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Minissale v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 20, 2013

ANTHONY & MARYANN MINISSALE
v.
STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY

For ANTHONY MINISSALE, MARYANN MINISSALE, Plaintiffs: JAMES S. BAINBRIDGE, LEAD ATTORNEY, THE BAINBRIDGE LAW FIRM LLC, BLUE BELL, PA.

For STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant: BONNIE S. STEIN, LEAD ATTORNEY, CURTIN AND HEEFNER L.L.P., MORRISVILLE, PA.

OPINION

Page 473

MEMORANDUM RE: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND

Michael M. Baylson, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs move to remand this case that was initially removed on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, contending Defendant has failed to show the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and Defendant's Notice of Removal was untimely.

I. Background

On June 7, 2011 water damaged the granite flooring of Plaintiffs' home. Plaintiffs contend their homeowner's insurance policy with State Farm covered replacement cost of the floor, but when they filed an insurance claim, State Farm refused to pay. On June 6, 2013, Plaintiffs brought claims for breach of contract and bad faith, seeking damages " in excess of $50,000 together with interest and costs and the cost of suit, counsel fees as permitted by law and grant such other relief as the Court may deem just and appropriate." (ECF 5A). In a letter from their counsel seeking payment on the policy, Plaintiffs provided Defendant with an estimate of $55,315.00 to replace the floor prior to the

Page 474

initiation of litigation on April 4, 2013. (ECF 5D).[1]

On August 20, 2013 Defendants served on Plaintiffs a Request for Admission that total damages sought do not exceed $50,000, that total damages do not exceed $75,000 and that total damages sought do not exceed $150,000. (ECF 6A). Plaintiffs objected to the Request for Admission, contending it was premature because they were continuing their investigation. (ECF 6B). Plaintiffs responded they reserved their right to amend or supplement their response, and that " [i]t is specifically denied that plaintiffs' total damages do not exceed $75,000." (ECF 6B).

Defendant received Plaintiffs' response on September 19, and filed a notice of removal to federal court on October 7, 2013. Plaintiffs have moved to remand, contending defendants have failed to establish the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 as required for subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and that Defendant's notice of removal was untimely.

II. The Parties' Arguments

1. Plaintiffs contend the only evidence of damages at this point in time is their estimate for the cost to replace the floor for $55,315.00. Defendant argues Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Request for Admissions to show Plaintiffs denied the amount in controversy does not exceed $50,000, $75,000, or $150,000. Defendant notes that in addition to the compensatory damages, Plaintiffs are seeking to recover damages for interest on the amount of the claim, punitive damages, and costs and attorney's fees for bad faith under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371. Defendant contends the sum total of damages could exceed $75,000.

2. Plaintiffs also contend Defendant's motion to remove was untimely, because the complaint was filed on June 7, but removal was not sought until October 7, exceeding the 30-day time limit for removal under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1446(b). Defendant points to language in Section ยง 1446(b)(3) providing for timely removal upon receipt of additional jurisdictional information in amended pleadings or " other paper." Since the Plaintiffs' Responses to Defendant's ...


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