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Ramberger v. Government Employee Insurance Co.

May 29, 2009

SHARLENE RAMBERGER, PLAINTIFF
v.
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is Plaintiff Sharlene Ramberger's motion to remand this case, which asserts a bad faith cause of action against the Defendant Government Employee Insurance Company. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Background

Plaintiff had an automobile insurance policy through defendant. (Doc. 1-3, Complaint ¶ 4). In September 2006, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident and incurred medical costs. (Id. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff asserts that defendant was obligated to provide medical benefits under the terms of the insurance policy. (Id. at ¶ 6). However, defendant refused to provide the benefits. (Id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff asserts that defendant's actions in denying benefits constitute bad faith under 42 PENN. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 8371.

Thus, plaintiff instituted the instant action in the Court of Common Pleas for Pike County, Pennsylvania. The defendant then removed the action to this court. In the notice of removal, the defendant asserts that this court has diversity jurisdiction in that the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal ¶ ¶ 6, 16). Plaintiff has filed a motion to remand, bringing the case to its present posture.

Discussion

A defendant can generally remove a state court civil action to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction to address the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute "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 . . . citizens of different States[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Once a case has been removed, we may remand it if we determine that we lack jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The basis of plaintiff's motion for remand is that the complaint seeks a cumulative total of $70,000, and thus, the jurisdictional threshold of the amount in controversy has not been met.

The burden of establishing jurisdiction in the removal situation rests with the defendant. Meritcare, Inc. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., 166 F.3d 214, 217 (3d Cir. 1999). As noted above, the defendant asserts that this court has diversity jurisdiction because the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Plaintiff does not dispute that the parties are diverse, but rather contends that pursuant to the complaint, the amount in controversy is merely seeks $70,000. In this situation, the defendant's burden is to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory threshold. Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 195 (3d Cir. 2007).*fn1

Thus, we must determine whether the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00. We start our analysis by reviewing the plaintiff's complaint. Angus v. Shiley, Inc., 989 f.2d 142, 145 (3d Cir. 1993). The ad damnum clause of the complaint seeks a total of $70,000.00. Specifically, it reads:

Plaintiffs demand judgment against the defendant for the elements of damages set forth below in the total, cumulative amount of $70,000.00:

a. Interest on the claims from the date the claims were due at the rate of 12%;

b. Treble damages on improperly paid and unpaid bills;

c. Costs and attorney fees for the underlying action as well as the ...


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