Bristol West Insurance Company v. Hodge et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Jackson's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction 20 is GRANTED. Plaintiff's complaint 1 is DISMISSED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because this Court does not have jurisdiction over this action, the Default Judgment granted to in favor of Plaintiff Bristol West Insurance Company against Defendant Deena Hodge 21 is VACATED for want of jurisdiction.. Signed by District Judge Rodney W. Sippel on 11/26/13. (LGK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
BRISTOL WEST INSURANCE
DEENA L. HODGE AND KELLY
Case No. 4:13 CV 375 RWS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before me on Defendant Kelly Jackson’s motion to dismiss this action for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, or in the alternative, to stay this action. Plaintiff Bristol West
Insurance Company opposes the motion and the issues are fully briefed. For the reasons stated
below, I will dismiss this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On October 21, Defendant Jackson was driving her motor vehicle when she was struck
by a motor vehicle being driven by Defendant Hodge. Jackson filed a suit in state court against
Hodge alleging negligence. Jackson also named her insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Company, as a
defendant. In her claims against Cincinnati Insurance Company, Jackson seeks recovery based
on underinsurance coverage.
Bristol West has issued an auto insurance policy to Tom Hodge, Deena Hodge’s
husband, insuring a 1988 Ford Mustang policy limits and a Chevy C30. Defendant Hodge was
not driving either of these vehicles when she was involved in an accident with Jackson; rather
she was driving a 2000 Chevrolet R1500 owned by Todd Runyon.
Jackson has demanded “policy limits” from Bristol West to resolve her claim against
Hodge. Bristol West has denied Jackson’s demand. On February 27, 2013, Bristol West filed
this action alleging diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and seeking a declaratory
judgment that it does not owe defense or indemnity coverage for Jackson’s suit against Hodge in
state court. On October 17, 2013, Jackson moved to dismiss this action for lack of diversity
jurisdiction, arguing that Bristol West has failed to establish that the amount in controversy
Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions where all plaintiffs are
of diverse citizenship from all defendants and where the amount in controversy exceeds the sum
or value of $75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). “If the defendant challenges the plaintiff's
allegations of the amount in controversy, then the plaintiff must establish jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence.” Kopp v. Kopp, 280 F.3d 883, 884-85 (8th Cir. 2002). “In
actions seeking declaratory or injunctive relief, it is well established that the amount in
controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation.” Hunt v. Washington State
Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347 (1977).
Bristol West’s complaint makes no reference to the amount in controversy, except to state
that it exceeds $75,000 and make an assurance that the amount will be “set forth more fully
below.” [Doc. #1, p.2]. Yet the amount in controversy is decidedly not set forth more fully
elsewhere in the complaint. In its response in opposition to Jackson’s motion to dismiss, Bristol
West attempts to establish the amount in controversy as follows:
As no specific limited monetary demand was made to Bristol West
coupled with the fact the neither vehicle covered by the policy was involved in the
subject motor vehicle accident, defendant Jackson’s demand appears to be a
demand to pay the limits for both insured vehicles under the policy -- $50,000 for
the 1988 Ford Mustang policy limits and $50,000 for the Chevy C30 policy
limits, for a total of $100,000, which is clearly in excess of the $75,000
[Doc. #22, p.2].
However, in her reply, Jackson argues that she is not attempting to stack the policy limits.
[Doc. #23, p.1]. She notes that neither she nor Bristol West has cited any provision in the policy
or authority under state law that would allow her to stack the policy limits. In fact, Bristol West
argues that the policy limits cannot be stacked. [Doc. #22, p.2 n.1]. As a result, Bristol West’s
argument is simply too speculative to prove that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 by a
preponderance of the evidence. Because Bristol West failed to establish that the minimum
jurisdictional amount is met, this case must be dismissed without prejudice
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Jackson’s motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction [#20] is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s complaint [#1] is DISMISSED
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because this Court does not have jurisdiction over
this action, the Default Judgment granted to in favor of Plaintiff Bristol West Insurance
Company against Defendant Deena Hodge [#21] is VACATED for want of jurisdiction.
RODNEY W. SIPPEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 26th day of November, 2013.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?