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Prescia v. United States Life Insurance Co.

November 1, 2010

JEFFREY PRESCIA PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jeffrey Prescia ("Plaintiff") has moved to remand this case to state court. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

I. Facts

A. Background

Plaintiff was a commodities trader working at the New York Board of Trade in New York, New York. (Levy Decl. ¶ 5.) Defendant United States Life Insurance Company ("USL" or "Defendant") is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York and having its principal place of business at 70 Pine Street, New York, NY. (Notice of Removal ¶ 17.) USL issued disability income benefits coverage to Plaintiff under the New York Mercantile Exchange, Qualified Association and Organization Trust (the "USL Policy"). (Levy Decl. ¶ 7.) USL paid benefits to Plaintiff for approximately four years before it terminated payments in September 2008. (Pl. Letter Oct. 12, 2010.)

On March 13, 2009, believing that USL breached the USL Policy by terminating his disability benefits, Plaintiff commenced a civil action against Defendant in the Supreme Court for the State of New York, County of New York. (Levy Decl. ¶ 15; Notice of Removal Ex. A.) At the time that the action was commenced, Plaintiff believed he was owed $5,000 monthly benefits for the period of October 2008 to March 2009, totaling $30,000. (Levy Decl. ¶ 15.) On January 28, 2010, Defendant served Plaintiff a Request for Admission ("the Request"), demanding that Plaintiff admit the amount in controversy, and asking whether "the damages sought by Plaintiff's Complaint exceeded $75,000." (Id. at ¶ 16.) On February 25, 2010, Plaintiff responded that the amount in controversy at the time he filed the complaint did not exceed $75,000. Plaintiff further responded that the amount of damages, having accrued since the filing of his complaint, now exceed $75,000. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

B. Notice of Removal

On March 19, 2010, more than one year after the commencement of the state court litigation, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal, removing this action from the Supreme Court for the State of New York, County of New York to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. See Notice of Removal, D.E. # 1.

In the Notice of Removal, Defendant described the action as "one over which this Court has original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 due to diversity of citizenship of the parties," and therefore "removeable to the United States District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1441(a)." (Notice of Removal ¶ 1.) Defendant described itself as a corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York, having its principal place of business at 70 Pine Street, New York, New York. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

Defendant acknowledged that the amount in controversy when the action was commenced was $30,000. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Defendant argued, however, that "[b]ecause the amount in controversy was not established to be in excess of the jurisdictional threshold of this court until receipt of Plaintiff's responses to Request to [sic] Admissions on February 25, 2010, the period during which the case could be removed to this Court did not begin until that point." (Id. at ¶ 11.)

On March 23, 2010, Plaintiff wrote to Defendant asking that Defendant withdraw the Notice of Removal because it "fails to comply with each and every element required to remove an action to Federal Court...." (Pl. Letter March 23, 2010.) On March 26, 2010, Plaintiff requested leave to file a Motion to Remand, based on lack of diversity, amount in controversy, and timeliness of removal. (Pl. Letter March 26, 2010). After additional correspondence, this Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a Motion to Remand.

C. Motion to Remand

On April 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand in which he argues, inter alia, that removal was improper because Defendant is a citizen of the forum state from which the action was removed. (Pl. Mem. at 6.) Plaintiff also asks for costs and attorney's fees associated with Defendant's improper removal. (Id. at 14-15.)

In response, Defendant consents to remand, explaining that, "[u]pon. receipt and review of plaintiff's submission and consideration of the statute and applicable case law cited by plaintiff, USL recognized the merit of plaintiff's new argument regarding removal[,]" namely, lack of diversity jurisdiction due to USL being a citizen of the forum state from which the action was removed. (Lesko Decl. ΒΆΒΆ 9-10.) Defendant, however, objects to Plaintiff's demand for attorney's fees and costs, arguing that Plaintiff "did not articulate the basis for this request besides generally stating that removal was improper based on amount in ...


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