United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Matthew James Barber, Schwebel, Goetz, and Sieben, (for
Plaintiff Courtney Godfrey)
Michael A. Zimmer, (for Plaintiff Ryan Novaczyk)
Michelle D. Christensen & Lehoan T. Pham, HKM, P.A., (for
Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company)
N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant State Farm Fire and
Casualty Company's Motion to Compel (ECF No. 45). For the
reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion in
part and deny it in part.
Courtney Godfrey and Ryan Novaczyk filed a lawsuit against
State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (“State
Farm”) and Government Employers Insurance Company
(“GEICO”), following a boating accident that
resulted in the amputation of Godfrey's leg. Amend.
Compl. ¶ 12 (ECF No. 18). Plaintiffs seek a judgment
declaring unlawful “resident family member
exclusion” provisions contained in insurance policies
that State Farm and GEICO issued to Novaczyk. Id. at
¶¶ 17-19. Plaintiffs allege that State Farm and
GEICO denied Godfrey liability coverage for injuries she
suffered in the boating accident on the basis of those
policies. Id. Plaintiffs allege that those policies
are not enforceable under Minnesota public policy that
abrogated interspousal immunity. Id. at ¶ 19.
24, 2018, State Farm served written discovery on Plaintiffs.
(ECF No. 49-1, pp. 3-53). Included in the written discovery
were requests related to the boating accident, Godfrey's
injuries and damages, certain statements that Godfrey made
regarding the enforceability of the insurance policies, and
Novaczyk's role in the accident. (See generally
id.). State Farm also sought to depose Plaintiffs. (ECF
No. 49-1, pp. 66).
August 13, 2018, Plaintiffs indicated that they would seek a
protective order in response to State Farm's discovery
requests. (ECF No. 49-1, p. 55). A few weeks later, State
Farm sent a letter to Plaintiffs seeking an update regarding
the status of Plaintiffs' responses on September 1 (ECF
No. 49-1, pp. 58). Plaintiffs reiterated that they intended
to seek a protective order (ECF No. 49-1, p. 58). Plaintiffs
did not, however, file such a motion, nor identify dates on
which they would be available for deposition. (ECF No. 49, p.
4). They also never responded or objected to State Farm's
discovery requests. (Id.).
Farm has filed a motion to compel, seeking responses to its
written discovery requests, dates that Plaintiffs would be
available for deposition, and its costs and attorney's
fees. (ECF No. 45). Godfrey filed a memorandum in response.
The Court heard arguments on January 4, 2019. At that
hearing, the Court expressed concern that it did not have
subject matter jurisdiction over this matter because
Plaintiffs pled in their complaint that Godfrey only suffered
damages that were in excess of $50, 000, short of the
amount-in-controversy requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Following the hearing, the Court ordered Plaintiffs to submit
an affidavit establishing that their claim exceeded $75, 000.
(ECF No. 60). On January 14, 2019, Godfrey filed an affidavit
stating that the value of the declaratory judgement that she
sought was in excess of $3 million. (ECF No. 61). The Court
then took the matter under advisement.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Court previously noted in its order questioning jurisdiction
(ECF No. 60), the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000
in order for the Court to have original jurisdiction over a
matter based on the diverse citizenship of the parties. 28
U.S.C. § 1332. The amount in controversy is determined
by the value of the right the plaintiff seeks to enforce.
McGuire v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 108
F.Supp.3d 680, 687 (D. Minn. 2015). This requires the Court
essentially to determine whether the value of the declaratory
judgment is greater than $75, 000 by assessing what damages
Plaintiffs might seek if they were to prevail in their
declaratory judgment action. Because it is not apparent from
the face of the complaint that this amount exceeds $75, 000,
the Court must make this determination based on the
preponderance of the evidence. Bell v. Hershey Co.,
557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009).
Godfrey has submitted a detailed affidavit indicating that
the damages she suffered in this matter exceed $3 million.
She indicates that she intends to seek the full amount from
both Defendants in a tort action should she prevail in the
declaratory judgment action. The Court has carefully reviewed
the affidavit and concluded that ...