United States District Court, D. New Mexico
J Rios Michael G. Solon Rios Law Firm Albuquerque, New Mexico
Attorneys for the Plaintiff
Jeffrey E. Jones Law Office of Jeffrey E. Jones Santa Fe, New
Mexico Attorney for Defendant Andrew C. Yost
W. Peterson Keleher & McLeod, P.A. Albuquerque, New
Mexico Attorney for Defendant American Alternative Insurance
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Motion to Remand, filed September 28, 2017 (Doc.
18)(“Motion”). The Court held a hearing on June
7, 2018. The primary issue is whether 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)'s amount-in-controversy requirement is met when
it exceeds $75, 000.00 at the time of removal, but dips below
$75, 000.00 after removal, because the parties stipulated to
Defendant American Alternative Insurance Corporation's
dismissal, and because the sole insurance policy at issue now
is limited to $50, 000.00. The Court concludes that it must
calculate the amount in controversy at the time of removal.
Accordingly, the insurance policy's $50, 000.00 limit
does not extinguish the Court's jurisdiction. The Court
therefore denies the Motion. Although the Court concludes
that the amount-in-controversy requirement is met, there is
insufficient evidence to conclude that the parties are
diverse. Accordingly, the Court orders Defendant Andrew C.
Yost to show cause within ten calendar days why the Court
should not remand the case.
Court takes the facts from Plaintiff Victor Quintana's
Complaint for Personal Injuries and Damages,
D-101-CV-2017-00158, filed January 18, 2017 (First Judicial
District, County of Santa Fe, State of New Mexico), filed in
federal court July 5, 2017 (Doc.
1-1)(“Complaint”) and from Defendant American
Alternative Insurance Corporation's Notice of Removal,
filed July 5, 2017 (Doc. 1)(“Notice of Removal”).
The Court provides these facts for background. It does not
adopt them as the truth, and it recognizes that the facts are
largely Quintana's version of events.
March 4, 2014, Yost crashed a 1999 Volkswagen into the rear
end of the 2008 Dodge that Quintana was driving. See
Complaint ¶¶ 10-11, at 3. As a result of the crash,
Quintana was injured, and the Dodge “sustained heavy
and disabling damage.” Complaint ¶ 15, at 4.
See Id. ¶ 14, at 3. Armano Beltran d/b/a Santa
Fe Tow owns the Dodge, but Quintana was lawfully operating it
when Yost crashed into the car. See Complaint ¶
10, at 3. American Alternative insures the Dodge.
See Complaint ¶ 10, at 3.
lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. See Complaint ¶
1, at 1. Yost “has lived in Minnesota for over two
years” and intends to remain there. Notice of Removal
¶ 17, at 4. See Notice of Removal ¶ 16, at
4. American Alternative is domiciled in Delaware.
See Notice of Removal ¶ 19, at 4. Its principle
place of business “is not in New Mexico.” Notice
of Removal ¶ 19, at 4.
sues Yost asserting negligence and negligence per se.
See Complaint ¶¶ 12- 28, at 3-5. According
to Quintana, he suffered damages in the form of “severe
and permanent physical injuries, past and future medical
expenses, loss of life's enjoyment, loss of household
services, past and future lost wages, lost earning capacity,
past and future emotional and physical pain and
suffering.” Complaint ¶ 28, at 5. Quintana also
sues American Alternative for underinsured motorist benefits
contending that the injuries Yost caused exceed Yost's
insurance policy's bodily injury liability coverage.
See Complaint ¶¶ 37-42, at 7-8. Finally,
Quintana alleges that Yost's conduct warrants punitive
damages. See Complaint ¶¶ 29-36, at 6-7.
Thus, Quintana seeks compensatory and punitive damages,
attorney's fees, all pre- and post-judgment interest, and
any other relief the Court deems proper. See
Complaint at 8.
Alternative removes under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and asserts
that the Court has original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). See Notice of Removal at 1. It
contends that there is complete diversity, because Quintana
is a New Mexico resident, whereas Yost and American
Alternative are not. See Notice of Removal
¶¶ 14-19, 21, at 3-5. It asserts that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, because Quintana
“denies that he is seeking damages less than $75,
000.00 against both Yost and American Alternative, ”
and because Quintana seeks punitive damages. Notice of
Removal ¶ 23, at 5 (citing Requests for Admission Nos.
4-5, at 3-4, filed July 5, 2017 (Doc. 1-2)(“Requests
for Admission”)). See Notice of Removal ¶
26, at 6. After American Alternative filed its Notice of
Removal, the parties stipulated to American Alternative's
dismissal without prejudice. See Amended Stipulation
of Dismissal of Defendant American Alternative Insurance
Corporation at 1, filed September 19, 2017 (Doc.
moves to remand to state court. See Motion at 1. He
contends that Yost's vehicle insurance coverage for
bodily injury is limited to $50, 000.00. See Motion
¶ 4, at 1. Yost argues, accordingly, that, because he
does not seek to recover from Yost personally, and because
American Alternative is no longer a defendant, the amount in
controversy is necessarily less than $75, 000.00.
See Motion ¶¶ 9-11, at 2.
responds. See Response to Motion For Remand, filed
October 12, 2017 (Doc. 22)(“Response”). He
contends that the Court may still exercise subject-matter
jurisdiction, because Quintana refused to stipulate, at the
time of removal, that he sought less than $75, 000.00.
See Response at 2-3. Yost also asserts that, on the
basis of the pre-litigation settlement demand, the amount in
controversy at the time of removal is at least $90, 000.00,
because: (i) Quintana's medical expenses equal $15,
466.38; (ii) the Court has reasoned, in another case, that
personal injury cases customarily settle for three times the
medical expenses; and (iii) punitive damages are often
calculated to equal the settlement amount. See
Response at 5 (citing Aranda v. Foamex Int'l,
884 F.Supp.2d 1186, 1207 (D.N.M. 2012)(Browning, J.)). He
argues that Quintana's willingness to now stipulate to a
$50, 000.00 cap is irrelevant, because the amount in
controversy is determined at the time of removal.
See Response at 3 (citing Pfeiffer v. Hartford
Fire Ins. Co., 929 F.2d 1484, 1488 (10th Cir. 1991));
Response at 4 (“Once jurisdiction attaches,
‘events subsequently defeating it by reducing the
amount in controversy are unavailing.'”)(quoting
Miera v. Dairyland Ins. Co., 143 F.3d 1337, 1340
(10th Cir. 1998)). Yost requests, accordingly, that the Court
deny the Motion. See Response at 6.
replies. See Plaintiff's Reply in Support of
Motion to Remand at 1, filed October 23, 2017 (Doc.
23)(“Reply”). Quintana argues that it is
“legally certain” that he cannot recover more
than $75, 000.00, because of the $50, 000.00 policy limit.
Reply at 1 (citing McPhail v. Deere & Co., 529
F.3d 947, 955 (10th Cir. 2008)). He ...