COURT DENIES REMAND BASED ON POTENTIAL PUNITIVE DAMAGE AND ATTORNEY’S FEE AWARDS (Middle District)

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Middle District Judge Mannion denied the insurer’s motion to remand this UIM bad faith case.  The plaintiff had $15,000 in UIM coverage, which was eventually paid in full, but continued to pursue a bad faith claim for a sum in excess of $50,000, including attorney’s fees and punitive damages.  The insured refused to stipulate that the claim was worth no more than $74,999.

Judge Mannion found that the punitive damages and attorney’s fees pursued under the bad faith statute could exceed the jurisdictional minimum, $75,000.  He looked to cases that had awarded punitive damages in 4:1 and 5:1 ratios, and a case upholding a 10:1 ratio. Moreover, “[s]ubstantial attorney’s fees awards, too, have been granted for insurance bad faith claims.”

Judge Mannion then states:

Because Plaintiff does not specifically limit his amended complaint to $75,000, and because no factual dispute is raised by the parties, the court proceeds to the legal certainty test. In light of the reasonable possibility that punitive damages and attorney’s fees may exceed $75,000, and considering Plaintiff’s refusal to cap damages at $75,000, the court finds that it does not appear to a legal certainty that Plaintiff’s claim is for less than the jurisdictional minimum. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand will be denied.

Date of Decision: July 19, 2021

Barbato v. Progressive Specialty Insurance Company, U.S. District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania No. CV 3:21-0732, 2021 WL 3033863 (M.D. Pa. July 19, 2021) (Mannion, J.)

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