United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff Amanda McCloud's Motion to
Remand to the Circuit Court of Wayne County, West Virginia.
ECF No. 5. Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Company (hereinafter Defendant State Farm) removed this
action from Wayne County Circuit Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441,  asserting diversity jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1332. However, Plaintiff argues that Defendant
State Farm has failed to demonstrate the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000, a prerequisite to this
Court's jurisdiction under § 1332. Upon review, the
Court finds Defendant State Farm met its burden to establish
jurisdiction and, therefore, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's motion.
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges she incurred “severe
personal injuries and damages” as a result of an auto
accident she had with Defendant Dayna Marie Followay.
Compl. at 2, ¶5, ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff settled
her claim with Ms. Followay for $25, 000 and filed an
underinsurance claim with Defendant State Farm, demanding the
policy limits of $100, 000. Id. at 4, ¶6.
Defendant State Farm rejected the demand and offered
Plaintiff $500. Id. at 4, ¶7. Plaintiff
repeated her demand and submitted additional medical
evidence. Id. at 4, ¶8. At that time, Plaintiff
states she had incurred $25, 438.65 in medical specials.
Id. at 4, ¶9. Ultimately, Defendant State Farm
offered Plaintiff $2, 000 to settle her cl aim. Id.
at 4, ¶10. Pl aintif f rej ect ed t he of f er, request
e d a reasonable settlement offer from Defendant State Farm,
and filed this action, which includes claims for breach of
contract, for violations of the West Virginia Unfair Trade
Practices Act, and for common law bad faith. Plaintiff does
not demand a specific dollar amount in her Complaint.
case is removed based upon § 1332, it is the
defendant's burden to demonstrate diversity of
citizenship exits and establish by a preponderance of the
evidence the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
Strawn v. AT & T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296
(4th Cir. 2008) (stating “it is the defendant who
carries the burden of alleging in his notice of removal and,
if challenged, demonstrating the court's jurisdiction
over the matter” (citations omitted)); se e also
McCoy v. Erie Ins. Co., 147 F.Supp.2d 481, 486 (S.D.
W.Va. 2001) (“When a case has been removed, the
defendant bears the burden of showing federal jurisdiction
has been invoked properly.” (Citation omitted)). If a
plaintiff does not make a demand for a specific dollar amount
in the complaint, it is the obligation of the Court to decide
whether a defendant has met its burden. See McCoy,
147 F.Supp.2d at 489. In making its decision, the Court
should exercise its common sense. Id. The Court also
should “look to the entire record before it and make an
independent evaluation as to whether or not the
jurisdictional amount is in issue.” Id.
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). For
instance, the Court may consider the plaintiff's
injuries, the expenses and losses a plaintiff incurred prior
to removal, a request for punitive damages, and any
settlement demands Plaintiff made prior to removal,
“although the weight to be given such demands is a
matter of dispute among courts.” Id. (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted); Chandler v.
Ultimate Health Servs., Inc., No. 3:14-cv-27340, 2015 WL
521235, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. Feb. 9, 2015) (stating,
“[w]hen the amount in controversy is not apparent on
the face of a complaint, the court may consider a number of
factors, including: the type and extent of the
plaintiff's injuries and possible damages recoverable
therefore, including punitive damages if appropriate”
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).
“Properly analyzed, a court is not to use this
information to estimate the amount a jury would award the
plaintiff assuming he prevails, but rather to estimate what a
reasonable plaintiff would demand or claim. If the court
thinks that a reasonable plaintiff would claim more than $75,
000, then the defendant has met its burden of proof.”
Scaralto v. Ferrell, 826 F.Supp.2d 960, 968 (S . D.
W.Va . 2011) (footnote and citation omitted).
the allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint in this case,
the Court has no difficulty finding that Defendant State Farm
has met its burden. At the time of removal, Plaintiff had
$25, 438.65 in medical specials, with the possibility of
future treatment, and made a settlement demand for $100, 000.
In her Complaint, she seeks compensation for her damages,
aggravation, annoyance, and inconvenience. She also seeks
damages for violations of the West Virginia Unfair Practices
Act and punitive damages. In light of these factors, the
Court finds that a reasonable plaintiff would demand more
than $75, 000 and, indeed, Plaintiff in this case actually
did so by seeking the $100, 000 policy limits. Although
Plaintiff argues that she will have to awarded m o re than
$35, 000 to receive anything in this case because she
received $25, 000 from Ms. Followay to settle and a $10, 000
medical payment from Defendant State Farm, it is not the
amount Plaintiff ultimately collects that determines whether
the threshold amount for jurisdiction is met, as stated
earlier, it is the amount a reasonable plaintiff would
demand. Here, the Court finds a reasonable plaintiff
certainly would demand in excess of $75, 000. See, e.g.,
Workman v. Figueroa, No. 3:06-0648, 2006 WL 3359007, at
*1 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 27, 2006) (finding “medical
expenses exceeding $15, 000 with some future or continuing
treatment expected, ” a settlement demand above $75,
000, and the possibility of punitive damages sufficient to
met jurisdictional requirements).
for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES
Plaintiff Amanda McCloud's Motion to Remand to the
Circuit Court of Wayne County, West Virginia. ECF No. 5.
Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of
this Order to counsel of record and any unrepresented
Subsection (a) of § 1441 provides,
in relevant part: “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 . . .,
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).
Subsection (a)(1) states: “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--(1) citizens of different States[.]” 28 U.S.C.
Ms. Followay was named in this action
as a nominal ...