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Stewart v. State Automobile Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

January 6, 2020

MICHAEL ALLEN STEWART and SHELLIE MARIE STEWART, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE AUTOMOBILE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COREY L. MAZE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Michael Allen Stewart and Shellie Marie Stewart (the “Stewarts”) brought this action against State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a State Auto Insurance Companies (“State Auto”), Meridian Security Insurance Company (“Meridian”), and various fictitious defendants in St. Clair County Circuit Court, alleging claims of breach of contract and bad faith. Meridian removed this suit to this Court on July 19, 2019. Doc. 1. Before this Court is the Stewarts' Motion to Remand. Doc. 12. For the reasons stated, the motion is due to be granted.

         I. Background

         This case arises from the denial of the Stewarts' claim for benefits under their homeowner's insurance policy. As alleged in their Amended Complaint (doc. 1-2), State Auto and/or Meridian issued the Stewarts a homeowner's policy sometime after the Stewarts purchased their home in 2015. The Stewarts allegedly suffered water damage to their home in 2018. On December 18, 2018, State Auto advised the Stewarts that State Auto would only pay $10, 000 toward the damage to the Stewarts' house, due to an endorsement attached to the homeowner's policy.

         On April 12, 2019, the Stewarts filed suit against State Auto and various fictitious defendants in St. Clair County Circuit Court. Doc. 1-1 at 3. On June 6, 2019, the Stewarts filed an Amended Complaint against State Auto, Meridian, and various fictitious defendants in St. Clair County Circuit Court, asserting state law breach of contract and bad faith claims. Doc. 1-2 at 55. The Stewarts' Amended Complaint sought damages in the amount of $43, 138.78, plus additional compensatory and punitive damages, not to exceed $74, 500.00 total. Id. at 60, 61.

         On May 23, 2019, Meridian served the Stewarts with the following Requests for Admission:

1. Admit you will not seek a combined total of more than $74, 500 at any time during the pendency of this lawsuit as stated in your Complaint.
2. Admit that you will not accept a combined total of more than $74, 500 for damages and costs in this matter, as stated in your Complaint.
3. Admit you will not claim you are entitled to more than a combined total of $74, 500 at any point during the pendency of this lawsuit.
4. Admit that the amount in controversy in your lawsuit is no more than $74, 500.
5. Admit that you will not claim the amount in controversy in this lawsuit exceed $74, 500 at any point during the pendency of this lawsuit.

         The Stewarts denied requests for admission Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 5. Regarding request No. 4, the Stewarts responded, “Admitted at this time.”

         On July 19, 2019, Meridian removed this case from state court on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity jurisdiction).[1] Doc. 1. On August 2, 2019, Meridian filed an Amended Notice of Removal. Doc. 6. On August 19, 2019, the Stewarts filed their Motion to Remand to State Court. Doc. 12. The Stewarts argue that this action is not properly removable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) for three reasons: (1) the value of their claims does not meet or exceed the jurisdictional requirement of $75, 000; (2) Meridian failed to timely file its notice of removal; and (3) Meridian failed to timely file State Auto's consent to removal. The issues raised in this motion have been fully briefed. The Court finds that this case is due to be remanded for the reasons set forth below.

         II. ...


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