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Dorothy Campbell v. Hartford Life Insurance Company; and Does 1 Through 20

September 19, 2011

DOROTHY CAMPBELL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARTFORD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 20, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Dorothy Campbell ("Plaintiff") originally initiated this action against Defendant Hartford Life Insurance Company ("Defendant") in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Modoc. On June 7, 2011, Defendant removed the case to this Court, and Plaintiff has since filed a Motion to Remand. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a California citizen, filed suit against Defendant, a Connecticut insurance corporation, in Modoc County Superior Court alleging causes of action for breach of contract, bad faith breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (hereafter "Bad Faith") and violation of California's Fair Trade Practices Act, California Insurance Code § 790.03. Plaintiff contends that Defendant wrongfully withheld accidental death benefits owed to Plaintiff under a policy insuring the life of her husband, Richard Campbell. More specifically, Plaintiff contends she timely submitted a covered claim to Defendant under the above policy after her husband was killed in a car accident. According to Plaintiff, however, Defendant failed to reasonably and adequately investigate and evaluate her claim before denying her benefits.

In her original Complaint, Plaintiff alleged the face value of the policy was $10,000. In addition, pursuant to her Bad Faith claim, Plaintiff sought general damages, including, among other things, damages for mental and emotional distress, in excess of $25,000. Plaintiff also sought punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Approximately one month after Plaintiff filed her original Complaint, Plaintiff filed an amendment to the Complaint to correct errors made in the naming of Defendant as a party.

Defendant then timely removed the action to this Court, asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's third cause of action. Plaintiff, in turn, filed a Motion to Remand. The parties subsequently filed a stipulation by which Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the challenged claim, Defendant withdrew its Motion to Dismiss, and the parties agreed Plaintiff would file a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC").*fn2 The parties' stipulation did not affect Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, which remains pending before this Court.

Plaintiff has since filed the operative SAC, still asserting the original breach of contract and Bad Faith causes of action. Her damages allegations also remain the same, with one exception: Plaintiff now alleges she sustained at least $50,000 in general damages pursuant to her Bad Faith claim.

STANDARD

A defendant may remove any civil action from state court to federal district court if the district court has "original jurisdiction" over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Generally, district courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions in two instances:

(1) where there is complete diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000; or (2) where a federal question is presented in an action arising under the Constitution, federal law, or treaty. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332.

Courts construe the removal statute strictly against removal. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Therefore, if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance, remand must be granted. See id. Furthermore, "[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded" to state court as well.

28 U.S.C. ยง ...


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