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Foltz v. Integon National Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 2, 2014

JAMIE LYNN FOLTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
INTEGON NATIONAL INSURANCE CO., and DOES 1-50, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER

KIMBERLY J. MUELLER, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on plaintiff Jamie Lynn Foltz's ("plaintiff") motion to remand this case to the Merced County Superior Court. Pl.'s Mot. Remand ("Mot."), ECF No. 5. Defendant Integon National Insurance Co. ("defendant") opposes the motion. Def.'s Opp'n ("Opp'n"), ECF No. 13. The motion was submitted without argument, and the court now GRANTS the motion without costs or attorneys' fees incurred as a result of defendant's removal.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On or about May 5, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Merced County Superior Court alleging two claims, both stemming from the theft and destruction of plaintiff's 2005 Nissan Altima: (1) breach of written contract by failing to provide plaintiff insurance coverage as required by plaintiff's insurance policy; and (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by improperly and unfairly handling plaintiff's claim. Def.'s Notice of Removal, Compl., Ex. A ("Compl."), ECF No. 1-1. Plaintiff seeks general, special, economic and consequential damages, as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees. Compl. ¶ 34. Plaintiff provided defendant with a "section 998"[1] settlement offer of $40, 000 signed May 9, 2014, ECF No. 1-1 at 12; defendant did not accept it. Mot. at 4-5.

On June 11, 2014, defendant removed the action to this court, invoking the court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Def.'s Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. On June 20, 2014, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand, which included a request for $2, 800 in attorneys' fees for the cost of the motion. Mot. Defendant filed its opposition on July 21, 2014. On July 25, 2014, plaintiff filed a reply in support of the motion to remand along with several objections to evidence offered in defendant's opposition brief, Pl.'s Reply, ECF No. 15, and on August 5, 2014, defendant filed a response to plaintiff's objections. Def.'s Resp., ECF No. 17.

On September 12, 2014, plaintiff filed a notice that the jurisdictional requirement minimum limit had been met, allegedly reaching a conclusion contrary to her motion to remand after engaging in discovery.[2] ECF No. 24.

II. ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff alleges as follows: Plaintiff is insured under an insurance policy issued by defendant. Compl. ¶ 5. Plaintiff complied with all required conditions to maintain her insurance coverage. Id. ¶¶ 5, 7. Defendant is contractually obligated to compensate plaintiff for the loss of her vehicle and defendant has breached the written insurance policy contract by denying plaintiff insurance coverage. Id. ¶¶ 22, 23. Plaintiff also alleges breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Id. ¶ 29. Defendant has ignored its obligations under the insurance policy and intentionally deprived plaintiff of the full and complete benefits that plaintiff is entitled to under her policy. Id. ¶¶ 11, 33.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The removal statute provides: "[A]ny civil action brought in a [s]tate court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction" may be removed by a defendant to a federal district court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal courts have original jurisdiction where "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs" and where there is complete diversity between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988); Takeda v. Nw. Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985)). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 (citing Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979)). There is a "strong presumption" against removal jurisdiction, which "means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id.

Accordingly, "the court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court." Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009).

IV. DISCUSSION

The parties still dispute whether the diversity of citizenship requirement is satisfied. However, because the court finds the amount in controversy issue is dispositive, the ...


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