Mack v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co.

Decision Date22 April 2021
Docket NumberNo. 19-14958,19-14958
Citation994 F.3d 1353
Parties Leroy MACK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Scott R. Jeeves, Jeeves Law Group, PA, St. Petersburg, FL, Roger Mandel, Jeeves Law Group, PC, Fort Worth, TX, Mark S. Fistos, Edward H. Zebersky, Zebersky Payne Shaw Lewenz, LLP, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Arthur M. Murray, Murray Law Firm, New Orleans, LA, Casim Adam Neff, Neff Insurance Law, PLLC, Saint Petersburg, FL, Craig E. Rothburd, Craig E. Rothburd, PA, Tampa, FL, Alec H. Schultz, Hilgers Graben PLLC, Miami, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Rodger L. Eckelberry, Mathew G. Drocton, Martina T. Ellerbe, Albert Lin, Andrea C. Wiltrout, Baker & Hostetler, LLP, Columbus, OH, Sidney Charles Calloway, Shutts & Bowen, LLP, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Frank A. Zacherl, III, Shutts & Bowen, LLP, Miami, FL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before WILSON, LAGOA, and BRASHER, Circuit Judges.

BRASHER, Circuit Judge:

Leroy Mack totaled his car and was not satisfied with the method his insurer, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, used to calculate what it paid him. So he sued USAA on behalf of himself and a putative class for declaratory judgments that USAA's method was inconsistent with Florida law and the insurance policy. As supplemental relief to those declaratory judgment claims, Mack also asked for USAA to recalculate the class members’ claims using a legal method and make them new offers. Mack concedes, however, that a "correct" calculation method will not necessarily result in higher offers.

Our caselaw is clear that Mack does not have standing to seek prospective relief on the off chance that he might total a car again in the future. The question for us, then, is whether Mack has Article III standing because he requests that USAA make new settlement offers as supplemental relief if his declaratory judgment claim succeeds. After careful review and with the benefit of oral argument, we hold that a plaintiff's request for supplemental relief does not change the standing analysis for a declaratory judgment claim. Accordingly, we conclude that Mack does not have standing to bring his declaratory judgment claims, vacate the district court's order of dismissal, and remand to the district court with instructions that the district court remand the case back to the Circuit Court of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida.

I. BACKGROUND

While insured under a Florida motor vehicle insurance policy issued by USAA Casualty Insurance Company, Leroy Mack was involved in a car accident that rendered his vehicle a total loss. Under the policy, USAA will pay up to the "actual cash value" of the covered vehicle in the event of a total loss. To determine that value, USAA uses a third-party service, the CCC ONE valuation system, which purports to automatically calculate actual cash value based on comparable vehicle data from its own computer system and data on the insured's vehicle input by USAA adjusters. In the event of a disagreement over the amount of loss—which includes actual cash value—the policy allows for either party to demand appraisal.

Mack submitted a claim under the policy, and USAA agreed to coverage. USAA offered to pay Mack the actual cash value of his vehicle as determined by the CCC ONE system, and Mack accepted payment. But about two months after cashing that check, Mack sent USAA a demand letter. He argued that USAA had violated Florida law and breached its policy by failing to pay him license and title transfer fees or a document fee. USAA responded that it was only responsible for "actual cash value and tax."

Mack then filed a class-action complaint in Florida state court on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated policyholders against USAA seeking (1) a declaratory judgment that USAA's use of the CCC ONE system violates Florida law and supplemental relief in the form of an order requiring USAA to recalculate the class members’ total loss claims under a compliant method and to make new offers based on those recalculations; (2) a declaratory judgment that USAA's refusal to pay separate title, license, and dealer fees in connection with total loss claims breaches its coverage policy and supplemental relief in the form of an order requiring USAA to pay the title and license fees and offer dealer fees to the class members; and (3) damages for breach of contract based on USAA's failure to pay Mack and the purported class members $83.25 in title and license fees. Importantly, and in contrast to his claim for title and license fees, Mack did not seek damages for USAA's failure to pay dealer fees or an order requiring their payment. USAA contended that dealer fees are included in the advertised vehicle prices used by the CCC system and, therefore, they were necessarily included in the actual cash value payments made to each class member.

USAA interpreted the complaint as contesting its valuation of Mack's vehicle and invoked its right under the policy to demand appraisal. USAA then filed a notice of removal to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446 and the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d) and 1453. After removal, USAA moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that it amounted to a dispute over the amount of loss and that the policy required Mack to fully comply with the appraisal and other provisions before filing suit. Mack responded that his claims raised purely legal questions and did not constitute a dispute over the amount of loss, therefore, they were not amenable to appraisal. The district court determined that "[t]his is a case about payment of money," not "about legal coverage or whether or not a contract provides for anything." Accordingly, the court dismissed the case without prejudice "pending appraisal." Mack timely appealed.

After Mack filed his initial brief with this Court, the parties reached a settlement as to the title and license fees claims, thereby mooting the only damages claim. The only remaining count is for declaratory judgment and supplemental relief, in which Mack seeks two declaratory judgments: (1) that USAA's use of the CCC System violates Florida law and the policy and (2) that Florida law and the policy require that USAA pay dealer fees as part of any total loss settlement. Supplemental to those declarations, Mack seeks (1) a recalculation of all class members’ total loss claims under a new method and new offers based on those amounts if they are higher than the amount originally offered and (2) an order requiring USAA to offer dealer fees to the class members. As to his request for supplemental relief related to his CCC claim, Mack insists before this Court that a recalculation of his and other class members’ claims under a new method will not necessarily result in a higher offer by USAA. Instead, he states that "recalculation using a legal method might or might not result in a higher value than the CCC system value" and that he "does not claim his vehicle's value was greater than USAA's calculation."

This Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing whether Mack has Article III standing to pursue those remaining claims in federal court.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Article III standing "is a threshold jurisdictional question that we review de novo." Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. , 979 F.3d 917, 923 (11th Cir. 2020) (en banc). Likewise, we review the district court's grant of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss de novo. Mills v. Foremost Ins. Co. , 511 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir. 2008).

III. DISCUSSION

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute[.]" Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am. , 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to adjudicating actual "Cases" and "Controversies." To determine whether a dispute satisfies Article III's case-or-controversy requirement, courts have established three justiciability doctrines, "[p]erhaps the most important" of which is the standing doctrine. See Wooden v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys. of Ga. , 247 F.3d 1262, 1273 (11th Cir. 2001). At an "irreducible constitutional minimum," the standing doctrine requires that a plaintiff have "(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins , ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1547, 194 L.Ed.2d 635 (2016) (citing Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 560–61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) ).

USAA, not Mack, invoked federal jurisdiction by removing the case. "The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements." Lujan , 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130. Specifically, that party "must demonstrate standing for each claim [the plaintiff] seeks to press and for each form of relief that is sought." Davis v. Fed. Election Comm'n , 554 U.S. 724, 734, 128 S.Ct. 2759, 171 L.Ed.2d 737 (2008) (cleaned up). That a plaintiff has standing to bring one claim does not save another claim for which he does not; "standing is not dispensed in gross." Lewis v. Casey , 518 U.S. 343, 358 n.6, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 135 L.Ed.2d 606 (1996) ; see also Davis , 554 U.S. at 733–34, 128 S.Ct. 2759.

The allegations necessary to establish standing depend on the type of relief sought. To establish standing when seeking retrospective relief, a plaintiff must show that he has suffered "an invasion of a legally protected interest" that is both "concrete and particularized" and "actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical.’ "

Lujan , 504 U.S. at 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130. But if a plaintiff seeks prospective relief, such as a declaratory judgment, he must "allege facts from which it appears there is a substantial likelihood that he will suffer...

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