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Everett Cash Mutual Insurance Co. v. Mann

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

January 18, 2019

EVERETT CASH MUTUAL INSURANCE CO. PETITIONER
v.
JACKIE MANN, et al. RESPONDENTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Court Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Respondent's Motion to Dismiss (DN 15) and Respondent's Motion for Leave to Supplement (DN 21). The motions are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons outlined below, the motions are GRANTED.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

         On July 13, 2017, Respondent Mark Adam Bennett (“Bennett”), an employee of Mann Construction, LLC (“Mann Construction”), was injured when a lift operated by Respondent Jackie Mann (“Mann”) fell over and knocked Bennett off the roof of a structure where trusses were being set. (Pet. ¶ 9, DN 1). Bennett was hospitalized for more than three weeks following his fall, and the medical expenses from his hospitalization exceed $382, 000.

         On the day of the accident, Mann provided notice to Petitioner Everett Cash Mutual Insurance Co. (“Everett Cash”), which had issued a small contractor policy to “Jackie Mann d/b/a Mann Construction.” (Pet. ¶¶ 7, 9). The coverage limits on the policy for bodily injury and property damage are $1 million for each occurrence. On November 6, 2017, Mann submitted a notice of a property damage claim relating to the accident. (Pet. ¶ 12).

         On December 15, 2017, Everett Cash petitioned this Court for a declaratory judgment to determine whether there was coverage under the policy for these losses and whether Mann made false statements in his application for insurance coverage. (Pet. ¶¶ 40-96). Subsequently, on February 14, 2018, Bennett and his wife (“the Bennetts”) filed a lawsuit against Mann, Mann Construction, and Everett Cash in Russell Circuit Court. (Resp't's Mot. Dismiss. Ex. A, DN 15-1). In that lawsuit, the Bennetts asserted personal injury claims and seek a declaration of insurance coverage relating to their tort claims. (Resp't's Mot. Dismiss Ex. A, ¶¶ 23-35).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Respondent's Motion to Supplement (DN 21)

         Bennett moves to supplement his dispositive motion with a copy of the answer and cross-claim filed by Mann in the Russell Circuit Court Action. (Resp't's Mot. Suppl. Mot. Dismiss, DN 21). Everett Cash objects to the motion as immaterial and irrelevant. (Pet'r's Resp. Mot. Leave 1, DN 23). It also contends that “[t]his belated attempt to engage in procedural fencing by filing the same claim in multiple forums, only strengthens the basis for the denial of the Respondent, Mark Adam Bennett, [sic] motion to dismiss.” (Pet'r's Resp. Mot. Leave 1-2). Because it is necessary to consider all claims asserted in the Russell Circuit Court action in determining whether to hear this declaratory judgment action, this Court will grant the motion.

         B. Respondent's Motion to Dismiss (DN 15)

         Bennett moves to dismiss this declaratory judgment action. (Resp't's Mot. Dismiss 2-6, DN 15). He contends that the Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over this litigation in light of the related case pending in Russell Circuit Court. (Resp't's Mot. Dismiss 2-6).

         Under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), “any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought.” A court's exercise of jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act, however, is discretionary- not mandatory. See Bituminous Cas. Corp. v. J & L Lumber Co., 373 F.3d 807, 812 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co. of Am., 316 U.S. 491, 494 (1942)). When deciding if a declaratory ruling is appropriate, a court should consider whether the judgment will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue, and whether it will terminate and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding. See Grand Trunk W. R. Co. v. Consol. R. Corp., 746 F.2d 323, 326 (6th Cir. 1984). In addition, the Sixth Circuit has outlined the following factors to determine whether a district court should exercise jurisdiction over a request for a declaratory judgment:

(1) whether the declaratory action would settle the controversy; (2) whether the declaratory action would serve a useful purpose in clarifying the legal relations in issue; (3) whether the declaratory remedy is being used merely for the purpose of “procedural fencing” or “to provide an arena for a race for res judicata;” (4) whether the use of a declaratory action would increase friction between our federal and state courts and improperly encroach upon state jurisdiction; and (5) whether there is an alternative remedy which is better or more effective.

Id.; see also Scottsdale Ins. Co., 513 F.3d 546, 564 (6th Cir. 2008). The Grand Trunk factors embody three main principles: efficiency, fairness, and federalism. See W. World Ins. Co. v. Hoey,773 F.3d 755, ...


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