After September 1, 2019, the jurisdictional amount for Alabama District Courts will increase to $20,000.00. Once the change takes effect, cases can be brought seeking $20,000.00 or less; that is an increase from the prior $10,000.00 jurisdictional limit. Additionally, the change creates “concurrent jurisdiction” between District Courts and Circuit Courts. Therefore, if the claimant is seeking an amount between $6,000.00 and $20,000.00, the Defendant can “remove” the case to Circuit Court and request a jury trial. The statute notes that we have thirty (30) days from the date of service to “remove” the case to Circuit Court. However, there is a caveat to removal. Removal of a case to Circuit Court by a Defendant automatically removes the $20,000.00 jurisdictional cap on damages. Therefore, if a Defendant elects to remove the case to Circuit Court, and requests a jury trial, recovery is no longer limited to the $20,000.00 limit.
We believe this change will likely result in more suits being filed in District Court, particularly where there is an impasse in settlement negotiations and the economic damages are relatively minimal. This will be of particular interest to carriers since the District Courts generally are more liberal in their rulings. Only time will tell how the jurisdictional change will ultimately impact the adjustment of claims in Alabama.
Should you have any questions regarding this change, please feel free to contact us.