United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
TARA L. JACKSON Plaintiff,
AMERICAN NATIONAL PROPERTY AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. JOHNSTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (ECF
No. 4.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court
DENIES the motion.
case arises out of an insurance claim involving damage to
Plaintiff's home, and particularly the floors in her
home, in Fayette County, West Virginia, allegedly caused by a
2012 storm. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 6 ¶ 3; ECF No.
5 at 1-2.) Defendant denied the claim after a structural
engineer discovered problems at the home indicating that the
damage actually arose from “settling and a
structural/construction defect[, ] which are specifically
excluded from coverage under Plaintiff's policy.”
(See ECF No. 6 at 3.) Plaintiff is a resident of
West Virginia, (ECF No. 1-1 at 6 ¶ 1), and Defendant is
“a foreign corporation, ” (ECF No. 1 at 2).
11, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in the Circuit Court
of Fayette County, West Virginia. (ECF No. 1 at 1.) The
Complaint states that because Defendant refused to pay
Plaintiff under the insurance policy, Plaintiff has
“suffered damages by way of unpaid insurance proceeds,
as well as consequential damages because her house was not
repaired in a timely fashion.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 6-7
¶ 6.) It includes three counts: (1) breach of insurance
contract, (2) violations of the West Virginia Unfair Trade
Practices Act (“UTPA”), and (3) breach of good
faith and fair dealing pursuant to Hayseeds.
(See Id. at 6-9 (citing Hayseeds, Inc. v. State
Farm Fire & Cas., 352 S.E.2d 73 ( W.Va. 1986)).) The
Complaint requests compensatory damages, statutory damages
under the UTPA, general damages “for annoyance,
aggravation and inconvenience, ” damages “for
loss of use of the insurance proceeds, ” and attorney
fees and costs. (See id.)
removed the case to this Court on August 10, 2017, asserting
that the sole basis for this Court's subject-matter
jurisdiction is diversity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
(See ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff filed the current
Motion to Remand on September 11, 2017, in which she asserts
that this Court lacks diversity jurisdiction over the matter
because the amount in controversy is below the $75, 000
requirement. (See ECF No. 5 at 3-4.) Defendant
responded to the motion on September 22, 2017, (ECF No. 6),
and Plaintiff did not file a reply brief. As such, this
motion is briefed and ripe for adjudication.
III of the United States Constitution provides, in pertinent
part, that “[t]he judicial Power shall extend . . . to
Controversies . . . between Citizens of different
States.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. “The
district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between . . . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C.
provided a right to remove a case from state to federal court
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. This statute states, in relevant
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 the
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). Because removal of civil cases from
state to federal court infringes state sovereignty, federal
courts strictly construe the removal statute and resolve all
doubts in favor of remanding cases to state court. See
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100,
109 (1941); see also Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems.
Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994) (“Because
removal jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns,
we must strictly construe removal jurisdiction.”
party asserting federal jurisdiction bears the burden of
proof. Landmark Corp. v. Apogee Coal Co., 945
F.Supp. 932, 935 (S.D. W.Va. 1996). “A defendant that
removes a case from state court in which the damages sought
are unspecified, asserting the existence of federal diversity
jurisdiction, must prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that the value of the matter in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional amount.” Id. (citing Gaus
v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 567 (9th Cir. 1992)).
“This test is framed alternatively as a requirement
that a defendant demonstrate that it is more likely than not
that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
amount.” Id. (citation omitted). “To
satisfy this burden, a defendant must offer more than a bare
allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000,
” Judy v. JK Harris & Co., No. 2:10-
cv-01276, 2011 WL 4499316, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 27, 2011)
(citation omitted), and must supply evidence regarding the
amount at issue. See McCoy v. Erie Ins. Co., 147
F.Supp.2d 481, 489 (S.D. W.Va. 2001). “In so doing, he
may rely upon the entirety of the facts and circumstances
comprising the plaintiff's damages claim.”
Judy, 147 F.Supp.2d at 489 (citation omitted).
evaluating a party's claim to federal jurisdiction, a
court should look toward the circumstances as they existed at
the time the notice of removal was filed. See Dennison v.
Carolina Payday Loans, Inc., 549 F.3d 941, 943 (4th Cir.
2008) (“[F]ederal jurisdiction . . . is fixed at the
time the . . . notice of removal is filed.” (citation
omitted)). In particular, where the plaintiff's monetary
demand is not specified in the complaint, “[t]he value
of the matter in controversy . . . is determined by
considering the judgment that would be entered if plaintiff
prevailed on the merits.” Landmark Corp., 945
F.Supp. at 936-37 (citation omitted). To calculate the amount
in controversy, a court may consider the entire record and
make an independent evaluation of whether the amount in
controversy is satisfied. See Grubb v. Jos. A. Bank
Clothiers, Inc., No. 2:05-0056, 2005 WL 1378721, at *5
(S.D. W.Va. June 2, 2005) (citation omitted).