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Florida Court Clarifies ‘Amount in Controversy’ Requirement

drivingDetermining liability can be difficult in any car accident, but it can become even more complex when one party is from a different country. This is exactly what happened in the case of Bess v. Day, in which a Florida resident was injured in an automobile accident allegedly caused by a Canadian citizen.

After the incident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in state court against the Canadian driver and his wife. The defendants promptly removed the suit to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. In order to remove to federal court on this basis, the parties have to be residents of different states, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. Here, there was no dispute regarding the fact that the parties were from different places.

The plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the lawsuit back to state court, claiming that the defendants did not meet their burden of showing that the amount in controversy exceeded $75,000. When it comes to the amount in controversy, the law requires that the amount be more than $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs. The defendants focused on a pre-suit settlement offer letter that outlined the plaintiff’s injuries and requested $125,000 for their harm. This amount also happened to be the defendant’s policy limit.

The plaintiffs argued that this letter was insufficient to establish the amount in controversy. The court agreed. The court explained that while a pre-suit settlement offer “counts for something,” it does not definitively establish the amount in controversy. Instead, the pre-suit settlement offer is simply a plaintiff’s proposal for settlement purposes and cannot be taken as a trustworthy indicator of the damages sought by the plaintiff.

In the case at hand, the plaintiff’s lawyer had asked for $125,000, but the plaintiff’s actual damages were only $14,662, as paid by the defendant’s insurance company. While it is possible that the plaintiff could have future medical expenses, these allegations do not establish with any legal certainty that the total amount in controversy would exceed $75,000.

In addition, the court declined the defendant’s request to go over a document that showed a chart of jury verdicts that the defendant believed to be similar to this action. The court reasoned that since this document was not attached to the initial notice of removal, it was improper to consider it when analyzing a motion to remand. As a result, the document could not be taken into account.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant did not meet the burden when it came to establishing the amount in controversy. Thus, the court found that removal to federal court was improper, and the case was remanded back to the Florida state court.

At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami car accident attorneys have the experience, skill, and determination to handle your personal injury claim. For years, we have been helping South Florida clients pursue the compensation they deserve for their harm, and we can help you too. You can rest assured that you will have dedicated legal representation at every step of the way. For more information, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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