Deaton et al v. Liberty Mutual Group, Inc.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting 6 Motion to Remand. So Ordered by Chief Judge William E. Smith on 11/9/2017. (Jackson, Ryan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND
LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, INC. d/b/a
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE,
JOHN DEATON and O & J, LLC,
C.A. No. 17-233 WES
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.
Plaintiffs John Deaton and O & J, LLC (“Plaintiffs”) moved to
remand this case to state court (Pls.’ Mot. To Remand, ECF No. 6)
opposed that motion (Def.’s Opp’n to Pls.’ Mot. To Remand, ECF No.
After the parties filed their respective motions, the Court
issued an order inviting Plaintiffs to file a stipulation to the
amount in controversy within 21 days (ECF No. 8) (“Stipulation
Plaintiffs declined the Court’s invitation and now the
Court, addressing its merits, GRANTS Plaintiffs’ motion for the
reasons that follow.
The parties’ dispute arises from a 2013 incident in which
rain and wind damaged Plaintiffs’ commercial property.
Compl. 2, ECF No. 1-1.)
Plaintiffs and their insurance company,
Plaintiffs were entitled to under the insurance policy.
On April 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against
Liberty Mutual in Rhode Island Superior Court, alleging five claims
enrichment; and (V) bad faith.
(Id. at 4–8.)
Plaintiffs allege that Liberty Mutual owes them approximately
$68,345.76 for the original loss sustained to the insured property,
but note that “[t]he actual amount lost to date may be higher than
that documented in 2014.”
(Id. at 3.)
In their prayer for relief,
Plaintiffs demand “full insurance coverage” under the policy, as
(Id. at 7.)
Liberty Mutual filed a Notice of Removal in this Court on May
16, 2017, pursuant to this Court’s diversity jurisdiction, 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), and removal statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and
(Def.’s Notice of Removal 1., ECF No. 1.)
asserts that although Plaintiffs’ demand for “preliminary damages
of $68,345.76” is less than the statutory amount in controversy
substantiated, would realistically meet or exceed the $6,654.24
required to meet the jurisdictional amount.”
(Id. at 1–3.)
Plaintiff timely filed a Motion To Remand alleging that “[t]he
amount in controversy in this action is $68,345.76, which is less
tha[n] the minimum requirement of $75,000.00,” and thus, this Court
lacks jurisdiction over the case.
(Pls.’ Mot. To Remand 1, ECF
“A case asserting state law claims and filed in state court
may be removed by a defendant to federal court, if there is both
diversity of citizenship and a sufficient amount in controversy
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)–(c).”
Hogan v. Wal-Mart Stores
E., L.P., No. CA 13-603 S, 2014 WL 66658, at *2 (D.R.I. Jan. 8,
The parties do not dispute that they are of diverse
As the party seeking removal, Liberty Mutual bears
the burden of establishing a reasonable probability that the amount
in controversy requirement is met.
See Amoche v. Guarantee Tr.
Life Ins. Co., 556 F.3d 41, 48-50 (1st Cir. 2009) (stating that
the “reasonable probability standard is . . . for all practical
“‘reasonable probability’ language better captures the preliminary
nature of this [removal] inquiry”).
The Court is mindful that in
principles of “federalism and comity, removal statutes are to be
construed strictly and, in ambiguous cases, constructed against
Porter v. Am. Heritage Life Ins. Co., 956 F. Supp. 2d
344, 347 (D.R.I. 2013) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets,
controversy, the Court assumes that Plaintiffs’ allegations are
true, and considers “[t]he types of damages . . . permitted by the
state-law cause of action.”
Hogan, 2014 WL 66658, at *4 (citing
Abdel–Aleem v. OPK Biotech LLC, 665 F.3d 38, 42 (1st Cir. 2012);
Gabrielle v. Allegro Resorts Hotels, 210 F. Supp. 2d 62, 65 (D.R.I.
The Court also considers affirmative evidence outside of
the complaint in support of the amount in controversy. See Amoche,
556 F.3d at 51 (relying on the defendant’s affidavit regarding
damages calculations in the amount in controversy analysis).
The parties agree that at least $68,345.76 is in controversy.
(Pls.’ Mot. To Remand 4; Def.’s Notice of Removal 2-3.)
that, Liberty Mutual has offered no affirmative evidence to support
its assertion that the remaining claims, “if substantiated, would
realistically meet or exceed the $6,654.24 required to meet the
(Def.’s Notice of Removal 2-3.)
Mutual cites to myriad cases from other jurisdictions that consider
controversy requirement, but Liberty Mutual gives no evidence to
support a conclusion that there is a reasonably probability that
$6,654.24. This Court has previously declined to consider punitive
damages on a motion to remand because “those amounts are not
quantifiable at this point in the litigation,” Porter, 956 F. Supp.
2d at 348, and any consideration of them would be pure speculation.
probability that the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory
minimum of $75,000.
As such, this Court must carry out the federal
practice of strictly construing removal statutes against removal.
See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp., 313 U.S. at 109.
For the foregoing reasons, this Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’
Motion To Remand (ECF No. 6).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
William E. Smith
Date: November 9, 2017
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