Thiebolt Ryan P.A. v. OneBeacon America Insurance Company
MEMORANDUM and ORDER GRANTING 12 Plaintiff's motion to remand, REMANDING the case to the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, and DIRECTING the clerk to CLOSE this case. Signed by Chief Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 10/1/13. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
THIEBOLT RYAN P.A.
Civil Action No. DKC 13-2443
ONEBEACON AMERICA INSURANCE CO.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Thiebolt Ryan P.A., a law firm, alleges in its
complaint that it took out a professional liability insurance
effective from January 1, 2011, to January 1, 2012.
conditions, to indemnify Plaintiff for all damages and expenses
that Plaintiff is liable to pay, and does pay, as a result of
(1) liability for alleged professional [malpractice], and (2)
costs and expenses reasonably incurred and paid by Plaintiff in
defense against any insured liability.”
(ECF No. 2 ¶ 34).
In October 2011, a woman named Ruth Gittens “sent Plaintiff
a demand, alleging that in June 2011 a retired attorney and
partner, no longer employed by Plaintiff, incorrectly attached
[her] bank account[.]”
(Id. at ¶ 10).
Ms. Gittens did not
accept a settlement offer presented by Plaintiff in November
2011, opting instead to file suit in this court in June 2012.
See Gittens v. Thiebolt Ryan, P.A., et al., Civ. No. RDB 121652.
“On or about June 27, 2013, Ms. Gittens filed a second
suit stemming from the same facts and circumstances alleging a
violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”
(ECF No. 2 ¶ 16);
see also Gittens v. Thiebolt Ryan, P.A., et al., Civ. No. RBD
Plaintiff submitted a claim to Defendant on September
25, 2012, seeking to recover costs associated with the Gittens
Defendant denied the claim on October 19, 2012,
asserting that “the claim does not come within the Insuring
Agreement because the claim was not reported in writing during
the policy period or within sixty days thereafter.”
(ECF No. 2
On July 23, 2013, Plaintiff commenced this action in the
Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland, seeking an
order “find[ing] and declar[ing] that Defendant is under a duty
incur and pay by reason of any claims asserted . . . by Ruth
(Id. at 7).
Plaintiff further seeks a damages
award in the amount of “the reasonable value of the benefits
under the insurance policy at issue,” plus “the costs of these
(Id. at ¶ 4).1
Defendant was effectively served on August 13 and removed
to this court approximately one week later, asserting diversity
of citizenship as the jurisdictional basis.
(ECF No. 1).
August 29, Plaintiff filed the pending motion to remand, arguing
that the amount in controversy requirement is not met because it
interest and costs, incurred in connection with two lawsuits
filed against Plaintiff by Ruth Gittens for claims arising out
of an allegedly negligent garnishment.”
(ECF No. 12, at 1).
Defendant opposed the motion (ECF No. 17) and Plaintiff filed a
reply (ECF No. 19).
When the plaintiff challenges the propriety of removal, the
defendant bears the burden of proving the propriety of removal.
See Greer v. Crown Title Corp., 216 F.Supp.2d 519, 521 (D.Md.
2002) (citing Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d
148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994)).
In considering a motion to remand,
Md. Rule 2-305 provides, in relevant part, that “[u]nless
otherwise required by law, . . . a demand for a money judgment
that does not exceed $75,000 shall include the amount of damages
sought[.]” The advisory committee note for Rule 2-305 expressly
states that the required statement “is necessary in order to
determine if the case may be removed to a federal court based on
diversity of citizenship.” Committee Note to Md. Rule 2-305.
Richardson v. Philip Morris Inc., 950 F.Supp. 700, 702
(D.Md. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
reflects the reluctance of federal courts “to interfere with
matters properly before a state court.”
Id. at 701.
action “brought in a State court of which the district courts of
the United States have original jurisdiction.”
Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), district courts have original jurisdiction
“of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds
the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs,
and is between . . . citizens of different States.”
satisfied in this case, but the parties disagree as to whether
Generally, the amount requested in the complaint determines the
amount in controversy.
See Momin v. Maggiemoo’s Int’l, L.L.C.,
205 F.Supp.2d 506, 508-09 (D.Md. 2002) (citing Angus v. Shiley,
Inc., 989 F.2d 142, 145 (3d Cir. 1993)).
When a dispute arises
as to whether the amount in controversy is sufficient to confer
jurisdiction and the complaint specifies an amount in damages
that does not exceed $75,000, “removal is proper only if the
defendant can prove to a ‘legal certainty’ that the plaintiff
Momin, 205 F.Supp.2d at 509.
sought is $74,999.99” (ECF No. 2 ¶ 4); thus, Defendant bears the
controversy is contested, the proponent of federal jurisdiction
must support its assertion with competent proof.”
F.Supp.2d at 510 (quoting Unified Catholic Schools of Beaver Dam
Educational Ass’n v. Universal Card Services Corp., 34 F.Supp.2d
714, 716 (E.D.Wis. 1999) (internal marks omitted)).
has failed to present any proof in support of its claim that
more than $75,000 is actually at issue; rather, it merely argues
$74,999.99, but instead seeks a declaration that OneBeacon is
liable to Plaintiff for ‘any sums’ incurred as a result of the
Gittens lawsuits, including Ms. Gittens’ claims of more than
$250,000, defense costs for the two lawsuits, and the costs of
this lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees.”
(ECF No. 17, at 2).
interpretations, it is well settled that “a plaintiff is the
‘master of the claim,’” Pinney v. Nokia, Inc., 402 F.3d 430, 442
(4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S.
386, 392 (1987)), and the removal statute must be construed
Richardson, 950 F.Supp. at 702.
Because Defendant has failed to
requirement is satisfied, the case must be remanded.
Accordingly, it is this 1st day of October, 2013, by the
Plaintiff’s motion to remand (ECF No. 12) BE, and the
same hereby IS, GRANTED;
The case BE, and the same hereby IS, REMANDED to the
Circuit Court for Prince George’s County;
The clerk is directed to take all necessary steps to
effectuate the remand promptly; and
The clerk is further directed to transmit copies of
this Memorandum Opinion and Order to counsel for the parties,
and to CLOSE this case.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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