The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Thomas A. Brandt ("Brandt") filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County a two-count complaint for declaratory judgment against Brotherhood's Relief and Compensation Fund (the "Fund"). The Fund removed the case to this Court, and Brandt filed a motion to remand the proceedings to state court. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.
The defendant, the Fund, is a private insurance corporation. As stated in its constitution, it is "a society for beneficial and protective purposes to all its members . . . who . . . shall be entitled to benefits for 'Held Out of Service' or 'Retirement.'" The people eligible to become members of the Fund are "employees of the Motive Power and Transportation Departments of any transportation company engaged solely in hazardous occupations, actually in the active service of such employment, who are members of their respective Railroad Brotherhood or Union under the age of sixty-five (65) years." To join the Fund, an eligible person must apply for membership and membership must be approved by the Fund. Once approved, members pay dues to the Fund and become entitled to benefits.
Plaintiff Brandt, then a locomotive engineer for the BNSF Railway Company, joined the Fund in 1974. In 2004, a dispute arose between Brandt and the BNSF Railway Company. The dispute between Brandt and BNSF resulted in BNSF's dismissing Brandt from employment in 2005.
BNSF's dismissal of Brandt ultimately gave rise to the current dispute between Brandt and the Fund. Shortly after his dismissal, Brandt filed with the Fund a notice of claim seeking "Held Out of Service Benefits." The Fund denied Brandt's claim. Brandt appealed that decision to the Fund's Board of Directors, which again denied the claim. Brandt then commenced this suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, and the Fund removed the case to this Court.
In Count I of his complaint, Brandt alleges damages in the amount of $73,365.00 owed to him under the insurance contract the parties entered into in 1974 when Brandt became a member of the Fund. He claims that, under the contract, "the fixed and definite amount due and owing to plaintiff" for being "Held Out of Service" was $201.00 per day, up to 365 days. Brandt claims that he is entitled to "Held Out of Service Benefits" for the maximum number of days allowed under the contract (365 days), as his dismissal means he was permanently held out of service. Multiplying the alleged daily benefit ($201.00/day) times the number of days Brandt claims the Fund owed him benefits (365 days) yields the $73,365.00 amount sought in Count I of Brandt's complaint.
Count II alleges "unreasonable and vexatious delay" in payment on Brandt's benefits claim. In this Count, Brandt seeks "the maximum penalty allowable pursuant to 215 ILCS 5/155," which allows the court to "assess penalties and attorneys' fees against an insurance company that acts in a manner that is vexatious and unreasonable."
Brandt has moved to remand the case, contending that the amount in controversy requirement for federal jurisdiction is not satisfied. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the amount in controversy requirement is satisfied. The Court finds that it has jurisdiction and, thus, denies Brandt's motion to remand.
Removal is governed by Chapter 28, § 1441 of the United States Code, which provides, in relevant part:
(a) Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.
The Fund removed this case on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Section 1332 grants jurisdiction to a federal court in "all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Additionally, diversity actions "shall be removable only if none of the parties in interest properly ...