may be established in the state court action.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

          In response to Plaintiff's amended complaint, Adams Homes moves for dismissal, arguing that this Court lacks diversity subject matter jurisdiction. Specifically, Adams Homes argues that the amount in controversy does not exceed the $75, 000 threshold, because Marie Jean-Francois obtained an estimate of the cost to repair her home totaling only $55, 196.03. (Doc. No. 12-1).

         A. Standard of Review

         This Court has explained the standard of review for this type of attack on subject matter jurisdiction as follows:

Attacks on subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) come in two forms. “Facial attacks” on the complaint “require the court to merely look and see if the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in the complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” “Factual attacks, ” on the other hand, challenge “the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.” . . . “[W]hen the attack is factual, . . . the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.”
***
In order to invoke a federal district court's diversity jurisdiction, a plaintiff must claim, among other things, that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. “When a plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, the amount in controversy is the monetary value of the object of the litigation from the plaintiff's perspective.” . . . Generally, “[i]t must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal.” However, where jurisdiction is based on a claim for indeterminate damages, the “legal certainty” test gives way, and the party seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the claim on which it is basing jurisdiction meets the jurisdictional minimum.

Dairyland Ins. Co. v. Chadwick, 2008 WL 912428, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 1, 2008)(internal citations omitted).

         B. Analysis

         The issue before this Court is whether Plaintiff can show that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Plaintiff argues that the $55, 196.03 repair cost may be undervalued because it is merely an estimate. Furthermore, the estimate is from October 2017, and the cost of the repair may have increased over the past two years. However, even if the Court accepts the $55, 196.03 value for the repairs, the Court must also consider the costs of defending the underlying state court action. See id. at *3; Mount Vernon Fire Ins. Co. v. Plant Clinic, 2009 WL 10668243, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 21, 2009); Integon National Ins. Co. v. Ben's Reliable Roofing, Inc., 2010 WL 11506048, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 26, 2010); Canopius U.S. Ins., Inc. v. Prestige General Cleaning Services, Inc., ...


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