The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katz, Senior District Judge.
According to the complaint, plaintiff Joe Kobaissi was injured
in an automobile accident on May 12, 1998, while he was driving a
taxi cab. Following settlement with Hartford Insurance Company,
presumably the insurer of the other driver, see Compl. ¶¶ 7-8,
plaintiff informed his own insurer, the defendant in this case,
that he would file an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim. See
id. ¶ 10. The defendant apparently claimed that UIM coverage had
been waived, thus spawning the present lawsuit. See id. ¶ 11.
Mr. Kobaissi's three-count complaint seeks stacked UIM benefits
of $45,000, along with attorneys' fees. It also alleges
violations of 42 P.S. § 8371 and seeks interest, punitive
damages, and court costs and attorneys' fees for bad faith denial
of insurance coverage. Although this information is not found in
the complaint itself, the notice of removal states that Mr.
Kobaissi has submitted approximately $12,000 in medical bills.
Each individual count, however, requests relief "not in excess of
Although neither plaintiff's reply to the notice of removal nor
his petition to remand elaborates on these basic facts, plaintiff
includes an affidavit that states:
I Hilal Joe Kobaissi, hereby state and affirm that
I stipulate that my damages as a result of injuries
sustained in my automobile accident on May 12, 1999,
do not exceed the jurisdictional limits of the
federal district court in the amount of $75,000.00.
I stipulate that the value of my case is less than
$75,000. This stipulation is being made voluntarily
and without any coercion or undue influence from
anyone. I have been informed by my attorney that I
will forever be bound by this stipulation and that I
will never receive any damages over and above that
which I have stipulated not to receive.
Reply to Notice of Removal, Ex. A; Pet. for Remand, Ex. A.
A defendant may remove a civil action to federal court if that
court would have had original jurisdiction over the cause of
action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b).*fn1 Here, defendant claims
diversity jurisdiction and thus has the burden of showing that
the parties are diverse in citizenship and that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. As the
parties here appear to be diverse, the only question is whether
the amount in controversy has been met.
Removal statutes are to be strictly construed, and all doubts
must be resolved in favor of remand. See, e.g., Angus v. Shiley
Inc., 989 F.2d 142, 145 (3d Cir. 1993); Boyer v. Snap-On
Tools, 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990). The amount in
controversy is determined as of the date of removal, see
Meritcare Inc. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., 166 F.3d 214, 217
(3d Cir. 1999); that is, a plaintiff may not subsequently amend a
complaint so as to defeat federal jurisdiction. See Angus, 989
F.2d at 145. As the party urging removal, it is the defendant's
burden to show that removal is appropriate. See Boyer, 913 F.2d
at 111. There is a split among the courts in this district as to
what standard of proof to apply, and the Third Circuit has not
ruled explicitly on the matter.*fn2 The
court finds it unnecessary to decide this question, however, as
the defendant has not met its burden under any standard.
The "general federal rule is to decide the amount in
controversy from the complaint itself." Angus, 989 F.2d at 145.
If the amount at issue is not clear from the face of the
complaint itself, the court must evaluate the claim on its own
and attempt to discern the "reasonable value" of the rights being
litigated, including punitive damages. See id. at 146;
International Fleet Auto Sales v. National Auto Credit, Civ.A.
No. 97-CV-1675, 1999 WL 95258, at *3 (E.D.Pa. Feb.22, 1999);
Feldman v. New York Life Ins. Co., Civ.A. No. 97-4684, 1998 WL
94800, at *4 (E.D.Pa. Mar.4, 1998). The court may look at the
notice of removal in such circumstances to determine whether the
defendant has met its burden. See, e.g., Johnson v. Costco
Wholesale, Civ.A. No. 99-cv-3576, 1999 WL 740690, at *2 (E.D.Pa.
A plaintiff may not seek to defeat a defendant's statutory
right of removal by artful pleading that would artificially
minimize the damages at issue for purposes of federal
jurisdiction yet permit recovery of higher damages in a state
court. Thus, ad damnum clauses such as those found in this
complaint do not resolve the question of the amount in
controversy. See Meritcare, 166 F.3d at 217.*fn3 Similarly, a
subsequent stipulation that damages do not exceed the
jurisdictional limit cannot defeat ...