Getting the insurance adjuster served with legal papers in a lawsuit is important and for some reason, overlooked. This is illustrated in an Eastern District, Sherman Division case styled, Robert Crawford v. Allied Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Laura Jones.
Crawford, a citizen of Texas, sued Allied, an Iowa Company and Jones, who is a Texas resident in State District Court. The suit arises out of the Defendant’s alleged improper handling of an insurance claim. Crawford suffered extensive damage to his property during a storm. Allied was Crawford’s insurer. Jones was hired by Allied to inspect and adjust Crawford’s loss. Thereafter, it is alleged that Jones conducted a substandard investigation and inspection of the property, prepared a report that failed to include all of the damages that she noted during the inspection, and undervalued the damages she observed during the inspection, all of which resulted in Allied denying Crawford adequate coverage under the policy. Crawford sued for breach of contract and sued Allied and Jones for violations of the Texas Insurance Code.
Allied and Jones removed the case to Federal Court based on diversity jurisdiction, alleging that Jones was improperly joined to defeat diversity jurisdiction.
The Court had a lengthy discussion of the standards for maintaining the case against Jones and those issues are discussed at length in other blogs at this site.
There is a slight difference in this case versus most other cases related to removal and whether the removal is property under the facts and pleadings of the case.
Here, as Jones asserts, Jones was not served in the underlying state court case, and although a summons issued from this Court, it had not been served on Jones. Allied urges that under the 5th Circuit case, Griggs v. State Farm Lloyds, lack of service on a defendant should be considered in the improper-joinder analysis. Crawford asserts that delay in service should not bear on the Court’s analysis because Griggs is distinguishable on the basis that the 5th Circuit first found that remand was improper because there were no actionable facts or allegations specific to the instate adjuster. In N.Y. Life Ins. Co. v. Deshotel, the 5th Circuit held that a defendant’s “non-diverse citizenship cannot be ignored simply because he was an unserved defendant.” Under 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(a), a court, in determining the propriety of removal based on diversity of citizenship, must consider all named defendants regardless of service. However, the 5th Circuit in Griggs stated that a plaintiff’s failure to effect service on a defendant suggested that the plaintiff had no intent to pursue its claims against her after holding that the plaintiff’s complaint did not state a valid claim against the non-diverse defendant. Here, Crawford commenced this lawsuit in state court on April 28, 2017. Crawford then requested summons to be issued for Jones on June 26, 2017, the day before Crawford filed the instant Motion to Remand. Crawford served Jones on July 13, 2017. Crawford’s tardiness in effecting service on Jones further bolsters the Court’s finding that Jones was improperly joined.