Court invalidates jury verdict; grants relief to State Farm based on jurisdiction
As the dissenting Judge pointed out, for many decades, it has been settled law that the "amount in dispute" can be limited by the lawsuit-filing claimant, so that all parties can determine conclusively whether a lawsuit should be filed in the District Court (less than $25,000.00 in dispute) or Circuit Court (more than $25,000.00 in dispute). In Redmond v. State Farm, the Plaintiff family sought PIP benefits for medical expenses. The family chose to sue in District Court, either because the outcome is usually acheived more quickly, or because it preferred the judge likely to be assigned or the location of the courthouse. The family argued that more than $70,000.00 was owed, bur formally agreed to accept the District Court maximum of $25,000.00.
The jury agreed with the family and awarded the full amount owed. Judgment entered for the District Court's maximum of $25,000.00. State Farm appealed, however, and argued that since the verdict awarded was $72,000.00, the "amount in controversy" was greater than the District Court's jurisdiction and the entire action was voided. The Court of Appeals majority granted State Farm the relief it requested, even though by doing so, as the dissenting judge pointed out, it overturned years of settled law and threatens the jurisdiction of both courts and the "certainty" of jurisdiction. Sadly, the majority opinion is a typical Christopher Murray/Kathleen Shapiro effort to achieve the insurance-friendly result desired, regardless of the wisdom of the decision.