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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Federal judge declines to remand couple's Hurricane Irma complaint to state court

Lawsuits

By Juliette Fairley | Mar 25, 2020

Roof
Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge denied a Florida couples’ motion to remand their Hurricane Irma complaint against First Liberty Insurance Company to state court.

“The Court finds that Defendant has met its burden to establish that the parties are completely diverse and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00,” wrote U.S. District Judge Tom Barber in his March 2 decision. “Therefore, the motion to remand is denied.” 

Judge Barber calculated the amount in controversy by subtracting the deductible from the total purported damages that William and Beverly Murphy say was incurred due to Hurricane Irma, according to his order.

“Plaintiffs’ purported damages are $82,534.26,” Judge Barber stated in his order. “Therefore, the amount in controversy, after subtracting the deductible, is $76,694.26. Consequently, the amount in controversy exceeds the amount in controversy requirement.”

The Murphys sued the Boston-based insurer in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Collier County, alleging breach of contract after their claim to cover damages was denied.

However, First Liberty Insurance filed a Notice of Removal to federal court in October 2019, noting that “venue exists in the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division because the Circuit Court of Collier County is located within this District and Division.”

The attorney who represents the Murphys, Brian Freeman, alleges in the couples' complaint that the insurer is avoiding liability.

"Despite the clear obligation of the defendant to pay the plaintiffs the full amount of the plaintiff's windstorm claim, the defendant has improperly and unreasonably disputed coverage for certain items including, but not limited to, full and complete replacement of the plaintiff's roof as a result of Hurricane Irma," Freeman wrote in his brief. 

First Liberty Insurance is represented by Traub Lieberman Strauss & Shrewsberry.

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