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Godfrey v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 12, 2019

Courtney Godfrey and Ryan Novaczyk, Plaintiffs,
v.
State Farm Fire & Casualty Company and Government Employers Insurance Company, Defendants.

          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)

          ORDER

          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge

         This 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs 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.

         On July 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).

         On 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.).

         State 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.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         As the 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).

         Here, 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 ...


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