Does It Matter How Much Your Personal Injury Claim Is Worth?
Although multi-million dollar personal injury verdicts tend to make the news headlines, most cases only involve a few thousand dollars in damages. Of course, if you are the victim, any amount of damages are welcome relief. But what you may not realize is that the value of your claim can have a significant impact on where your personal injury lawsuit is decided.
This is because there are circumstances where the defendant in a personal injury case can seek to have a case removed from state to federal court. There are typically two requirements for removal. First, there must be “complete diversity” between the parties. This is a fancy way of saying the plaintiff and defendant must be residents of different states. This is actually more common than you might think, especially if you are suing a corporation, which may be incorporated in a state other than Florida.
The second requirement for removal is the “amount in controversy” must be at least $75,000. This means if you sue an out-of-state corporation seeking $40,000 in damages, your case must remain in state court in spite of complete diversity.
Pre-Lawsuit Demand Letter Does Not Prove “Amount in Controversy”
A recent decision from a federal judge in Jacksonville, Woods v. Circle K Stores, Inc., helps to illustrate the importance of the amount in controversy requirement. This is a slip-and-fall case. The plaintiff was shopping in a Circle K store when he allegedly slipped on a slippery floor.
The plaintiff subsequently sent a demand letter to Circle K, offering to settle any potential personal injury claim for $500,000. The letter further stated the plaintiff’s accident-related medical expenses came to around $27,000. The plaintiff’s doctor also estimated the plaintiff would continue to incur about $3,500 per year in future medical costs.
When Circle K ignored the demand letter, the plaintiff filed suit against the out-of-state corporation in Florida state court. The lawsuit itself did not specify an exact amount of damages, but identified the amount in controversy as “over $30,000.” Circle K then had the lawsuit removed from state to federal court.
The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to remand–basically, an order returning the case to state court due to lack of federal jurisdiction. The federal court granted the motion. It held that Circle K “failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the amount in controversy has been met.” The judge noted that the plaintiff’s initial demand letter only identified the $27,000 in medical bills, which was $48,000 more than the threshold to invoke federal jurisdiction. And while the letter itself demanded $500,000 based on an “estimate” of possible future medical expenses, the judge said this did not prove the amount in controversy, as it was little more than pre-lawsuit “puffery and posturing.”
Speak with a Boca Raton Personal Injury Attorney Today
There are many technical legal details that need to be addressed in any personal injury case. An experienced Deerfield Beach slip and fall accident lawyer can act on your behalf to handle these details and represent your best interests in court. So if you have been injured and need legal representation, contact the Leifer Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.