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Richer v. Travelers Commercial Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 22, 2017

EMILY RICHER, Plaintiff,


          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR., United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Emily Richer's motion to remand. Dkt. No. 10. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         The facts, as relevant to this motion, are as follows. In late 2014, Plaintiff sought to insure her two-building residence in St. Helena, California. Dkt No. 1-1 (Complaint or “Compl.”) ¶¶ 12, 15. Plaintiff's broker, Defendant Malloy Imrie & Vasconi Insurance Services (“MIV”), procured a policy administered by Defendant Travelers Commercial Insurance Company (“Travelers”). Id. ¶ 16. The Travelers policy contained a provision excluding “structures [that are] rented or held for rental.” Id. ¶ 16. While she was covered by the policy, Plaintiff used Airbnb, “an internet-based service that connects property owners with individuals seeking lodging, ” to rent out her property on three separate occasions. Id. ¶¶ 19-20.

         In February 2017, “after several days of severe storms, ” a large tree fell against the bottom level of one of Plaintiff's buildings and “cracked a foundational pier, caved in the exterior walls and caused the floor to buckle, damaging a custom-built wine rack.” Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff immediately contacted Travelers to notify the company of the damage. Id. ¶ 23. She alleges that because Travelers “refused to explain her coverage and exactly what it needed to adjust her claim, ” she enlisted MIV to serve as a liaison. Id. ¶ 32. At that point, “MIV began working on [Plaintiff's] behalf to handle the claim.” Id. ¶ 33.

         Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff and MIV received a letter from Travelers dated March 7, 2017, which to Plaintiff's surprise “suggested that the loss might be excluded under a policy provision regarding rented structures.” Id. ¶ 23. Travelers further requested a copy of the lease to “further investigate the coverage available” to Plaintiff under the policy. Id. ¶ 35. One of MIV's managing members, David Capponi, “undertook to speak with Travelers' underwriting manager and legal department, and to e-mail the claims manager.” Id. ¶ 36. Plaintiff alleges that Capponi, “having assumed the duty of acting as [her] representative, did not relay all the information to Travelers and/or did not explain the loss and the Airbnb usage adequately and/or failed to make reasonable efforts to handle the claim on [Plaintiff's] behalf, thereby contributing to the ultimate claim denial.” Id.

         On March 30, 2017, Travelers sent Plaintiff and MIV a letter denying the claim, citing the policy provision excluding rented structures. Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Travelers did not “evaluate the whole loss and adjust the claim . . . .” Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiff estimates the cost of the damage to be between $80, 000 and $120, 000. Id. ¶ 22.

         B. Procedural Posture

         On July 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in the Superior Court of California in Napa County. Dkt. No. 1-1. On August 28, 2017, Travelers both answered the Complaint in state court, Dkt. No. 1-1 at 26 (ECF pagination), and filed a notice of removal in this Court on diversity grounds, Dkt. No. 1 (“Notice”). Plaintiff filed this motion to remand on September 27, 2017. Dkt. No. 10. Defendant filed its opposition to Plaintiff's motion on October 11, 2017, Dkt. No. 15, and Plaintiff filed her reply on October 18, 2017, Dkt. No. 16.


         A defendant may remove a civil action in state court to the federal court “for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending” if the federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “If a case is improperly removed, the federal court must remand the action because it has no subject-matter jurisdiction to decide the case.” ARCO Envtl. Remediation, L.L.C. v. Dep't of Health & Envtl. Quality of Mont., 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000). On a motion to remand, federal courts must presume that a cause of action lies beyond its subject matter jurisdiction, Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009), and must grant remand “if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance, ˮ Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Courts must resolve all ambiguity in favor of remand. Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042.

         For a federal court to exercise subject matter jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship grounds, “the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000, and the parties must be citizens of different states.” Rainero v. Archon Corp., 844 F.3d 832, 839 (9th Cir. 2016) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). For purposes of diversity, a corporation is deemed to be a citizen of every state where it has been incorporated and where it has its “principal place of business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). “[T]o bring a diversity case in federal court against multiple defendants, each plaintiff must be diverse from each defendant.” Lee v. Am. Nat'l Ins. Co., 260 F.3d 997, 1004 (9th Cir. 2001). One claim against one non-diverse defendant violates this complete diversity requirement and is sufficient to destroy diversity jurisdiction. Wis. Dep't of Corr. v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 389 (1998).

         III. ...

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