Somal v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company,Case No. C09-1064RSL (W.D. Wash. Sept. 29, 2009).
Teen idol Bobby Sherman performed the hit song, Seattle, declaring that “the bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle…and the hills the greenest green in Seattle.” Last year, the defendant, Allstate, must have been gazing at the blue skies and hiking the green hills instead of focusing on the preponderance of the evidence standard required to establish the amount in controversy under CAFA!
In Somal, Judge Lasnik in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, at Seattle, held that Allstate failed to establish the required amount in controversy when it removed a case that sought recovery under an insurance policy provided by Allstate, alleging failure to reimburse plaintiff for the full amount of her deductible following Allstate’s recovery from a third party. The plaintiff sought to recover on behalf of herself and all others who were not fully reimbursed for their out of pocket expenses after Allstate recovered money from a third party for the insured’s property damages.
The only evidence provided in Allstate’s notice of removal regarding the amount in controversy was a declaration setting forth a calculation based on the number of claims Allstate paid under its collision coverage to Washington insureds for a specific time period and the amount of revenue Allstate recovered in subrogation claims arising from its payment of collision benefits during the same period. Allstate provided no evidence that its calculation bore any relation to the actual class size or amount in controversy. In subsequent briefing, Allstate also attempted to quantify additional amounts for attorneys’ fees and injunctive relief, both of which were sought by the plaintiff.
The court held that Allstate offered “overinclusive figures” as its only evidence of CAFA jurisdiction, leaving the court to speculate as to the size of the class and the amount of unreimbursed deductible payments at issue. The court also held that the evidence regarding the amount of attorneys fees was insufficient because it involved only citations to other Ninth Circuit class action cases awarding attorneys’ fees, but offered nothing to suggest that those cases were relevant to prediction the attorney fees in this case. The court found that the cost of an injunction would be zero because it would not obligate Allstate to do anything it was not already required to do.
Finding that it could not base jurisdiction on “speculation and conjecture,” the court forced Allstate to say bye-bye to the blue skies of federal court, and trek its way all the way down those green hills back to Seattle state court!
By: Rose Marie L. Fiore