MAY 2009 BAD FAITH CASES COURT SUA SPONTE FINDS THAT BAD FAITH CLAIM POTENTIAL INTEREST, COSTS AND PUNITIVE MEET $75,000 MINIMUM (Western District)

In Fleeger v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, a UIM case, the court sua sponte addressed the issue of whether $75,000 was at issue for purposes of establishing subject matter jurisdiction.  It found that the interest and costs awardable under the bad faith statute could be counted towards the $75,000, and further observed that the statute provided for punitive damages, which could likewise be considered toward the $75,000 minimum.  The court kept jurisdiction because dismissal for lack of jurisdiction required that it “must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal”, and in this case, that would be improper where there was no legal certainty that the claim was for less than $75,000. 

Date of Decision:  March 16, 2009

Fleeger v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 07-16, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20705 (W.D.Pa. March 16, 2009) (Gibson, J.)