United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
DONALD K. WHITAKER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated PLAINTIFF
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT and SAMUEL BAGGETT, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated persons and entities PLAINTIFF
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are two putative class actions against Defendant
Shelter Mutual Insurance Company (“Shelter”).
Both cases were removed pursuant to the Class Action Fairness
Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). Plaintiff
Donald K. Whitaker's action was removed to this Court on
May 23, 2018 from the Circuit Court of Logan County,
Arkansas. Whitaker seeks certification of the following
Residents of the State of Arkansas who, from January 15, 2011
through the date of resolution of this action, (a) purchased
a policy of insurance from the Defendant; (b) made a claim
for automobile medical payment or PIP benefits; (c) had their
benefits reduced by the defendant's discounting scheme
and (d) failed to exhaust the limits of their med pay or PIP
(No. 2:18-CV-02091, Doc. 4, p. 7, ¶ 23). Plaintiff
Samuel Baggett's action was removed to the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on
September 25, 2018 from the Circuit Court of Pulaski County,
Arkansas, and was transferred to this Court on November 7,
2018 because Shelter is Defendant in both Whitaker
and Baggett, the classes are similarly defined, and
there is substantial overlap of claims and relief sought.
Baggett seeks certification of the following class:
All Arkansas residents, including Plaintiff and all similarly
situated persons for the period from March 13, 2013 to the
present (the “Class period”), who have or had
automobile liability insurance with a Med Pay provision
issued by Shelter, and who were denied Med Pay coverage
because of payments made by another insurance plan.
Excluded from the class are the agents, affiliates and
employees of Shelter and the assigned judge and his/her
staff, and members of the appellate courts and their staff.
(No. 2:18-CV-02190, Doc. 5, p. 4, ¶ 2). Despite these
different class definitions, Shelter's notices of removal
in each case rely on amounts in controversy identified based
on the same internal analysis of claims. Both cases will be
remanded because Shelter has not demonstrated that this Court
can exercise subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA.
Baggett's case, Baggett filed a motion (No.
2:18-CV-02190, Doc. 15) to remand and a brief (No.
2:18-CV-02190, Doc. 16) in support, and Shelter has filed a
response (No. 2:18-CV-02190, Doc. 26) and brief (No.
2:18-CV-02190, Doc. 27) in opposition. Baggett filed a reply
(No. 2:18-CV-02190, Doc. 30) with leave of Court. That motion
will be granted and Baggett's case will be remanded.
Whitaker's case, no motion to remand has been filed, but
after the issue of subject matter jurisdiction was raised in
Baggett's case, the Court entered an order (No.
2:18-CV-02091, Doc. 21) in Whitaker's case on January 24,
2019 directing Shelter to show that this Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over the removed action. Shelter has
filed its response (No. 2:18-CV- 02091, Doc. 22) and brief in
support (No. 2:18-CV-02091, Doc. 23). Whitaker did not file a
reply. Whitaker's case will also be remanded.
district courts of the United States . . . ‘are courts
of limited jurisdiction . . . possess[ing] only that power
authorized by Constitution and statute.'” Exxon
Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546,
552 (2005) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). “[S]ubject matter
jurisdiction is primary and an absolute stricture on the
court.” In re Prairie Island Dakota Sioux, 21
F.3d 302, 304-05 (8th Cir. 1994). CAFA vests subject matter
jurisdiction in this Court for certain class actions where
“the [putative] class has more than 100 members, the
parties are minimally diverse, and the amount in controversy
exceeds $5 million.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating
Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 547, 552 (2014)
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)).
the Court's subject matter jurisdiction over an action
removed from a State court by a defendant has been called
into question, either because a plaintiff has challenged that
defendant's removal allegations or because the Court has
sua sponte raised the question, the removing defendant must
demonstrate, by preponderance of the evidence, that
jurisdiction is proper. Dart Cherokee Basin Operating
Co., LLC, 135 S.Ct. at 553-54; Hartis v. Chicago
Title Ins. Co., 694 F.3d 935, 944-45 (8th Cir. 2012).
The removing party's burden is to describe how the amount
in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount, and remains
a pleading requirement, and not a demand for proof.
Hartis, 694 F.3d at 944-45.
January 15, 2011 until the present, Shelter has sold
automobile insurance in the State of Arkansas. Putative class
members in both Whitaker and Baggett
purchased automobile insurance policies from Shelter. The
State of Arkansas requires that automobile insurance policies
“provide minimum medical and hospital benefits”
to the insured, family members, ...