United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HOVWRD UNITED SLATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion
to Remand and Memordandum [sic] of Law in Support Thereof
(Doc. 8; Motion), filed on August 29, 2019. In the Motion,
Plaintiff seeks remand of this lawsuit to state court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447, and in support, argues
that Defendant's removal of the action was untimely.
See Motion at 7-8. Defendant Target Corporation
filed a response in opposition to the Motion on September 12,
2019. See Defendant's Response with Memorandum
of Law to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 9;
Response). Defendant maintains that it timely removed the
case within thirty days of its receipt of medical records
from which it could first ascertain that the amount in
controversy necessary to invoke this Court's diversity
jurisdiction was satisfied. See Response at 6-7.
Upon review, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court
finds that the Motion is due to be denied.
action arises out of injuries Plaintiff John Rigdon allegedly
sustained in an accident involving the operation of a push
cart at a Target store in Jacksonville, Florida. See
generally Complaint (Doc. 3). Prior to filing this
lawsuit, on February 5, 2019, Plaintiff's counsel
submitted a written settlement offer to Defendant's
insurer offering to resolve the matter for the
“liability limits of $350, 000.00.” See
Response, Ex. A at 2. Plaintiff argues that “medical
records and billing in support of his offer were enclosed
with the demand.” See Motion at 1. According
to Plaintiff, these records “stated that Plaintiff had
consented to a surgical procedure” and provided
“the estimated costs of said procedure.”
Id. Significantly, the records attached to the
demand letter documented only $5, 835 in medical costs.
See Response at 2 n.1, Ex. B. Neither party filed
the surgical consent form or estimate for the Court's
review, but Defendant asserts that the records reflected an
estimated surgeon's fee of $30, 000. See
Response at 2. On March 15, 2019, Plaintiff underwent surgery
on his left knee. See Motion at 1. On May 1, 2019,
Plaintiff initiated this action in the Circuit Court of the
Fourth Judicial Circuit in and for Duval County, Florida.
See Complaint (Doc. 3). In the Complaint, Plaintiff
alleges that “[t]his is an action for damages in excess
of $15, 000.000 [sic], exclusive of attorneys' fees,
costs, and interest.” Id. ¶ 1. On July 9,
2019, Plaintiff served on Defendant his Answers to
Interrogatories and Response to First Request to Produce
which included medical bills totaling $57, 664.41.
See Motion at 2; Defendant Target Corporation's
Notice of Removal (Doc. 1; Notice), Exs. D-J. Defendant then
removed the case to this Court on August 8, 2019. See
Notice, Defendant invokes this Court's diversity
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. See
Notice at 1. “A district court has [diversity]
jurisdiction over all cases between citizens of different
states when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000.” See Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co.,
168 F.3d 405, 412 (11th Cir. 1999) (emphasis omitted) (citing
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3)
if the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable,
a notice of removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt
by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of
an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which
it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or
has become removable.
asserts that it could not ascertain that the jurisdictional
threshold was satisfied until it received Plaintiff's
July 9, 2019 discovery responses. See Response at 5.
As such, Defendant maintains that it timely removed this
action within thirty days of receiving this information.
See id. at 6-7.
Plaintiff does not dispute that the amount in controversy in
this case exceeds $75, 000. Rather, Plaintiff maintains that
Defendant knew the jurisdictional threshold was met upon
receipt of Plaintiff's pre-suit demand letter seeking the
$350, 000 liability limits. See Motion at 7.
Plaintiff's argument is unavailing. As the Court has
“[w]hen referencing a demand letter to ascertain the
amount in controversy, courts analyze ‘whether demand
letters merely reflect puffing and posturing or whether they
provide specific information to support the plaintiff's
claim for damages.'” See Boyd v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 6:15-cv-1965-Orl-22TBJ, 2015 WL
12838805, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 16, 2015) (quoting Moser
v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., No. 8:14-cv-3121-CEH-TWG, 2015
WL 628961, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 12, 2015)). If a pre-suit
demand letter provides “a reasonable assessment of the
value of the claim, ” then it is “more indicative
of the true amount in controversy, ” especially where
the letter “contains supporting information, such as
medical bills or a specific medical diagnosis.”
Id. (internal quotation omitted); see also
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). In contrast, a demand for a lump sum amount
“without the slightest suggestion how in the world the
plaintiff[ ] could support such a figure, ” is
considered nothing more than mere posturing. See Jackson
v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., 651 F.Supp.2d 1279,
1281 (S.D. Ala. 2009).
See Adkins v. Family Dollar Stores of Fla., LLC,
Case No. 3:18-cv-1257-J-34PDB, 2018 WL 5312024, at *3 (M.D.
Fla. Oct. 26, 2018); see also, e.g.,
Ashmeade v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, Case No.
5:15-cv-533-Oc-34PRL, 2016 WL 1743457, at *2-4 (M.D. Fla. May
3, 2016); Crable v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.,
Case No. 5:10-cv-402-Oc-99MMH-JBT, 2010 WL 11470855, at *5
n.7 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 15, 2010).
the demand letter offered no facts or records to substantiate
Plaintiff's demand for the $350, 000 policy limits.
See Response, Ex. A. Indeed, the costs reflected in
the medical bills provided ($5, 835) do not even remotely
come close to the $350, 000 liability limits demanded, nor do
they exceed the $75, 000 jurisdictional threshold.
See Response, Ex. B. While Plaintiff appears to
contend that notice of the recommended knee surgery
sufficiently indicated that the amount in controversy would
exceed $75, 000, see Motion at 3, 7, prior to its
receipt of the medical records, Defendant could do no more
than speculate as to whether Plaintiff had actually decided
to move forward with the recommended knee surgery, and what
the ultimate cost of such a surgery would be. Indeed, the
$30, 000 estimated surgical fee provided to Defendant still
left Plaintiff's medical costs far short of the
jurisdictional threshold. Thus, prior to its receipt of the
additional medical records on July 9, 2019, Defendant did not
have information from which it could ascertain that this case
was removable. Accordingly, the Court finds that
Defendant's removal of this action was not untimely. In
light of the foregoing, it is
Plaintiffs Motion to Remand and Memordandum [sic] of Law in
Support Thereof (Doc. 8) is DENIED.
Clerk of the Court is directed to terminate Plaintiff Joy