United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
JIMMY D. WALKER, Plaintiff,
NEW YORK MARINE AND GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, United States District Judge
Jimmy D. Walker moves to remand this case to the Circuit
Court of Jackson County, Missouri, from whence defendant New
York Marine and General Insurance Company (“New York
Marine”) removed it. For the reasons set forth below,
the motion is granted.
Walker alleges that in February 2015, while operating a
tractor-trailer in Hartley, Texas, he was struck by a tractor
driven by an uninsured motorist. Mr. Walker claims to have
been “seriously and permanently injured” as the
result of the collision. At the time of the collision, Mr.
Walker allegedly was insured, under a policy issued to his
employer, by defendant New York Marine. Mr. Walker presented
to New York Marine a demand to settle his claims for the
lesser of either $1 million or the policy limit. Despite Mr.
Walker's follow-up efforts, New York Marine did not
respond to the settlement demand.
Walker subsequently filed suit against New York Marine,
alleging breach of the insurance contract and vexatious
refusal to pay. His state court petition sought (i) damages
in an unspecified amount, (ii) attorneys' fees in the
amount of 25% of the verdict, (iii) vexatious damages in the
amount of 20% of the first $1, 500 awarded and 15%
thereafter, as well as costs.
Mr. Walker filed suit, New York Marine's counsel advised
him that $50, 000 was the maximum amount of insurance
coverage available for Mr. Walker's claims arising from
the collision with the uninsured motorist.
York Marine removed the case to federal court on the ground
of diversity jurisdiction. Mr. Walker now moves for remand of
the case to the state court in which it originated.
defendant in a state court civil action may, under certain
conditions, remove to federal district court a case over
which the federal court has original jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A federal district
court has diversity jurisdiction if (i) the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000, and (ii) the plaintiff's
state of citizenship is different from the state of
citizenship of the defendant. See 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a). The Court should remand a case “if it appears
that [it] lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” In re
Prempro Prod. Liab. Litig., 591 F.3d 613, 620 (8th Cir.
2010) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)).
party seeking to remove the case, New York Marine “has
the burden to establish federal subject matter jurisdiction .
. . .” Griffioen v. Cedar Rapids & Iowa City
Ry. Co., 785 F.3d 1182, 1192 (8th Cir. 2015) (quotation
marks and citation omitted). Where the complaint does not
allege a specific amount of damages, the removing party
“must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” McCord v.
Minn. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 830, 834 (8th Cir.
2003). The pertinent question is not whether the damages
will exceed the jurisdictional amount, but whether a
fact-finder might legally find that they would.
See Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 959 (8th Cir.
doubt concerning whether the Court has jurisdiction
“must be resolved in favor of remand.” Cent.
Iowa Power Coop. v. Midwest Indep. Transmission Sys.
Operator, Inc., 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th Cir. 2009).
Walker argues that removal was improper because this case
does not meet the amount-in-controversy requirement. New York
Marine contends that the following facts establish that Mr.
Walker seeks more than the threshold amount of $75, 000:
. On May 10, 2017, and again on August 18,
2017, Mr. Walker made a verbal settlement demand of $ 1