Navarro et al v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company et al

Filing 18

ORDER granting 11 Motion to Remand to State Court. This case is remanded to Maricopa County Superior Court. Signed by Judge David G Campbell on 7/17/17. (Attachments: # 1 Remand Letter)(DXD)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Thomas Navarro, et al., Plaintiffs, 10 11 ORDER v. 12 No. CV17-1609-PHX-DGC American Family Mutual Insurance Company, et al., 13 14 Defendants. 15 16 Defendant American Family removed this case on the basis of diversity 17 jurisdiction. At the case management conference on July 14, 2017, the Court discussed 18 the basis for its jurisdiction with the parties. Plaintiffs explained that although the 19 appraised loss amount in this case was about $30,000, all but about $7,000 had been paid 20 by Defendant before removal, and Plaintiffs have made a settlement demand for a 21 remaining $45,000. Thus, in Plaintiffs’ view, the amount in controversy is well below 22 $75,000. Defendant believes the value of the case exceeds $75,000, apparently because 23 Plaintiffs make claims for punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. 24 For a federal court to exercise removal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1446, the 25 amount in controversy must “exceed[] the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest 26 and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Courts “strictly construe the removal statute against 27 removal jurisdiction.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “The 28 1 strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the 2 burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Id. 3 When a state court complaint does not clearly plead the requisite amount in 4 controversy and the plaintiff contests the amount, the removing defendant “must provide 5 evidence establishing that it is more likely than not that the amount in controversy 6 exceeds [$75,000].” Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 7 1996) (quotation marks omitted). A defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by 8 speculation and conjecture. Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 9 2015). 10 The mere possibility of a punitive damages award is insufficient to prove that the 11 amount in controversy requirement has been met. Burk v. Med. Sav. Ins. Co., 348 F. 12 Supp. 2d 1063, 1069 (D. Ariz. 2004). Plaintiffs’ complaint does not specify an amount of 13 punitive damages sought, and Plaintiffs’ counsel asserts that he has made an overall 14 settlement demand of $45,000. The Court concludes that the claim for punitive damages 15 does not satisfy the amount in controversy requirement. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Attorneys’ fees are part of the amount in controversy “if authorized by statute or contract,” Kroske v. U.S. Bank Corp., 432 F.3d 976, 980 (9th Cir. 2005), but Defendant can only speculate as to the ultimate amount of recoverable attorneys’ fees in this case, and such speculation cannot establish the jurisdiction of this Court. See Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197. IT IS ORDERED that this case is remanded to Maricopa County Superior Court. Dated this 17th day of July, 2017. 23 24 25 26 27 28 -2-

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