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Heil v. Auto Club Property-Causalty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

September 19, 2014

BERTHA ILENE HEIL, Plaintiff,
v.
AUTO CLUB PROPERTY-CAUSALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion to Remand of Plaintiff Bertha Ilene Heil. (Docket No. 5.) Defendant Auto Club Property-Casualty Insurance Company ("Auto Club") has responded. (Docket No. 6.) The time for Plaintiff to reply to Defendant's response having passed and none having been filed, this matter is ripe for review. For the reasons explained below, Heil's Motion, (Docket No. 5), will be DENIED.

Factual Background

Heil's Complaint, originally filed in Russell Circuit Court, alleges that on March 21, 2012, Heil suffered various injuries due to a traffic collision with an underinsured motorist. Heil contends that on that date, Auto Club insured the vehicle that she was driving. She further alleged that her insurance policy with Auto Club constituted an agreement whereby Auto Club would provide uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage for her benefit. Heil charges that because Auto Club was liable for all sums or losses in excess of a third party's liability limits, she is entitled to recover damages from it. She sought an unspecified amount of compensatory damages and punitive damages of $100, 000, in addition to attorney's fees and costs. (Docket No. 1-1 at 5-6.)

On December 16, 2013, Auto Club filed its notice of removal. (Docket No. 1.) Auto Club argued that diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 existed, as complete diversity existed between the parties-Auto Club being domiciled and having its principal place of business in Iowa, and Heil being a Kentucky resident-and the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000. (Docket No. 1 at 2-3.)

Heil filed her Motion to Remand on January 1, 2014, arguing that the requirements of § 1332 were not satisfied. In the instant Motion, Heil contends that Auto Club is deemed to share Heil's Kentucky citizenship, precluding the parties' diversity. (Docket No. 5 at 2.) Heil further contends that the amount in controversy does not exceed $75, 000. (Docket No. 5 at 3.) She moves for attorney fees based on this allegedly improper removal. (Docket No. 5 at 3-4.)

Analysis

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.C § 1447(c), the Court must remand a case [i]f at any time before final 0judgment, it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction...." A party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction. See McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936).

The federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C. §1441, affords defendants in civil suits the right to remove cases from state courts to federal district courts when the federal courts would have had original jurisdiction. Jerome-Duncan, Inc. v. Auto-By-Tel, L.L.C., 176 F.3d 904, 907 (6th Cir. 1999). For a defendant to remove a case to federal court based upon diversity jurisdiction, complete diversity of citizenship must exist at both the time the case is commenced and at the time the notice of removal is filed. Id.

Heil relies upon 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c) in support of her conclusion that an insurer is deemed to have the same citizenship as its insured. That statute provides:

For the purposes of this section and section 1441 of this title-
(1) a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of every State and foreign state by which it has been incorporated and of the State or foreign state where it has its principal place of business, except that in any direct action against the insurer of a policy or contract of liability insurance, whether incorporated or unincorporated, to which action the insured is not joined as a party-defendant, such insurer shall be deemed a citizen of-
(A) every State and foreign state of which the insured ...

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