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Gilbert v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

July 10, 2013

CHRISTI GILBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.

This action for underinsurance coverage was removed from Carter County Circuit Court in June 2013. The Court thereafter ordered supplemental briefing as to the amount in controversy requirement of 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332(a). (Doc. # 7). That briefing having now been completed (Docs. # 8, 9), the Court concludes that Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company has failed to satisfy its burden with respect to this jurisdictional threshold. See Mt. Clemens Auto Center, Inc. v. Hyundai Motor America, 844 F.Supp.2d 804, 808-09 (E.D. Mich. 2011) (recognizing that the amount in controversy requirement must be shown by a preponderance of evidence). As a result, this case will be remanded to its originating state trial court.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Christi Gilbert commenced this action on October 24, 2012 against Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company in Carter County Circuit Court. (Doc. # 1-2). In that Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she is covered as an insured via a policy with State Farm, and that she paid a premium for underinsurance coverage within that policy. ( Id. at 2). She further alleged that she was involved in a motor vehicle collision caused by the negligence of Gina Hubbard, that she suffered severe bodily injuries as a result of the collision, and that she was offered the policy limits of Hubbard's liability insurance policy. ( Id. at 1-2). However, because her claim for damages exceeds the liability coverage of that policy, Plaintiff asserted that she was entitled to the underinsurance coverage afforded her pursuant to her policy with State Farm and thus demanded judgment against the company for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, impairment of her ability to earn money, and increased risk of future mental and physical problems. ( Id. ). She did not, however, specify the amount of damages sought beyond noting that the figure exceeds the minimum necessary to invoke the state court's jurisdiction.[1]

On April 18, 2013, State Farm submitted to Plaintiff its Request for Admission, which asked her to "admit that the amount in controversy in the present action exceeds the sum of $75, 000, exclusive of costs and interests." (Doc. # 1-4). Plaintiff responded as follows:

Denied. While Plaintiff's total compensatory damages sustained as a result of the motor vehicle accident may exceed $75, 000, this contract claim against her underinsurance carrier is limited to the coverage purchased of $25, 000. Therefore, the amount in controversy is less than $75, 000.

(Doc. # 1-5).

Along with the request, State Farm also propounded interrogatories, which included a directive that Plaintiff "state the specific amount of damages [she was] claiming for" past, present and future pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, future medical expenses and permanent impairment of power to earn money. (Doc. # 6-1, at 3-4). She answered:

(a) Past, present and future pain and suffering: A reasonable amount not to exceed $250, 000
(b) Lost wages: $1, 656
(c) Medical expenses: $26, 572.14, but this amount will increase in that Plaintiff is still treating.
(d) Future medical expenses: This amount is unknown at this time and will be determined by Plaintiff's treating physicians.
(e) Permanent impairment of your power to earn money. Plaintiff has suffered damages, but a calculation on this amount has not yet been determined. Plaintiff will seasonably supplement this response.
Plaintiff reserves the right to supplement the values. While Plaintiff believes she has sustained the aforementioned compensatory damages, her recoverable damages in this lawsuit are ...

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