A federal judge has kicked back to state court a personal injury case arising
from a motor vehicle accident that had been removed to U.S. District Court because defense attorneys contended the damages sought were likely to exceed state court jurisdiction.
U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, on April 15 remanded a suit brought by Philadelphia Eric Ferguson and others against driver Angel Nobles of Syracuse, N.Y., to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where the case had originally been filed last fall.
The complaint arises from a Jan. 23, 2013, vehicle accident between the parties in the area of Route 1 and Harbison Avenue in Philadelphia.
The lawsuit blames Nobles for bodily injuries and other losses the plaintiffs allegedly sustained after the defendant slammed into the back of their vehicle.
The complaint states that the plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $50,000 but not in excess of $75,000, which would trigger federal court jurisdiction.
Records show that the defendant filed a removal notice on March 11 of this year seeking to transfer the litigation to federal court because the amount of controversy apparently exceeded $75,000.
In his memorandum this week, Baylson wrote that while it is true that “the amount in controversy is not measured by the low end of an open-ended claim, but rather be a reasonable reading of the rights being litigated,” the complaint at issue is not open-ended.
“Rather, Plaintiffs’ Complaint clearly states that they seek damages not in excess of Seventy-Five Thousand ($75,000) pus all costs and other relief this court deems necessary,” the judge wrote. “Moreover, Plaintiffs acknowledge in their Motion to Remand that they will not be able to recover monetary compensation in excess of $75,000 due to their own monetary limitation in the Complaint and that any verdict in excess of that amount would be molded to an amount less than $75,000.”
Given the record, Baylson said it’s clear that the amount-in-controversy provision isn’t met, and that the federal court lacks jurisdiction in this case.
Baylson wrote that the defendant relied on the fact that the plaintiff’s attorney relayed a total demand for $300,000 at a settlement conference.
“Such a demand is best seen as posturing for settlement negotiations and cannot override an unequivocal limitation on the damages that Plaintiffs seek.”
The plaintiffs are being represented by Philadelphia attorneys Marc I. Simon, Matthew Zamites, Joshua A. Rosen, Alex Kroupa, Michael Soska and Andrew Van Wagner of the firm Simon & Simon P.C.
The defendant is being represented by Blue Bell, Pa. lawyer Kevin M. Blake of Bennett, Bricklin & Saltzburg.
The state case ID number is 130903712 and the federal case number is 2:14-cv-01439-MMB.