In Bess v. Day, a Florida resident suffered injuries in a motor vehicle collision, which he alleged was caused by a citizen of Canada. Shortly after the accident, the injured man brought suit in state court against the Canadian and his wife. The defendants quickly removed the action to federal court based on diversity of citizenship.
The term "diversity of citizenship" refers to one of the rules applicable to determining whether a claim can be brought in federal court. Under the diversity of citizenship rule, a claim may be filed in federal court or removed to federal court from state court, if the parties to the lawsuit are residents of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
The plaintiff filed a motion seeking to remand the action back to state court, contending that the defendants failed to demonstrate that the damages involved in the case exceeded $75,000. In ruling on the motion, the federal judge noted that the rules regarding removal to federal court are to be construed narrowly and in favor of sending a case back to state court. The court also noted that the case law regarding removal was clear on the point that the party seeking removal bears the burden of showing that the requirements of diversity of citizenship have been satisfied.
Although the court concluded it was clear that the parties hailed from different states, there was some dispute regarding the amount in controversy. According to the defendants, the plaintiff's injuries exceeded $75,000 based on a pre-filing settlement offer the plaintiff tendered requesting the defendants' policy limit of $125,000.
The court rejected this contention, concluding it was not enough to establish damages in the lawsuit and noting that the case law supported such a conclusion. According to courts, a pre-lawsuit offer of settlement does not serve as a sufficient indication of the damages to which the plaintiff may be entitled. Instead, such an offer must be treated as a posturing maneuver. The court was also persuaded by the fact that the defendants' insurance company tendered only $15,000 in payment of the plaintiff's medical expenses.
Next, the court rejected the defendants' request to review a document that the defendants alleged contained additional evidence regarding the plaintiff's damages, concluding that since it was not attached to the initial notice of removal, it was not properly before the court.
Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendants did not satisfy their burden of proof under the diversity of citizenship rule and remanded the case back to state court.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our team of dedicated and experienced car accident lawyers has helped many victims throughout Southwest Florida, including in Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral. As a result, we understand how devastating this situation may be for you and your family, and we know how important it is for you to receive compassionate and dedicated legal representation. We offer a free consultation to help you learn the scope of your rights and determine which remedies may be available to you. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment now.