United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER OF REMAND AND DENYING ATTORNEY'S
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on plaintiff Nuria Osman's
“Motion to Remand and Motion for Attorney's
Fees.” Dkt. #12. Plaintiff argues her claim did not
meet the jurisdictional amount in controversy requirement
when defendant Geico removed the case to federal court.
Plaintiff requests an award of attorney's fees (Dkt. #12)
for costs stemming from the putatively improper removal of
the case and has also moved for an extension of time (Dkt.
#13) to comply with the Court's scheduling order (Dkt. #
complaint alleges she suffered injuries in a car collision in
September 2015. The culpable motorist's insurance policy
did not cover all of plaintiff's damages. Plaintiff
turned to the policy her husband held with defendant. The
policy included a provision for coverage of up to $25, 000 in
the event another motorist's policy cannot provide
adequate compensation for an injury. After plaintiff rejected
defendant's settlement offer of $2, 500, she filed a
complaint in King County Superior Court.
alleges two theories of recovery. One alleges violations of
Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA). Dkt. #1-2
at ¶¶ 5.1-5.5. The second alleges a breach of
contract and includes a claim of bad faith. Dkt. #1-2 at
¶¶ 6.1-6.7. Plaintiff's complaint also states
her intent to file a Statement of Arbitrability under
Washington's mandatory arbitration process. Dkt. #1-2 at
prayer for relief requests a judgment that “will fairly
compensate her for all damages sustained.” Dkt. #1-2 at
¶ 8.1. Plaintiff specifically requests that defendant
perform according to the terms of the insurance contract and
that the court declare that defendant acted in bad faith.
Plaintiff also requests prejudgment interest, attorney's
fees and costs, other damages “appropriate after
discovery, ” and “other relief the Court deems
removed the case. Dkt. #1. This motion followed.
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
a question of federal law, an amount in excess of $75, 000
must be in controversy in order for a state-court action
between diverse parties to be removed to federal court. 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). The removal statutes are strictly
construed against removal. Hawaii ex rel. Louie v. HSBC
Bank Nev., N.A., 761 F.3d 1027, 1034 (9th Cir. 2014).
Where, as here, the amount in controversy is unclear from the
state-court complaint, the party seeking the federal forum
bears the burden of providing evidence “establishing
that it is more likely than not that the amount in
controversy” exceeds $75, 000 at the time of removal.
Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699
(9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted);
Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Insu. Co., 116 F.3d
373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997). An amount pleaded in
plaintiff's complaint controls determination of the
amount in controversy as long as “the claim is
apparently made in good faith.” Singer, 116
F.3d at 375. A defendant “faces an uphill battle to
avoid remand where plaintiff sues for less than $75, 000,
” “likely needing to show the amount pleaded was
falsely or incompetently set forth.” William W.
Schwarzer et al., Federal Civil Procedure Before
Trial 2:2385-86 (2016).
contends her complaint limits her award to an amount under
$75, 000 because of her intent to file a Statement of
Arbitrability under Washington's mandatory arbitration
scheme. Motion at p. 4. Washington limits awards from
mandatory arbitration to $50, 000 “exclusive of
interest and costs.” RCW 7.06.020(1). Under IFCA, the
maximum award to a victim of unreasonable insurance practices
is no more than three times the actual damages as well as
“reasonable attorney's fees and litigation
costs.” RCW 48.30.015.
argues that plaintiff's intent to submit to mandatory
arbitration is not relevant to the amount in controversy
analysis and encourages the Court to construe the complaint
as waiving damages above $50, 000 “for purposes of
arbitration only.” Response (Dkt. #15) at p. 5.
Defendant also asserts that plaintiff's alleged damages,
after IFCA penalties, exceed $75, 000. Response at p. 3.
Defendant implies the contractual bad faith claim contributes
to the amount in controversy. Response at 5.
Court construes plaintiff's allegation that her claim is
subject to mandatory arbitration to be a representation that
she seeks no more than $50, 000, exclusive of interest and
reasonable attorney's fees under IFCA. Given the dates of
plaintiff's injury and complaint, the Court estimates the
maximum accrued interest is approximately $6, 000.
See RCW 4.56.110(4) and RCW 19.52.020
(providing a 12% interest rate for contractual claims where
the parties have not agreed to a prejudgment interest rate).
has not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that
plaintiff seeks a total arbitration award in excess of $75,
000. The Response does not provide any details of what amount
of attorney's fees the Court should consider reasonable
in an arbitration. In light of arbitration's goal to
reduce costs, the Court declines to speculate that those
costs will exceed approximately $19, 000. Neither does
defendant provide sufficient evidence that plaintiff's
contractual bad faith claim affects ...