United States District Court, D. Nevada
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR HEARING [DOC. 17] AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [DOC.
JENNIFER A. DORSEY, District Judge.
Defendants Nationwide Insurance Company and Allied Insurance Company of America removed this bad-faith-insurance-coverage-denial action from Nevada State court pursuant to the federal diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff Jeanette Schneider, who claims to have incurred almost $300, 000 in medical expenses for which she appears to hold Defendants responsible, prefers state court and moves to remand the case there, arguing that Defendants have not met their burden to show that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. After reviewing the medical documents Defendants submitted with their opposition to Schneider's motion to remand, the Court disagrees and denies Schneider's motion to remand.
Schneider sued Defendants in Nevada State Court, alleging that on February 9, 2010, through no fault of her own, she sustained personal injuries in an automobile accident for which she claims "there was in force and effect a policy of insurance issued by NATIONWIDE/ALLIED... which provided uninsured motorist coverage to [her] in the amount of $500, 000, single limit, and medical payments coverage in the amount of $5, 000." Doc. 1-1 at 5. By July 22, 2013, Schneider's medical bills from the accident totaled approximately $279, 000, and she made a demand for the entire $500, 000 policy limit; Defendants rejected this demand, perceiving Schneider's medical-treatment plan as excessive. Id. at 6. On September 21, 2013, Schneider sued Defendants in State Court, alleging breach of contract (Count 1), breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count 2), and unfair claims practices (Count 3). Doc. 1-1 at 7-8. Scheneider claims to have suffered damages in excess of $10, 000 on each count, and seeks, inter alia, general and punitive damages in excess of $10, 000, as well as special damages in an amount to be proven at trial. Id. at 9.
On November 6, 2013, Defendants removed this case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446, alleging that removal is proper because the parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Doc. 1 at 2. Schneider moved to remand the case, arguing essentially that Defendants' subjective opinion that she should be entitled to only $18, 000 in medical expenses should bar them from removal. Doc. 9 at 6.
A. Motion for Hearing
Defendants request a hearing on the motion to remand. Local Rule 78-2 provides that, "[a]ll motions may, in the Court's discretion, be considered and decided with or without a hearing." Defendants offer no reason why oral argument would be beneficial, and the Court own investigation reveals none. The Court finds this motion appropriate for disposition without oral argument, and their request is denied.
B. Motion to Remand
Defendants may remove a civil action to federal court based on diversity of citizenship where "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of different states." As federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, they "presume that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, " such that the party asserting federal jurisdiction always bears the burden of proof. Accordingly, "the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." If a court finds that the amount-in-controversy threshold is not satisfied in a case premised on diversity of citizenship, it should remand the case to state court.
1. The Amount-in-Controversy Requirement Does not Require Defendants to Believe that Any Amount of Damages Will Actually Be Recovered.
Schneider's sole argument in support of remand is that in denying her medical claims Defendants relied on the opinions of their medical expert, Dr. Ginsburg, "who believes that Plaintiff's accident related medical treatment is only equal to $18, 000." Doc. 9 at 6. Defendants respond that the "amount in controversy" requirement does not require them to pinpoint those damages they believe Schneider will recover, but rather to estimate the amount of money placed at issue in the course of litigation. Doc. 13 at 5. Defendants correctly observe that the amount-in-controversy requirement only requires them to estimate that some amount of money is in dispute, but not to believe that any specific amount will be recovered. Were the latter criteria required, there would be little "controversy" at all. Plaintiffs' motion to remand on the basis of the Defendants' negotiation or litigation posture is without merit.
2. The Damages Amount Is not Clear from the Face of the Complaint.
Defendants claim to reach the jurisdictional threshold because although Schneider's damages amount is not alleged on the face of her complaint, her allegations show that Schneider made an underinsured-motorist demand on Defendants for $500, 000, the denial of which prompted Schneider to file this action. Doc. 13 at 5-6. "[W]hen a complaint filed in state court alleges on its face an amount in controversy sufficient to meet the federal jurisdictional threshold, such requirement is presumptively satisfied unless it appears to a legal certainty' that the plaintiff cannot actually recover that amount." However, Schneider's complaint is not a "paragon of clarity, " as its three causes of action specify only that Schneider as suffered damages "in excess of ten thousand dollars, " (consistent with standard practice in the Eighth Judicial ...