The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa has remanded a personal injury and bad faith automobile insurance case back to state court. In Hall v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., a woman filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County Circuit Court against her automobile insurance company following a collision with an uninsured motorist. In her complaint, the woman asked the court to award her at least $15,000 in damages related to personal injuries she sustained in the traffic wreck. She also accused her motor vehicle insurer of bad faith. After the woman’s lawsuit was filed, the insurance company removed the case to federal court based upon diversity jurisdiction. The woman responded by filing a motion to remand the case back to state court.
Federal law allows defendants in a lawsuit to remove a case to federal court for a number of reasons, including diversity jurisdiction. In order to establish diversity, the parties to a lawsuit must hail from different states and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. Because a plaintiff normally selects his or her desired venue when a lawsuit is filed, a defendant will bear the burden demonstrating that diversity jurisdiction exists. In general, a federal court is required to construe the facts of a case in which diversity jurisdiction is disputed in favor of remand.
According to the plaintiff in the case, the auto insurer failed to establish that the amount in controversy meets or exceeds the statutory requirements. Because of this, the woman argued the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. The insurer countered by claiming a demand letter the plaintiff submitted to the insurer several months before that sought to recover the entirety of her $300,000 automobile insurance policy limits establishes that the she seeks to recover more than $75,000. The Middle District of Florida stated although a settlement offer may be relevant in ascertaining the amount in controversy in a diversity jurisdiction dispute, it is not determinative. Because the woman’s demand letter failed to allege her specific damages and the insurer’s settlement offer of only $12,500 supported the plaintiff’s contention that the amount in controversy was well below $75,000, the federal court ordered that the case be remanded back to Pinellas County.
The many procedural, scheduling, and other rules that govern a lawsuit can differ across state and federal courts. If you were injured in a South Florida car or other personal injury accident, you need a knowledgeable lawyer on your side to help you safeguard your rights. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Miami personal injury attorney, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website or give us a call today at (305) 448-8585.
Hall v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014
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