United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
RICHARD A. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand and Motion to Stay Briefing on Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment ("Motion to Stay"). Dkt. ## 7,
14. Both motions are opposed. Dkt. ## 12, 18. Having
considered the submissions of the parties, the relevant
portions of the record, and the applicable law, the Court
finds that oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons that
follow, Plaintiffs Motion to Remand is
DENIED. Dkt. # 7. Plaintiffs Motion to Stay
Briefing on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is
DENIED as moot. Dkt. # 14.
January 23, 2018, Plaintiff Anna Wilson filed this action in
King County Superior Court against Defendant Geico Indemnity
Company. Dkt. # 1. Plaintiffs Complaint alleges that
Defendant is in breach of contract by failing to pay claims
made under personal injury protection ("PIP")
benefits under an automobile insurance contract. Dkt. #1-1.
Plaintiffs Complaint seeks damages for breach of contract,
breach of the duty to act in good faith, as well as claims
under Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act, RCW
48.30.015 ("IFCA") and Consumer Protection Act, RCW
19.86.090 ("CPA"). Id. Defendant then
filed a Notice of Removal on February 12, 2018. Dkt. # 1.
Defendant filed its Answer on February 28, 2018, but did
include any counterclaims. Dkt. # 6.
March 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand this matter
to Snohomish County Superior Court. Dkt. # 7. In this Motion,
Plaintiff also requested attorney's fees. Id. at
4-5. Defendant opposes. Dkt. # 12.
The Court Denies Plaintiffs Motion to Remand
has moved to remand this action to state court, arguing that
Defendant has not adequately established that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. Defendant opposes on multiple
grounds.For the reasons stated below, this Court
DENIES Plaintiffs Motion to Remand.
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 complete diversity of citizenship and an
amount-in-controversy exceeding $75, 000. See 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). The party seeking the federal forum
bears the burden of establishing that federal jurisdiction is
met. Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728
F.3d 975, 978 (9th Cir. 2013). Federal courts "strictly
construe the removal statute against removal
jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566
(9th Cir. 1992).
there is no dispute that complete diversity exists between
the parties, Plaintiff seeks remand on the basis that the
amount-in-controversy requirement is not satisfied. Where the
amount in controversy is not clear from plaintiffs complaint,
the burden is on the defendant to establish that the
amount-in-controversy meets the jurisdictional threshold by a
preponderance of the evidence. Sanchez v. Monumental Life
Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 403-04 (9th Cir. 1996). However,
in this Circuit, this standard applies only if the state
court complaint does not specify the amount sought as
damages; if the complaint filed in state court alleges
damages in excess of the required federal jurisdictional
amount, remand is warranted only if it appears to a
"legal certainty" that the claim is actually for
less than the jurisdictional minimum. Abrego Abrego v.
The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 683 n.8 (9th Cir.
2006). Although defendants may not merely rely upon their own
conclusory statements to establish the amount in controversy,
they may use the complaint as evidence, provided that the
complaint is "made in good faith," and the
plaintiff's recovery of the claim is a legal possibility.
Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d
373, 375 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotations omitted).
Beyond the allegations in the pleadings, the defendant may
also present and the Court may consider any additional
"summary-judgement-type evidence relevant to the amount
in controversy at the time of removal." Kroske v.
U.S. Bank Corp., 432 F.3d 976, 980 (9th Cir. 2005),
as amended on denial ofreh'g and reh'g en
banc (Feb. 13, 2006).
parties agree that, as a baseline, Plaintiff requests actual
damages under the policy of $37, 783.74. Dkt. ## 1-1, 7, 12.
In the Complaint, Plaintiff also specifically requests treble
damages under the IFCA and the CPA. See Dkt. # 1-1
at 9, ¶ 4.2 ("By its conduct, GEICO is liable to
plaintiff for enhanced damages including, without limitation,
treble damages as authorized by RCW 48.30.015 and RCW
19.86.090 and for her reasonable attorneys' fees and
costs incurred in the prosecution in this action."). The
IFCA "creates a private cause of action to a first-party
claimant who has been unreasonably denied insurance coverage
and provides for treble damages and an attorney fee
award." Rain v. Ameriprise Auto & Home Ins.
Agency, Inc., No. C14-5088RJB, 2014 WL 1047244, at *3
(W.D. Wash. Mar. 18, 2014); see also RCW
48.30.015(2). As Defendant notes, should the Court apply the
Plaintiffs request for treble damages under IFCA to the
Plaintiffs requested relief of $37, 783.74, this alone would
raise the amount in controversy to $113, 351.22, well above
the $75, 000 threshold. Dkt. # 2 at 2. The CPA also permits a
treble damage award not to exceed $25, 000. RCW 19.86.090.
argues that the prospect of receiving exemplary damages is
too speculative to satisfy defendant's burden of
establishing jurisdiction. Dkt. # 7 at 3-4. The Court
disagrees. When plaintiffs request treble damages under the
IFCA, as Plaintiff has here, this Court trebles the amount
alleged to determine the amount in controversy. See,
e.g., Nw. Ry Museum v. Indian Harbor Ins. Co., No.
C17-1060JLR, 2017 WL 4466619, at *3 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 5, 2017)
(denying remand when Plaintiff requested treble damages under
IFCA and estimated damages under insurance policy were at a
minimum of $25, 000); Lim v. Nat'l Gen, Ins.
Co., No. C15-0383RSL, 2015 WL 12025326, at *2 (W.D.
Wash. Apr. 30, 2015) (denying remand when plaintiff requested
treble damages and actual damages of $50, 000.00); Egal
v. Geico General Ins. Co., No. C14-1964RSM, 2015 WL
1632950, at *4 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 13, 2015) (applying the
plaintiffs request for treble damages to the plaintiffs
requested relief of policy limits of $50, 000 and holding
that the amount in controversy exceeded $150, 000);
Rain, 2014 WL 1047244, at *3 (denying remand when
plaintiffs requested treble damages and defendants showed
that plaintiffs' damages would be at least $41, 000.00
before trebling); see also Trujillo v. Allstate Ins.
Co., No. C09-1056RSL, 2009 WL 2843348, at *1 (W.D. Wash.
Aug. 31, 2009) ("In this case, plaintiffs have
explicitly alleged that their damages exceed $31, 000, and
they have sought trebling of their damages [under IFCA and
CPA]. Those amounts alone exceed $90, 000 and exceed the
jurisdictional threshold."). Plaintiffs direct request
for an award of treble damages is sufficient to place this
enhanced amount of money damages in
has met its present burden and established that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. Accordingly, this Court has
jurisdiction over this matter, and Plaintiffs Motion to
Remand is DENIED.
Plaintiffs Request for ...