PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 28 – A federal judge has denied a remand request in a removed action against Omni Insurance company, holding that while the amount of the coverage claim was only $28,000.00, a bad faith claim also in the suit satisfied the $75,000.00 jurisdictional amount.
Plaintiff Richard Duncan originally sued a motorist insured by Omni Insurance arising out of an automobile accident. Omni denied its insured defense and indemnity on grounds of an unlicensed driver exclusion in the applicable policy.
Duncan won $28,000.00 in an arbitration against Omni’s insured who, after the award, assigned all rights it had against Omni to Duncan. Duncan then filed coverage and bad faith claims against Omni in Philadelphia County, seeking the amount of the arbitration award, along with bad faith damages. Omni removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pa., and Duncan moved to remand the case.
Eastern District Judge Harvey Bartle, III denied the remand motion, citing the 3rd Circuit precedent requiring reasonable reading of pleadings to determine amount in controversy, and holding:
“Because of the bad faith claim, we deem the amount in controversy requirement to have been met.”
Judge Bartle also granted summary judgment to Omni on the merits in the case, finding that the unlicensed driver exclusion was not void as against public policy, and that it barred coverage for the underlying loss.