Laffer v. Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company

Filing 15

ORDER denying 5 --motion to remand to state court; granting 7 --motion to dismiss; denying as moot 14 --motion to stay. Signed by Judge Steven D. Merryday on 9/14/2017. (SKB)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA TAMPA DIVISION JANE A. LAFFER, Plaintiff, v. CASE NO. 8:17-cv-1926-T-23AEP METROPOLITAN CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. ____________________________________/ ORDER An under-insured motorist allegedly struck Jane Laffer’s vehicle and injured Laffer, whom Metropolitan Casualty insures. In state court, Laffer sued (Doc. 2) Metropolitan for breach of the insurance policy (Count I) and bad faith (Count II). Metropolitan removed (Doc. 1) the action, and Laffer moves (Doc. 5) to remand because the record purportedly fails to establish an amount in controversy likely greater than $75,000. Also, Metropolitan moves (Doc. 7) to dismiss the bad-faith claim, and Laffer moves (Doc. 14) to “abate” the claim. DISCUSSION I. Motion to remand In accord with the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, Laffer alleges damages in excess of $15,000 but declines to specify an amount. If a plaintiff declines to plead a “specific amount of damages,” the defendant must proffer evidence sufficient to show that the amount in controversy on the day of removal more likely than not exceeded $75,000. Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316, 1319 (11th Cir. 2001). Although a demand letter unsupported by specific facts cannot establish the amount in controversy, the demand letter in this instance states that Laffer underwent an “L4-5 laminectomy with bilateral medical facetomies” on February 15, 2017. (Doc. 11 at 12) Laffer states that her unpaid medical bills from the surgery “exceed $100,000.” (Doc. 11 at 12) The statement in the demand letter that Laffer incurred more than $100,000 in expenses from the laminectomy establishes an amount in controversy likely greater than $75,000. II. Bad-faith claim Correctly arguing that the bad-faith claim is premature, Metropolitan moves (Doc. 7) to dismiss the claim under Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.* Blanchard v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 575 So. 2d 1289 (Fla. 1991), holds that “an insured’s underlying first-party action for insurance benefits against the insurer necessarily must be resolved favorably to the insured before the cause of action for bad faith . . . can accrue.” 575 So. 2d at 1291; accord Vest v. Travelers Ins. Co., 753 So. 2d 1270, 1276 (Fla. 2000) (holding that a plaintiff cannot state a claim for bad faith absent a “determination of liability and [damages] on the first-party insurance contract”). The resolution of the breach-of-policy claim in Count I will establish Metropolitan’s liability (if any) and Laffer’s damages (if any). * More than fourteen days after the motion to dismiss, no response appears. -2- CONCLUSION Because Laffer’s statement that she owes more than $100,000 in medical expenses from the laminectomy establishes an amount in controversy likely greater than $75,000, the motion (Doc. 5) to remand is DENIED. Because the absence of a determination of Metropolitan’s liability and Laffer’s damages precludes a bad-faith claim at this time, Metropolitan’s motion (Doc. 7) to dismiss is GRANTED, and the bad-faith claim in Count II is DISMISSED. The motion (Doc. 14) to abate the bad-faith claim is DENIED AS MOOT. ORDERED in Tampa, Florida, on September 14, 2017. -3-

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