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Brooks v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co.

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

September 10, 2019

ROBYN BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR REMAND

          ROBERT J. BRYAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Remand to State Court. Dkt. 13. The Court has considered the pleadings filed regarding the motion and the remaining file.

         Originally filed in Pacific County, Washington Superior Court, this case asserts claims against Defendant USAA Casualty Insurance Company (“USAA”) arising from injuries sustained by its insured in a car accident with an uninsured motorist. Dkt. 1-6. USAA 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(a). Dkt. 1. The Plaintiff now moves to remand the case, asserting that USAA has failed to show that the amount in controversy is more than $75, 000. Dkt. 13. For the reasons provided below, the motion to remand (Dkt. 13) should be granted.

         I. FACTS

         According to the Complaint, at the relevant time, Plaintiff was an insured driver under a policy issued by USAA, which included benefits for personal injuries sustained in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Dkt. 1-6. The policy included personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits. Id. The Complaint asserts that while USAA has paid some of the medical expenses it was obligated to pay, it has not paid $4, 100 in medical expenses that it should pay under the policy's PIP benefits. Dkt. 1-6, at 7. The Plaintiff makes Washington state law claims for insurance bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, violation of the Insurance Fair Conduct Act, RCW 48.30, et. seq., (“IFCA”), violation of the Consumer Protection Act, RCW 19.86, et. seq. (“CPA”), and negligence. Id., at 8-10. The Plaintiff seeks damages, including treble damages under the CPA, attorneys' fees, and costs. Id., at 10.

         The notice of removal states that on July 1, 2019, the Plaintiff served her responses to USAA's First Requests for Admission. Dkt. 1. The first request for admission provided: “Admit that the damages YOU claim in YOUR COMPLAINT against USAA CIC in this action inclusive of any attorney's fees, economic damages, non-economic damages, statutory damages, or otherwise, do not exceed $75, 000.01?” Dkt. 1-1, at 4 (emphasis in original). The Plaintiff responded “deny.” Id. USAA removed the case on July 10, 2019. Dkt. 1.

         The Plaintiff moves to remand the case. Dkt. 13. She argues that, while the parties 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. The Plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees and costs incurred in filing the motion to remand. Id. USAA opposes the motion. Dkt. 17. In her reply, the Plaintiff states that she provided her Initial Disclosures to USAA on August 30, 2019, which was the date USAA filed its response. Dkt. 21, at 1, n. 1. She maintains that “[t]hese disclosed less than $5000.00 in unpaid PIP benefits at issue in this matter.” Id. The motion is ripe for review.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Removal of a case from a state court to a United States District Court is governed by the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. Section 1441 provides, in relevant part, as follows:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending. . .

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). USAA asserts that this court has original jurisdiction in this case under § 1332 (a) because of the diversity of the parties' citizenship and the amount in controversy. Dkt. 1. Section 1332 (a) provides that diversity jurisdiction exists only “where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (a). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1446 (c)(2),

If removal of a civil action is sought on the basis of the jurisdiction conferred by section 1332 (a), the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed to be the amount in controversy, except that -
(A) the notice of removal may assert the amount in controversy if the ...

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