United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MARY T. NERI, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.
the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (“Motion
to Remand”) (ECF No. 5), Defendant's Response in
Opposition thereto (ECF No. 7), Plaintiffs' Motion to
Strike Defendant's Response in Opposition to
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (“Motion to
Strike”) (ECF No. 8), Defendant State Farm Fire and
Casualty Company's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs'
Complaint Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b) (“Motion to
Dismiss”) (ECF No. 4), and Plaintiffs' Response in
Opposition thereto (ECF No. 6). Upon consideration of the
foregoing, the Court holds as follows:
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is DENIED;
Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike is DENIED; and
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART as explained in detail below.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
are residents of 3804 Brookview Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154
(“Property”). Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4, ECF No.
1. At some point, the roof over an attached patio
(“Patio Roof”) was damaged. Compl. ¶¶
17, 23(a)-(f). A local roofer who happened to be
“familiar with the Property” inspected the Patio
Roof and believed that the Patio Roof would have to be torn
down completely because it was in danger of collapsing.
Compl. ¶¶ 23(a)-(f). Based on this information,
Plaintiff Mary T. Neri (“Mary”)-the owner and a
resident of the Property-took some “(rudimentary)
measures to . . . prevent the Patio Roof from
collapsing.” Compl. ¶ 23(e).
given the damage to the Patio Roof, on July 19, 2018,
Plaintiff Mary filed a claim for insurance coverage under a
homeowner's insurance policy that she purchased from
Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State
Farm”). Compl. ¶¶ 2, 16, 19, ECF No.
Although State Farm initially explained that it would
“promptly send an adjuster to inspect the Property and
begin the process of adjusting her claim, ” State Farm
did not inspect the Property, but instead, attempted to close
Plaintiff Mary's claim as having been
“abandoned.” Compl. ¶¶ 24, 26, 27.
Ultimately, State Farm neither accepted nor declined coverage
for the damage to the Property. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34.
around the time that Plaintiff filed her insurance claim, the
Philadelphia area experienced extreme whether conditions
including historic levels of rainfall, high humidity, and
high winds. Compl. ¶ 21. Although Plaintiff does not
specifically allege that these weather conditions were the
cause of the underlying damage to her Property,
Plaintiff suggests that these weather conditions and State
Farm's failure to implement any mitigation plan to
address the weather resulted in additional damage to the
Property. State Farm's failure “to inspect the
Property and provide Plaintiff with the funds that were
required to rebuild the Patio Roof” resulted in
“additional damage . . . to the Property including . .
. damage to the main roof of the Property, the patio
foundation, the patio slab, the patio footings, the patio
windows and door, the furniture and fixtures on the patio and
the infestation of mildew and mold underneath the main roof
of the Property and in the interior ceiling of the
Property.” Compl. ¶ 55, ECF No. 1.
December 21, 2018, with no decision from State Farm
forthcoming about Plaintiff Mary's insurance claim, and
faced with mounting damage to the Property, Plaintiffs Mary
and Carol filed an eleven-count civil complaint against State
Farm in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking
damages and other relief “in an amount in excess of
Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50, 000.00).” Notice for
Removal of Civil Action from State Ct. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1.
Plaintiffs' Complaint sets forth eleven causes of action:
I. Breach of the homeowner's insurance
contract (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
II. Negligence (brought by both Plaintiffs);
III. Negligent Misrepresentation (brought by
IV. Statutory Insurance Bad Faith (brought
by Plaintiff Mary);
V. Fraudulent Inducement (brought by
VI. Fraud and Deceit (brought by Plaintiff
VII. Breach of the Duty of Good Faith and
Fair Dealing (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
VIII. Violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair
Trade Practices Act; (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
IX. Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress; (brought by both Plaintiffs);
X. Unjust Enrichment and Constructive Trust
(brought by Plaintiff Mary);
XI. Declaratory Relief and Injunctive Relief
(brought by Plaintiff Mary).
January 24, 2019, State Farm petitioned for removal of the
case to this Court on grounds of diversity. The following
week, State Farm filed its Motion to Dismiss seeking the
dismissal of all counts against State Farm except Count I
based on a breach of the homeowner's insurance policy.
Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4. Plaintiffs, meanwhile, filed
their Motion to Remand the case to state court arguing that
State Farm failed to establish that the case involved an
amount in controversy of at least $75, 000-which is the
minimum required for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332-and failed to show that Plaintiffs and State Farm
were completely diverse. Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 5-1. For
these two reasons, Plaintiffs submit that the Court lacks
diversity jurisdiction and must, instead, remand the case to
the state court. Plaintiffs further filed a Motion to Strike
State Farm's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion to
Remand. Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 8.
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand implicates the Court's
jurisdiction to preside over this case in the first instance,
the Court addresses the Motion to Remand before turning to
State Farm's Motion to Dismiss.
Motion to Remand
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in
a State court of which the district courts of the United
States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the
defendant . . . to the district court of the United States
for the district and division embracing the place where such
action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The
“defendant bears the burden of establishing that
removal jurisdiction is proper.” Hutchinson v.
State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., Civil Action No.
18-cv-2588, 2019 WL 357974, *1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 28, 2019)
(citing Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108,
111 (3d Cir. 1990)). To determine whether the district court
would have had original jurisdiction over a removed case, the
court looks to the facts alleged “at the time of the
petition for removal.” Id. at *2 (quoting
Abels v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 770 F.2d
26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985)). For questions regarding the amount in
controversy, for example, “[a] district court's
determination . . . must be based on the plaintiff's
complaint at the time the petition for removal was
filed.” Id. (quoting Werwinski v. Ford
Motor Co., 286 F.3d 661, 666 (3d Cir. 2002)) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction over cases presenting a federal question and
cases involving diversity of citizenship. Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a), which establishes diversity of citizenship
jurisdiction, “[t]he 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(a). “Citizenship” for natural persons
“is synonymous with domicile, and the domicile of an
individual is his true, fixed and permanent home and place of
habitation.” Freidrich v. Davis, 767 F.3d 374,
377 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting McCann v. Newman Irrevocable
Tr., 458 F.3d 281, 286 (3d Cir. 2014)). A person's
domicile is an issue of fact that takes into consideration
such factors as whether that person has a driver's
license in a certain state, whether that person has paid
taxes there, and whether that person has registered to vote.
See, e.g., Park v. Tsiavos, 679 Fed.Appx.
120, 125 (3d Cir. 2017) (not precedential) (discussing
factors relevant to the domicile determination).
case, Plaintiffs argue first that State Farm has failed to
establish that the amount in controversy in this case meets
the $75, 000 minimum for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.
Second, Plaintiffs argue that the Complaint contains
insufficient allegations to establish, on the face of the
Complaint, that the Plaintiffs and State Farm are completely
diverse. The Court rejects both arguments.
The Amount in ...