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Middle District Holds That De Minimis Procedural Defect In Removal Does Not Require Remand

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania recently denied an insured’s motion to remand, holding that a de minimis procedural defect does not affect the right to remove, a corporation cannot have a principal place of business in multiple states, and the amount in controversy requirement includes consideration of attorney fees and punitive damages. See Pivtchev v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2019 WL 2743843 (M.D. Pa. 2019).

In Pivtchev, the insured was injured in a motor vehicle accident and sought underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits from her insurer. The insured subsequently filed a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County against the insurer for breach of contract and bad faith. The insurer filed a notice of removal to federal court.  The notice of removal did not include a sheriff’s return of process which had been filed in the state court, and the insured filed a motion to remand citing procedural defects in the notice of removal.

In denying the motion to remand, the Middle District held that the insurer’s failure to include the sheriff’s return service of process form with the notice of removal was a de minimis defect and was remedied by the insurer through an amended notice of removal. The court further held that a corporation such as the insurer can only have one principal place of business, and that the out-of-state insurer’s principal place of business did not become Pennsylvania simply because the insurer accepted service in Pennsylvania.  Finally, the Middle District held that the amount in controversy requirement was satisfied where the insured sought UIM benefits pursuant to a policy that provided $25,000 in coverage and where the insured also sought attorney fees and punitive damages, the amount in controversy requirement of $75,000.