United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff
has filed a response in opposition.
13, 2014, defendants Matthew Witt and Sandra Witt were
involved in a two-vehicle accident while riding a motorcycle
operated and owned by Matthew Witt. Sandra Witt sustained
multiple injuries, including fractures of her cervical spine,
ribs, jaw, and wrist. She suffered a concussion and was later
determined to have sustained a traumatic brain injury. Her
medical bills exceeded $100, 000. Oct. 25, 2016 demand
letter [Doc. # 10-2].
time of the accident, the defendants were insured under two
policies (the “Ford” policy and the
“Chevrolet” policy) issued by plaintiff Safeco
Insurance Company of Illinois. Each policy provided
underinsured motorist coverage limits of $50, 000 for each
person and $100, 000 for each accident. The driver of the
other vehicle involved in the accident was insured under an
automobile policy with liability coverage limits of $250, 000
per person and $500, 000 per accident. In September 2014,
defendants submitted claims for underinsured motorist
coverage. Plaintiff initially denied their claims, citing in
part the definition of “underinsured motorist
coverage.” Plaintiff now concedes that defendant Sandra
Witt is entitled to the $50, 000 underinsured motorist
letter dated February 3, 2016, counsel asserted on behalf of
Matthew Witt that the policies were ambiguous with respect to
whether underinsured motorist coverage was available to him.
Counsel advised that failure to pay coverage would result in
a lawsuit for vexatious refusal to pay. [Doc. # 10-1]. On
October 25, 2016, counsel made a demand on behalf of Sandra
Witt for “stacked” underinsured motorist coverage
under the Ford policy in the amount of $100, 000. Again,
counsel warned that failure to provide coverage would result
in a suit for vexatious refusal to pay. [Doc. # 10-2].
Plaintiff rejected the demand, but offered to tender $50, 000
“unstacked” coverage. On November 21, 2016,
defendant Sandra Witt responded with a demand for $150, 000,
based on the assertion that the Ford policy covered three
vehicles and that she was entitled to stack the coverages.
She again asserted that she would file a claim for vexatious
refusal to pay and seek statutory damages and attorney's
fees. [Doc. # 10-3]. On November 28, 2016, plaintiff filed
this action for declaratory relief, seeking a declaration
that the Ford and Chevrolet policies provide no coverage to
Matthew Witt on his claim for underinsured motorist coverage;
that the payment of $50, 000 exhausts plaintiff's
obligations under the policies for Sandra Witt's claim
for underinsured motorist coverage; and that the underinsured
motorist coverages in the two policies do not stack.
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is
authorized by Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. “In order to properly dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the
complaint must be successfully challenged on its face or on
the factual truthfulness of its averments.” Titus
v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993). When a
factual challenge is mounted, the court has authority to
consider matters outside the pleadings. Osborn v. United
States, 918 F.2d 724, 728 n.4 (8th Cir. 1990). When a
district court engages in a factual review, it inquires into
and resolves factual disputes. Faibisch v. Univ. of
Minn., 304 F.3d 797, 801 (8th Cir. 2002). Considering
evidence beyond the complaint does not convert a Rule
12(b)(1) motion to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment.
Osborn, 918 F.3d at 730. Here, plaintiff has
submitted, and the Court has considered, correspondence the
parties exchanged before suit was filed.
courts have original jurisdiction where the parties are
citizens of different states and the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The party invoking
jurisdiction bears the burden of proof that all prerequisites
to jurisdiction are satisfied, including the requisite
federal jurisdictional amount in controversy. Bell v.
Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009).
“If the defendant challenges the plaintiff's
allegations of the amount in controversy, then the plaintiff
must establish jurisdiction by a preponderance of the
evidence.” Kopp v. Kopp, 280 F.3d 883, 884
(8th Cir. 2002). “When federal subject matter
jurisdiction is based on diversity and amount in controversy,
the amount in controversy must be determined from an
examination of the complaint at the time it was filed.”
Iowa Lamb Corp. v. Kalene Indus., Inc., 871 F.Supp.
1149, 1155 (N.D. Iowa 1994) (citing Horton v. Liberty
Mut. Ins. Co., 367 U.S. 348, 353 (1961) (other citations
omitted)). And, “subsequent events cannot destroy the
court's jurisdiction once it has been acquired.”
McGuire v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 2010 WL 2399550,
at *3 (E.D. Mo. June 10, 2010) (citation omitted). Here, the
evidence in the record establishes that plaintiff filed suit
after receiving a demand from Sandra Witt for $150, 000,
based on her contention that the Ford policy provided for
stacked coverage, a contention that plaintiff refutes. Thus,
plaintiff has met its burden to show that the jurisdictional
amount is satisfied.
support of their motion, defendants submit a document signed
by their attorney. The document, titled “Stipulation
Regarding Amount in Controversy, ” states that,
“based upon information currently known, ” the
defendants stipulate that “at this time” their
claims against plaintiff are “not in excess of $75, 000
each, exclusive of interests and costs.” [Doc. # 8-1].
Courts have held that an irrevocable stipulation as to the
amount in controversy is sufficient to establish the
jurisdictional amount. See, e.g., Workman v.
Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., 749 F.Supp. 1010, 1011
(W.D. Mo. 1990). A stipulation sufficient to settle the
dispute over the jurisdictional amount must irrevocably state
“that the amount of damages claimed . . . in this
action ‘is and will forever be less' than [$75,
000] exclusive of interest and costs.” Id. The
document submitted here falls far short of this standard.
First, it is signed by counsel rather than the defendants and
is not signed under penalty of perjury. And, far from
irrevocably waiving their right to damages in excess of the
jurisdictional amount, the conditional language of the
document suggests that defendants wish to preserve the
possibility of recovering more than that amount.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss
for lack of subject ...