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Hazzard v. Union Bankers Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

February 25, 2014

DANIEL HAZZARD and WHITNEY HAZZARD, husband and wife and the marital community therein, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNION BANKERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND TO STATE COURT

ROBERT S. LASNIK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs' "Motion to Remand Case to State Court" (Dkt. #17) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Plaintiffs allege a variety of causes of action arising from defendant's denial of a disability claim. See Notice of Removal (Dkt. #1) at 10-14. Defendant removed the matter asserting that this Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Id. at 3. Plaintiffs move to remand alleging the amount-in-controversy requirement necessary for diversity jurisdiction is not satisfied. Motion (Dkt. #17) at 3.

The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS plaintiffs' "Motion to Remand Case to State Court."

II. DISCUSSION

A. Background

In October 2010 plaintiff Daniel Hazzard filed a disability insurance claim with defendant. Notice of Removal (Dkt. #1) at 9. When defendant denied the claim, plaintiffs filed suit in King County Superior Court. Opposition (Dkt. #19) at 2. Defendant then removed to this Court. Notice of Removal (Dkt. #1).

B. Diversity Jurisdiction

Removal is proper where the district court would have original jurisdiction over the state court action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Diversity jurisdiction under § 1332(a) grants original jurisdiction to a district court when there is both diversity of citizenship and an amount-in-controversy exceeding $75, 000. 28 U.S.C § 1332(a). As there is complete diversity between the parties, [1] plaintiffs seek remand on the basis that the amount-in-controversy requirement is not satisfied.

Defendant has asserted that plaintiffs are seeking at least $76, 590 in damages. This calculation includes the contract benefits ($10, 400), treble damages under the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA) ($31, 200), damages under the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA) ($25, 000), and attorney's fees ($9, 990).[2] Notice of Removal (Dkt. #1) at 3-4.

IFCA allows this Court to "increase the total award of damages to an amount not to exceed three times the actual damages." RCW 48.30.015(2). Defendant has calculated the treble damages award in addition to the claimed benefits for a total of $41, 600, or what would amount to quadruple damages under IFCA. This is plainly not how the statute operates. See Burke Family Living Trust v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., No. C09-5388 FDB, 2009 WL 2947196, at *3 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 11, 2009) (calculating treble damages under IFCA by multiplying the contract value by three). Plaintiffs may also be able to recover a maximum of $25, 000 under the CPA.[3] As this Court's maximum calculation of the amount-in-controversy is $66, 190, [4] defendant has failed to meet the minimum threshold of 28 U.S.C § 1332(a).

III. CONCLUSION

For all the foregoing reasons, this Court GRANTS plaintiffs' motion to remand to state court (Dkt. #17). The Clerk of the Court is directed to remand this case to King County Superior Court and to close this case.


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