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Doss v. American Family Home Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

September 19, 2014

LEE ANN DOSS, et al., PLAINTIFFS
v.
AMERICAN FAMILY HOME INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANTS

Page 837

For Lee Ann Doss, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, B.G. Peavy, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff: D. Matt Keil, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, Texarkana, AR; George L McWilliams, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of George L. McWilliams, P.C., Texarkana, AR; James M. Pratt, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, James M. Pratt, Jr., P.A., Camden, AR; Jason Earnest Roselius, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Roselius Law Firm, Oklahoma, OK; John C. Goodson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Keil & Goodson, Texarkana, AR; Richard A. Russo, Jr., Sharan Nirmul, LEAD ATTORNEY, Matthew L. Mustokoff, Kessler Topaz Meltzer Check LLP, Radnor, PA; Stevan Earl Vowell, Timothy J Myers, LEAD ATTORNEY, Taylor Law Firm, Fayetteville, AR; W H Taylor, LEAD ATTORNEY, TAYLOR LAW FIRM, FAYETTEVILLE, AR; William B. Putman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Taylor Law Partners, Fayetteville, AR; A.F. (Tom) Thompson, III, Kenneth (Casey) Castleberry, Murphy, Thompson, Arnold, Skinner & Castleberry, Batesville, AR; Richard E Norman, Crowley Norman LLP, Houston, TX; Sean M. Handler, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP, Radnor, PA; Stephen C. Engstrom, Stephen Engstrom Law Office, Little Rock, AR.

For American Family Home Insurance Company, Defendant: Andrew Evan Samuels, LEAD ATTORNEY, Baker Hostetler, Columbus, OH; Mark A. Johnson,Rodger L. Eckelberry, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Columbus, OH; Robert J. Tucker, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Baker Hostetler LLP, Columbus, OH; W. Kelvin Wyrick, Sr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Texarkana, AR.

Page 838

ORDER

Susan O. Hickey, United States District Judge.

Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 24). Defendant American Family Home Insurance Company has responded. (ECF No. 36). Plaintiffs filed a reply to Defendant's response. (ECF No. 43). The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration. Plaintiff argues that this Court does not have jurisdiction over this lawsuit because Defendant has not shown that the amount in controversy exceeds the $5 million minimum for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. For reasons reflected herein, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 24) is DENIED.

I. Background

Plaintiffs filed an amended putative class action complaint in state court in Miller County, Arkansas on December 3, 2013. (ECF No. 5). On January 6, 2014, Defendant removed the case to this Court. (ECF No. 1). Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on February 17, 2014. (ECF No. 20). On March 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand. The Court will resolve the pending Motion to Remand first because it concerns a question of federal jurisdiction, a threshold matter. See Counts v. Cedarville Sch. Dist., 295 F.Supp.2d 996, 998 (2003).

The named Plaintiffs, Lee Ann Doss and B.G. Peavy (" Doss and Peavy" ), were under a homeowner's insurance policy issued by the Defendants American Family Home Insurance Company (" American Family" ). (ECF No. 1). Doss and Peavy suffered a covered loss to their insured property on August 13, 2008. On October 17, 2008, American Family estimated the cost to repair the property at $5,330.95, a total that included the cost of labor and materials. American Family paid Doss and Peavy the " actual cash value" of their loss, which was $4,620.77 after subtracting depreciation and the amount of the deductible. The depreciated amount included both the cost of labor and materials. Doss and Peavy, in their Complaint, argue that Arkansas law prohibits an insurance company from depreciating the cost of labor. Therefore, by depreciating this cost, Plaintiffs claim that American Family (1) breached their contract with Plaintiffs and (2) were unjustly enriched.

American Family has removed this case to federal court, asserting that jurisdiction is proper under the Class Action Fairness Act (" CAFA" ), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). For a federal court to have jurisdiction under CAFA, the removing party must demonstrate that there is (1) a proposed plaintiff class of 100 or more members, (2) minimal diversity, and (3) more than $5 million in controversy, exclusive of interest and

Page 839

costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). The parties only dispute is whether the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5 million.

II. Discussion

" [A] party seeking to remove under CAFA must establish the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence regardless of whether the complaint alleges an amount below the jurisdictional minimum." Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 958 (8th Cir. 2009). " Under the preponderance standard, '[t]he jurisdictional fact ... is not whether the damages are greater than the requisite amount, but whether a fact finder might legally conclude that they are . . . .'" Id. at 959 (quoting Kopp v. Kopp, 280 F.3d 883, 885 (8th Cir. 2002)) (alteration in original). If a defendant meets its burden, then a plaintiff seeking remand must establish to a legal certainty that the amount in controversy is less than the statute requires. Bell, 557 F.3d at 956. The legal-certainty ...


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