The Middle District of Florida in Fort Myers has remanded a car accident case back to state court after the defendants failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeded the federal diversity jurisdiction requirements enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). In Bess v. Day, a Florida man was apparently injured in a car accident that was allegedly caused by a Canadian citizen. Following the crash, the hurt man filed a negligence complaint against the driver and his spouse in a Florida court. The defendants then removed the case to the Middle District of Florida based on diversity of citizenship. Under federal law, diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties to a lawsuit are citizens of different states and the amount of damages exceeds $75,000.
In response to the defendants’ removal, the injured man filed a motion for remand back to state court. According to the man, the defendants failed to establish that the amount in controversy in the case was more than $75,000. The federal court stated removal statutes must be narrowly construed by courts, and any ambiguities are required to be resolved in favor of remanding a case back to state court. In addition, the Middle District said the party who seeks to remove a lawsuit to federal court bears the burden of establishing that removal is appropriate.
Next, the court stated both parties agreed they were citizens of different states. The court then examined the amount in controversy. The defendants argued the man’s injuries exceeded the $75,000 threshold because he submitted a pre-suit settlement offer to them, seeking their full automobile accident policy limits of $125,000. The court disagreed, however, and stated such an offer was not enough to determine the amount in controversy in a lawsuit. The Middle District of Florida said established case law supported this conclusion.
According to the federal court, a pre-suit settlement offer is not a reliable indication of an injured person’s damages. Instead, courts in Florida and elsewhere treat such an offer as simple posturing on the part of a plaintiff. The court added that the medical bills paid by the injured man’s insurer supported its conclusion because the expenses were less than $15,000.
After that, the court declined to review a document put forth by the defendants after the removal notice was filed. Since it was not attached to the notice in the first place, the Middle District stated the proffered document was outside of the scope of its review.
Since the defendants failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that removal to federal court was proper in the negligence case, the Middle District of Florida remanded the personal injury lawsuit back to Florida state court.
If you or someone you love was hurt in a South Florida motor vehicle accident, you need a committed personal injury attorney on your side to advocate on your behalf. To discuss your rights with a dedicated Miami personal injury lawyer today, call the knowledgeable advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.
Bess v. Day, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015
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