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White v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

May 16, 2018

KATHY WHITE PLAINTIFF
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S [4] MOTION TO REMAND

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion to Remand [4] filed by Plaintiff Kathy White. This Motion is fully briefed. Having considered the Motion, the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [4] should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises out of a vehicular crash which occurred on or about September 28, 2014, in Waveland, Mississippi. See Compl. [2] at 2. While the facts of the crash are not completely clear from the record, the incident apparently involved Plaintiff Kathy White (“Plaintiff”) and another individual, Paul White. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff alleges that the collision was the result of Paul White's negligence, and that she sustained “substantial personal injuries, medical expenses, severe pain and suffering, and mental anguish.” Id. at 3.

         Defendant Allstate Insurance Company (“Defendant” or “Allstate”) tendered policy limits of $25, 000.00 to Plaintiff on behalf of its insured Paul White, but Plaintiff claims that this amount failed to adequately compensate her for the extensive injuries she suffered. She now seeks underinsured motorist coverage under her own underinsured insurance policy, which also happens to be issued by Allstate. Id. According to Plaintiff, Allstate has refused to pay her the benefits to which she is entitled without having a reasonable or arguable basis to deny her claim. Id.

         On September 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi, naming Allstate as the sole Defendant. Compl. [2] at 1. The Complaint advances claims for uninsured motorist coverage and bad faith failure to pay benefits. Id. Although Plaintiff has not demanded a specific sum of monetary damages in an ad damnum clause, the Complaint seeks damages “not limited to the amount of the uninsured coverage available under the applicable ALLSTATE policy, compensatory damages, interest and costs of suit and punitive damages.” Id. at 4.

         On December 15, 2017, Allstate removed the case to this Court, invoking diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Notice of Removal [1] at 2. Plaintiff has filed the present Motion to Remand [4], contending that the amount-in-controversy requirement of § 1332 is not satisfied. Pl.'s Mot. [4] at 1-2. Defendant responds that, in light of the bad faith claim and request for an unspecified amount of punitive damages in the Complaint, the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00. Def.'s Resp. [6] at 1-2; Def.'s Mem. [7] at 3-7. While a copy of the policy has not been submitted, the parties appear to agree that the amount of the underinsured motorist benefits available under the policy is limited to $25, 000.00. Def.'s Resp. [6] at 1; Pl.'s Reply [9] at 3.

         In support of Plaintiff's request to remand, she has submitted an Affidavit [8] with her Reply [9], in which she purportedly attempts to limit her ability to recover damages from Allstate. Aff. of Kathy White [8] at 1-2. Plaintiff “agree[s] to never seek damages from defendant in excess of $75, 000.00, including costs, attorney fees and interest.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff further “agree[s] to never seek to amend [her] complaint at a later time to seek damages in excess of $75, 000.00.” Id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Relevant Legal Standards

         “The burden is on the removing party to show that removal is proper.” Vantage Drilling Co. v. Hsin-Chi Su, 741 F.3d 535, 537 (5th Cir. 2014). “The party seeking to invoke federal diversity jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing both that the parties are diverse and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Garcia v. Koch Oil Co. of Texas Inc., 351 F.3d 636, 638 (5th Cir. 2003). “Any doubts regarding whether removal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction.” Vantage Drilling Co., 741 F.3d at 537 (quotation omitted).

         28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) provides that

[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between--

(1) citizens of different States . . . .

28 U.S.C. ยง 1332(a)(1). The parties do not dispute that they are of diverse citizenship; the pertinent question is whether the ...


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