Davis v. Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company of America

Filing 17

ORDER that 8 Plaintiff's Motion to Remand to State Court is DENIED. Signed by Judge James C. Mahan on 8/15/17. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - MMM)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 6 *** 7 JEREMIAH DAVIS, 8 Plaintiff(s), 9 10 11 Case No. 2:17-CV-1161 JCM (VCF) ORDER v. NATIONWIDE AFFINITY INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant(s). 12 13 14 Presently before the court is plaintiff Jeremiah Davis’s motion to remand to state court. 15 (ECF No. 8). Defendant Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company of America filed a statement 16 regarding removal. (ECF No. 9). Defendant also filed an opposition to plaintiff’s motion to 17 remand (ECF No. 10), to which plaintiff replied (ECF No. 11). 18 I. Facts 19 This is a breach of insurance contract action. (ECF No. 1 at 9–10). Plaintiff alleges that 20 “[d]efendant was obligated to indemnify [p]laintiff for any harm caused to [p]laintiff for which 21 coverage might reasonably be provided under the [p]olicy.” (Id. at 10). Plaintiff further alleges 22 that defendant breached this duty when it refused to indemnify plaintiff after an uninsured motorist 23 crashed into the rear of his rental car while stopped at a traffic light. (Id.). 24 Plaintiff originally filed the complaint in state court on March 17, 2017. (ECF No. 1 at 9). 25 The complaint alleges three causes of action: (1) breach of contract, (2) bad faith, and (3) unfair 26 settlement practices. (Id. at 9–16). Plaintiff pleads actual damages—which encompass medical 27 payments coverage, uninsured motorists’ coverage, and emotional distress—totaling exactly 28 James C. Mahan U.S. District Judge 1 $75,000. (Id. at 16). Plaintiff also requests punitive damages and “such further relief as the court 2 deems just” in its prayer for relief. (Id. at 16). Defendant removed the action to federal court on April 26, 2017, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3 4 1332. (See id.). In the instant motion, plaintiff moves to remand the action to state court. (ECF No. 8). 5 6 II. Legal Standard 7 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in a State court of which the 8 district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or 9 the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the 10 place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). 11 For a United States district court to have diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the 12 parties must be completely diverse and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000, exclusive 13 of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 14 1098 (9th Cir. 2003). A removing defendant has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the 15 evidence that the jurisdictional amount is met. Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 16 398, 403–04 (9th Cir. 1996). “Where both actual and punitive damages are recoverable under a 17 complaint each must be considered to the extent claimed in determining jurisdictional amount.” 18 Bell v. Preferred Life Assur. Soc. of Montgomery, Ala., 320 U.S. 238, 240 (1943); see also Gibson 19 v. Chrysler Corp., 261 F.3d 927, 945 (9th Cir. 2001) (“It is well established that punitive damages 20 are part of the amount in controversy in a civil action”). 21 Procedurally, a defendant has thirty (30) days upon notice of removability to remove a case 22 to federal court. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1250 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing 23 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)). Defendants are not charged with notice of removability “until they’ve 24 received a paper that gives them enough information to remove.” Id. at 1251. 25 A plaintiff may challenge removal by timely filing a motion to remand. 28 U.S.C. § 26 1447(c). Remand to state court is proper if the district court lacks jurisdiction. Id. On a motion 27 to remand, the removing defendant faces a strong presumption against removal, and bears the 28 James C. Mahan U.S. District Judge -2- 1 burden of establishing that removal is proper. Sanchez 102 F.3d at 403–04; Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 2 980 F.2d 564, 566–67 (9th Cir. 1992). 3 III. Discussion 4 In its statement of removal, defendant argues that it has properly removed the case to 5 federal court, that complete diversity exists between the parties, and that the amount-in- 6 controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs. (ECF No. 1). 7 Plaintiff does not dispute that, procedurally, the case has been properly removed. (See ECF 8 Nos. 8, 11). Further, neither party argues that complete diversity is not met. (See ECF Nos. 8, 9, 9 10, 11). Instead, plaintiff’s argument is that the amount-in-controversy is exactly $75,000 and, as 10 a result, the case must be remanded to state court. (ECF No. 8). The court disagrees. 11 Here, the complaint “filed in state court alleges on its face an amount in controversy 12 sufficient to meet the federal jurisdictional threshold.” Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 13 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007). The court finds that the instant action, which concerns defendant’s 14 alleged breach of insurance contract and bad faith, falls squarely within the purview of the Nevada 15 Revised Statute authorizing punitive damages. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 42.005(2)(b). Moreover, 16 plaintiff’s complaint specifically requests punitive damage be imposed. (ECF No. 1 at 16). 17 Consequently, punitive damages must be included in the total amount-in-controversy. Bell, 320 18 U.S. at 240. 19 The allegation of actual damages in the amount of $75,000 on the face of the complaint 20 coupled with the request for punitive damages presumptively satisfies the amount-in-controversy 21 requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1332. See id. Having pleaded exactly $75,000 in actual damages, the 22 amount-in-controversy requirement is satisfied because plaintiff has pleaded punitive damages in 23 some amount. Further, it does not appear “to a ‘legal certainty’ that the plaintiff cannot actually 24 recover that amount.” Id. Defendant has met its burden of showing, by a preponderance of the 25 evidence, that removal is proper. See Sanchez, 102 F.3d at 403–04. As a result, plaintiff’s motion 26 to remand is denied. 27 ... 28 ... James C. Mahan U.S. District Judge -3- 1 IV. Conclusion 2 Accordingly, 3 IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that plaintiff’s motion to 4 5 6 7 remand to state court (ECF No. 8) be, and the same hereby is, DENIED. DATED August 15, 2017. __________________________________________ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 James C. Mahan U.S. District Judge -4-

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