United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT
P. GORDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois removed this case on the
basis of diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. Because it did
not appear that the amount in controversy requirement was
satisfied, I ordered Safeco to show cause why this matter
should not be remanded. ECF No. 4. Safeco responds that
because the plaintiff has repeatedly demanded the $100, 000
policy limit, the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Owen Equip.
& Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978).
“A federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a
particular case unless the contrary affirmatively
appears.” Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes
of the Colville Res., 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th
Cir. 1989). “Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if
there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first
instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564,
566 (9th Cir. 1992). Courts “strictly construe the
removal statute against removal jurisdiction.”
Id. “The ‘strong presumption'
against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always
has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.”
Id. Remand is required if the court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
cases where a plaintiff's state court complaint does not
specify a particular amount of damages, the removing
defendant bears the burden of establishing, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy
exceeds [$75, 000]. Under this burden, the defendant must
provide evidence establishing that it is ‘more likely
than not' that the amount in controversy exceeds that
amount.” Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co.,
102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996). Broad allegations that the
jurisdictional amount is met, “‘although
attempting to recite some ‘magical incantation,'
neither overcome[ ] the ‘strong presumption'
against removal jurisdiction, nor satisf[y][the
defendant]'s burden of setting forth, in the removal
petition itself, the underlying facts supporting its
assertion that the amount in controversy exceeds” $75,
000. Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d
676, 689 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Gaus, 980 F.2d at
567, emphasis omitted).
a complaint is unclear as to the total amount of damages
sought, but alleges only upper or lower limits or types of
damages, a district court is free in its
preponderance-of-the-evidence analysis to make estimations of
the amount of damages that could be obtained consistent with
the vague wording of the complaint.” Elliker v.
Contractors Bonding & Ins. Co.,
3:12-v-00438-RCJ-WGC, 2013 WL 757621, at *1 (D. Nev. Feb. 27,
2013) (citing Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506
F.3d 696, 700-01 (9th Cir. 2007)). The Eleventh Circuit Court
of Appeals has held that in making such analyses, district
courts can make “reasonable deductions, reasonable
inferences, or other reasonable extrapolations from the
pleadings to determine whether it is facially apparent that a
case is removable, ” and “may use their judicial
experience and common sense in determining whether the case
stated in a complaint meets federal jurisdictional
requirements.” Roe v. Michelin N. Am., Inc.,
613 F.3d 1058, 1061-1062 (11th Cir. 2010) (quotation
omitted). This approach is consistent with the Supreme
Court's holding in Ashcroft v. Iqbal that
“[determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief . . . requires the reviewing court to draw
on its judicial experience and common sense.” 556 U.S.
662, 679 (2009); see also Roe, 613 F.3d at 1062,
there is considerable doubt as to Safeco's right to
remove this case because it appears highly unlikely that the
plaintiff can satisfy this court's jurisdictional
threshold. The plaintiff has identified only $15, 520.73 in
medical bills and $3, 733.65 in vehicle damage. ECF No. 8-1
at 2, 4. The plaintiff recovered $15, 000 from the
tortfeasor. ECF No. 8-2 at 2. The attached medical records
suggest the plaintiff has ceased treating and there is no
recommendation for surgery or other expensive future
treatment. ECF No. 8-1.
relies on the fact that the plaintiff has repeatedly demanded
the $100, 000 policy limit. A “settlement letter is
relevant evidence of the amount in controversy if it appears
to reflect a reasonable estimate of the plaintiffs
claim.” Babasa v. LensCrafters, Inc., 498 F.3d
972, 975 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation omitted). But given that
nearly all of the plaintiffs medical bills and property
damage has been covered by the tortfeasor's insurance and
there is no indication of future medical treatment needs,
$100, 000 does not appear to reflect a reasonable estimate of
the plaintiffs claim even considering punitive damages. Based
on my judicial, legal, and practical experience and common
sense, Safeco has not met its burden of showing that the
amount in controversy meets federal jurisdictional
requirements. Roe, 613 F.3d at 1061-1062;
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. I therefore remand this
action to state court.
THEREFORE ORDERED that this case is remanded to the state
court from which it was removed for all further proceedings.