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Abel v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

March 23, 2015

REBECCA ABEL, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND

DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.

This is an insurance coverage action originally brought in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Mississippi, by Plaintiff Rebecca Abel against Defendant Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Allstate"). Doc. #2. Before the Court is Abel's motion to remand. Doc. #6.

I

Motion to Remand Standard

The Judiciary Act of 1789 provides that "any civil action brought in a State court of which the districts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Original federal diversity jurisdiction exists "where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between... citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Addo v. Globe Life and Accident Ins. Co., 230 F.3d 759, 761 (5th Cir. 2000).

After removal of a case, the plaintiff may move for remand, and "the burden falls on the party seeking to maintain this court's jurisdiction to show that the requirements for removal have been met." Culpepper v. Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., No. 4:08-cv-16, 2009 WL 387322, at *1 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 13, 2009) (citing De Aguilar v. Boeing Co., 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir. 1995)). "If it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The Fifth Circuit has held that the removal statutes are to be construed "strictly against removal and for remand." Eastus v. Blue Bell Creameries, L.P., 97 F.3d 100, 106 (5th Cir. 1996).

II

Procedural History

On April 1, 2014, Abel filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Mississippi. Doc. #2. In her complaint, Abel alleges that Allstate issued an insurance policy that provided her with uninsured motorist insurance. Id. ¶ 5. Abel further alleges that while this policy was in effect, she was involved in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist that resulted in her bodily injury, and that Allstate violated the policy by failing to make the required bodily injury payments. Id. ¶¶ 6-9.

Allstate removed the action to this Court on May 5, 2014, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Doc. #1. In its notice of removal, Allstate noted that "[t]he Complaint in this matter seeks $100, 000.00 in the Prayer for Relief and ad damnum clause. This amount in controversy exceeds the amount of $75, 000.00 required for diversity jurisdiction to be applicable, making this action removable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441." Id. ¶ 6.

On June 16, 2014, Abel filed the instant motion to remand. Doc. #6. Simultaneous with filing the motion to remand, Abel submitted an affidavit in which she avers that "the policy had uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of $25, 000 for two (2) vehicles." Doc. #6-2 at ¶ 4. Abel contends that although her complaint seeks $100, 000 in damages, the policy limit at the time of the accident was $50, 000, an amount below the jurisdictional requirement. Doc. #7 at 2-4. Allstate opposes remand, and argues that because the complaint seeks $100, 000 in damages, it was removable on its face. Doc. #9 at ¶ 1. Allstate further contends that remand to Montgomery County is improper, and that Attala County is the correct venue under Mississippi law. Id. ¶¶ 7-9.

III

Analysis

It is axiomatic that diversity jurisdiction exists only "where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Generally, the amount of damages claimed by the plaintiff controls, as long as the claim is made in good faith. St. Paul Reinsurance Co., Ltd. v. Greenberg, 134 F.3d 1250, 1253 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938)). However, "if... it is apparent to a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot recover the amount claimed or... that the plaintiff never was entitled to recover that amount, and that his claim was therefore colorable for the purpose of conferring ...


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