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Collazo v. Allstate Insurance Co.

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

January 9, 2018

RAYMOND COLLAZO, a married man, Plaintiff,
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign insurance company, Defendant.


          ROBERT J. BRYAN, United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion to Remand Case to State Court. Dkt. 10. The Court has reviewed the pleadings filed regarding the motion and the remaining record.

         Originally filed on October 5, 2017, in Pierce County, Washington Superior Court, this case asserts claims against Defendant Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) arising from injuries sustained by its insured in a car accident involving another motorist, who fled the scene. Dkt. 1-1. On October 26, 2017, Allstate removed the case to this Court based on the diversity of the parties' citizenship and the amount in controversy, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff now moves to remand the case, asserting that the amount in controversy is less than $75, 000, and moves for an award of attorney's fees. Dkt. 10. For the reasons provided below, the motion to remand (Dkt. 10) should be granted, the case remanded to Pierce County, Washington Superior Court, and the motion for attorney's fees (Dkt. 10) should be denied.

         I. FACTS

         According to the Complaint, at the relevant time, Plaintiff was an insured driver under a policy issued by Allstate, which included benefits for injuries resulting from an accident with an uninsured/underinsured (“UIM”) motorist. Dkt. 1-1, at 3. The Complaint asserts that the policy provides a $25, 000 limit per person for UIM bodily injury and a limit of $10, 000 in Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) medical benefits. Id.

         Plaintiff was injured in a head-on collision. Dkt. 1-1, at 4. The other driver fled the scene, and the police were unable to locate the driver. Id. As a result of the accident, Plaintiff's health care providers diagnosed him with: “cervical strain, thoracic myofascial strain, acute non-tractable tension type headache, lumbar stain, and left little finger pain with hyperextension.” Id. He asserts that his medical expenses are in excess of $9, 000. Id. Plaintiff maintains that after submitting his medical bills to Allstate, it has only paid $2, 025.22 of them. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 20, 2017, he made “a written demand to Allstate for payment of his $25, 000 UIM policy limits for his economic and non-economic damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress.” Dkt. 1-1, at 7. He asserts that Allstate has not made any payments as required under the terms of the UIM provisions in his policy. Id.

         Plaintiff makes claims for breach of contract, and for violation of Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act (“IFCA”), 48.30, et. seq., and the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”), 19.86, et. seq. Dkt. 1-1. He seeks damages, including treble damages, costs, and attorney's fees. Id.

         Plaintiff now moves to remand the case. Dkt. 10. He argues that while the parties agree they are completely diverse in their citizenship, the $75, 000 in controversy amount (as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (a)) is not met. Id. In support of Plaintiff's assertion, Plaintiff's lawyer states that:

Shortly after filing this lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court, [he] personally made contact with Defendant's attorney and advised him that this case involved Uninsured Motorist claim with policy limits of $25, 000. [He] further advised him that [he] planned on putting the case into Pierce County's Mandatory Arbitration (“PCLMAR”) system. PCLMAR 1.1 (a) provides a simplified and economical procedure for obtaining prompt and equitable resolution of disputes involving claims of $50, 000 or less.

Dkt. 11, at 2 (emphasis in original). Plaintiff's lawyer contends that he told Allstate's lawyer that he “planned on seeking no more than $50, 000.” Id. Plaintiff also moves for an award of attorney's fees and costs incurred in filing the motion for remand. Dkt. 10.

         Allstate opposes the motion and argues that Plaintiff's complaint seeks: (1) UIM benefits of $25, 000, (2) $6, 7974.78 in PIP benefits (Plaintiff claims at least $9, 000 in medical bills and asserts that Allstate has paid only $2, 025.22 or that); and (3) treble damages. Dkt. 12. It asserts that if Plaintiff seeks to treble only the UIM benefits, his claimed damages total at least $81, 974.78. Id. Accordingly, it asserts that it had a good faith belief that the amount in controversy was at least $75, 000. Id. Allstate further points to Plaintiff's June 20, 2017 demand letter. Id. In that letter, Plaintiff makes claims for $4, 021.44 in medical bills and $5, 155.85 in lost wages (for the work Plaintiff missed due to the accident). Dkt. 13, at 9-10. The letter states that Plaintiff is making a “UIM demand of $35, 000 for settlement of his physical injuries, medical treatment, pain, suffering, future medical treatments, future pain and suffering, and loss and enjoyment of life.” Id. Plaintiff filed a reply (Dkt. 14) and the motion is ripe for decision.


         A. ...

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