Can an insured’s post-suit Civil Remedy Notice demanding over $75,000 satisfy the amount-in-controversy diversity jurisdiction requirement and trigger the thirty-day removal period for an insurer? It depends.
In Joyce v. Hartford Ins. Co. of the Midwest, 2020 WL 1929462 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 21, 2020), a U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently held that an insured’s post-suit Civil Remedy Notice that demanded the insurer pay an amount exceeding $75,000 to satisfy the insured’s claim could not trigger the thirty-day period for removal where the amount demanded was not supported by any concrete information.
The insured in Joyce filed suit against its insurer in state court, asserting breach of contract for an unspecified amount of damages. Subsequently, the insurer removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after receiving a repair estimate through discovery.
The insured moved to remand the case back to state court, arguing that the insurer’s removal was untimely because the insurer failed to remove the case within thirty days after receiving the insured’s post-suit Civil Remedy Notice that demanded a specific amount (to the penny), which exceeded $75,000. The insurer argued that the insured’s post-suit Civil Remedy Notice did not provide sufficient information for the insurer to ascertain the amount-in-controversy, and therefore, removal was not available until the insurer received the insured’s repair estimate through discovery.
The insured relied on Mead v. Ids Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 2013 WL 12157838 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 26, 2013) to support its argument that the post-suit Civil Remedy Notice triggered the thirty-day period for removal. The court in Mead held that the post-suit Civil Remedy Notice, which contained a detailed medical opinion about the cost of the plaintiff’s future medical procedures, apprised defendant that plaintiffs were seeking damages in excess of $75,000.
However, the court in Joyce rejected the insured’s argument and denied its motion to remand. In denying the motion to remand, the court reasoned that unlike the detailed post-suit Civil Remedy Notice in Mead, the insured’s post-suit Civil Remedy Notice in Joyce provided no accounting work or supporting information regarding the specific amount demanded to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount-in-controversy was met to trigger the thirty-day period for removal.
The court’s ruling avoided the question of whether a sufficiently detailed post-suit Civil Remedy Notice constitutes an other paper for removal purposes. Section 1446(b)(3) provides that “if the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3) (emphasis added).
Based upon the court’s reasoning in Joyce, indeed it appears that a post-suit Civil Remedy Notice would likely constitute an other paper for removal purposes and trigger the thirty-day period for removal if the post-suit Civil Remedy Notice is sufficiently detailed.