Fort Myers Federal Court Refuses to Remand Car Accident Case Back to Lee County

In Jackson v. St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division, a man was injured in a rear-end collision while riding as a passenger in an automobile. About one year later, the man filed a lawsuit in Lee County, Florida seeking damages from both the driver and the owner of the vehicle that rear-ended him. The injured man later amended his complaint to release the named defendants and include the company that insured the allegedly at-fault driver at the time of the crash. In his lawsuit, the man accused the insurer of breach of contract over the company’s purported failure to make timely disability and medical payments related to his traffic wreck injuries.

Several months later, the man again amended his complaint to add a medical device manufacturer to the lawsuit. According to the man, the company manufactured two separate devices that malfunctioned before and after the automobile wreck. About six months later, the medical device manufacturer was served with notice of the case. In response, the company sought removal to federal court. Although both the medical device manufacturer and the automobile insurer consented to removal, the plaintiff claimed the federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. After the case was removed to the Middle District of Florida in Fort Myers, the injured man filed a motion for remand.

Generally, a party to a lawsuit may seek removal to federal court when each of the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. In most cases, the party who seeks removal bears the burden of establishing that federal jurisdiction is proper. If there is any doubt regarding diversity of citizenship, a federal court should remand the case back to state court.

According to the injured man, the parties lacked diversity because both he and the insurer hailed from the State of Florida. The federal court stated that, although a corporation such as the insurer is typically deemed to be a citizen of the state in which the company is incorporated, 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(c)(1) provides an exception for liability insurers. Under the exception, an insurer may be considered a citizen of each and every state in which the company does business for purposes of diversity of citizenship in a direct action against it.

After further review, the court held that the plaintiff’s case was not a direct action against the insurer within the meaning of the statute. In addition, the federal court stated the law at issue applied only to tort claim, while the plaintiff’s case against the insurer alleged breach of contract. Because of this, the Middle District of Florida stated it was limited to examining the insurer’s state of incorporation for purposes of diversity of citizenship. Since the company hailed from Illinois, diversity was not defeated.

Next, the Fort Myers court addressed whether the federal court had subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. Since it was unclear from the pleadings what the exact amount in controversy was, the court ordered the defendants to demonstrate that the damages at issue exceeded the statutory minimum amount of $75,000.

If you suffered a serious personal injury in South Florida, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Call the hardworking Broward County personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. to discuss your case at (305) 448-8585. You may also contact the caring car accident advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. online.

Additional Resources:

Jackson v. St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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