Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hatton v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division

July 17, 2019

KENNETH HATTON and LORA HATTON, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH M. HOOD SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The parties clearly wish to litigate in different fora. Plaintiffs Kenneth Hatton and Lora Hatton (“the Hattons”) want to litigate the case in state court. Defendant Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (“Nationwide”) would prefer a federal forum.

         The parties have already fought one round in federal court. In that case, Nationwide was the Plaintiff and brought a declaratory judgment action against the Hattons as Defendants. The Court found that The Roark Agency, LLC, (“Roark”) was not an indispensable party, but the Court used its discretion and refused to exercise jurisdiction in the declaratory judgment action. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Hatton, 357 F.Supp.3d 598 (E.D. Ky. 2019) (hereinafter “Hatton I”).

         Now, a similar action is back before this Court, with the parties flipped. Here, the Hattons are the Plaintiffs and Nationwide is the Defendant. The Court will refer to the present action as “Hatton II.”

         In Hatton II, there are pending motions to remand to state court and to dismiss the second amended complaint. Still, the discrete issue before the Court at present is whether Roark was served within the ninety-day time limit in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) and, if not, whether the claims against Roark should be dismissed. After considering the parties' arguments, all claims against The Roark Agency, LLC, in the amended complaint are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE because the Hattons failed to timely serve Roark, have not demonstrated good cause for the untimely service, and the relevant factors support dismissal of this action over permitting untimely service of process.

         I. Procedural History

         Previously, in Hatton I, Nationwide filed a declaratory judgment action against the Hattons in federal court. The Hattons moved to add The Roark Agency, LLC, as a third-party plaintiff. Roark is a local insurance agency that assisted the Hattons in procuring the Nationwide policy at issue in this action. The Hattons argued that Roark was an indispensable party.

         The Court concluded that Roark was not an indispensable party but refused to exercise jurisdiction in a declaratory judgment action brought by Nationwide, the natural defendant, against the Hattons, the natural plaintiffs, in an action that implicated issues of state law. See Hatton I, 357 F.Supp.3d at 619-20.

         Then, on January 14, 2019, the Hattons filed suit against Nationwide in Montgomery Circuit Court. [DE 1-1 at 1-2, Pg ID 5-6]. Glaringly, the Hattons did not name Roark as a defendant in the state court action. As a result, Nationwide removed the action to this Court based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. [DE 1].[1]

         Subsequently, on January 28, 2019, the Hattons filed an amended complaint naming Roark as a Defendant in the action. [DE 6]. Contemporaneously, the Hattons filed a motion to remand the action to state court and for attorneys' fees. [DE 9]. Nationwide responded in opposition [DE 11] and filed a motion to dismiss the Hattons' amended complaint because the Hattons filed to seek leave of court to amend the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 [DE 12]. The motion to remand and motion to dismiss the complaint are pending for a decision from the Court.

         But a new issue has arisen. On June 6, 2019, Nationwide and Roark filed motions to dismiss the claims against Roark based, at least partially, on the Hattons' failure to effectuate proper service upon Roark within the ninety-day period outlined in Rule 4(m). [DE 19; DE 20]. The Hattons responded in opposition to the motions to dismiss. [DE 21; DE 22]. Nationwide and Roark replied. [DE 23; DE 24]. As a result, the motions to dismiss based on failure to effectuate service within the time required by the Federal Rules are ripe for review.

         II. Analysis

         Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that defendants be served “within ninety (90) days after the complaint is filed.” If a defendant is not served within that period, the Rule further provides that:

the court-on motion or on its own after notice to the plaintiff-must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court must extend the time for service for the appropriate period.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). Thus, if the ninety-day period for service has expired the Court must undertake a two-step analysis.

         First, the Court must determine whether the Plaintiffs have shown good cause for the failure to effectuate service in a timely manner. If they have, then the Court has no discretion, and “the court shall extend the time for service for an appropriate period.” Id.

         Second, if the Plaintiffs have not shown good cause, the Court has discretion to either (1) dismiss the action without prejudice or (2) direct that service by effected within a specified time. Henderson v. United States,517 U.S. 654, 662 (1996); Kinney v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cty. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.