Orlando Federal Court Refuses to Remand Underinsured Motorist Claim Back to State Court: Stephenson v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co.

In Stephenson v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co., a man suffered permanent physical injuries when he was struck by an automobile while riding his bicycle. Following the collision, the man filed a demand letter seeking $100,000 in damages with the provider of his underinsured-motorist coverage. After the injured man’s automobile insurance company denied his claim, he filed a lawsuit in a Florida court against the insurer and the driver who struck him, seeking more than $15,000. In response, the automobile insurance company filed a number of discovery requests that the injured man apparently ignored.

After the bicyclist settled his case against the Florida motorist, the insurance company filed a motion to remove the lawsuit to federal court based upon diversity of citizenship. In order to remove a case to federal court on this basis, the parties to a lawsuit must be citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. In addition to filing its motion, the insurance company also submitted a request to the injured man asking him to admit that the amount in controversy did not exceed $75,000. After the bicyclist refused to answer because the question “invaded the province of the jury,” the case was removed to the Middle District of Florida in Orlando.

Not long after the personal injury case was removed to federal court, the injured man filed a motion to remand the case back to state court based on a lack of timeliness and a failure to meet the amount in controversy threshold. The Orlando court stated removal is proper when a case that was filed in state court could have initially been brought in federal court. According to the court, the injured man’s demand letter demonstrated the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000. The Orlando court also said the allegations in the man’s complaint did not provide enough information to determine the actual amount in controversy. After that, the Middle District of Florida held that the amount in controversy exceeded the jurisdictional threshold based on “judicial experience and common sense.”

Next, the federal court said 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) provides that a removal notice may be filed within 30 days after a party to a lawsuit becomes aware a case is removable. The court stated the man’s settlement with the Florida driver who struck him did not trigger the 30-day removal period because the insurer was not yet served with notice of the parties’ agreement. Finally, the Orlando court denied the injured bicyclist’s motion to remand the lawsuit back to state court.

If you were hurt in a Miami bicycle or pedestrian accident, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation for your harm. The knowledgeable lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. help motor vehicle and other injury accident victims recover fair compensation based on the extent of their harm. To discuss your case with a caring personal injury lawyer, do not hesitate to contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website or call us today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Stephenson v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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