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H.L. Libby Corp. v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.

July 24, 2006

H.L. LIBBY CORP., AND REGENCY INDIANA ENTERPRISES, L.P. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FIREMAN'S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY AND NATIONAL SURETY CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

On March 25, 2003, Plaintiffs, H.L. Libby Corp., and Regency Indiana Enterprises, L.P. ("Plaintiffs"), filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Pennsylvania, alleging a breach of contract based on the failure to defend under a commercial liability insurance policy, and violation of 42 PA. CON. STAT. ANN. § 8371 concerning good faith and fair dealing on the part of Defendants, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company and National Surety Corporation ("Defendants"). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, Defendants removed the action to this Court based upon complete diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy in excess of Seventy-Five Thousand ($75,000.00) Dollars. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Defendants have filed a motion for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs have responded and the matter is now before the Court.

II.STATEMENT OF THE CASE

This is an action for breach of contract and alleged bad faith arising from Defendants' refusal to pay pre-tender defense costs in an underlying lawsuit ("Specialty I"), as well as the failure to provide a defense in a subsequent and separate underlying action ("Specialty II") adjudicated in the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Pennsylvania.

The underlying lawsuits resulted from the alleged pollution of a collection pond following a heavy rain. Specialty I was filed in April 2001 in the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Pennsylvania at Civil Action No. 50792. At the time, Plaintiffs had a Commercial General Liability ("CGL") long form CG 00 01 07 98 insurance policy with Defendants. Defendants did render a defense in Specialty I, however, Defendants only paid approximately one-third of Plaintiffs' alleged overall legal costs in the litigation. The parties' breach of contract dispute involving these costs is not a subject of this motion for partial summary judgment. The allegations of bad faith in Defendants' failure to pay such costs, however, are included in the motion.

Specialty II was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County at Civil Action No. 51728. This action was consolidated for purposes of discovery and trial with cases at Nos. 52753 and 11843. The action at 51728 was entitled a "Complaint in Equity," and sought only equitable relief in the form of a "special, preliminary, and permanent injunction." See Defendants' Exhibit 3. The complaint did not seek any form of legal or monetary damages, including any diminution in property value. Id.

Defendants assigned both of the Plaintiffs' claims for coverage in Specialty I and II to Ms. Irene Varga. Ms. Varga determined that the action at 51728 did not fall within coverage and Defendants declined to defend Plaintiffs in Specialty II. In Specialty II, Plaintiffs filed Preliminary Objections to the Complaint. Plaintiffs allege that the Motion in Opposition to those Preliminary Objections sought damages for diminution in value to the property. Defendants, however, contend that they were not provided with that document at that time. Defendants' Brief in Support, p. 4. Further, no such allegations of damage were set forth in the Complaint at 51728. See Defendants'Exhibit 3. On January 30, 2002, Defendants' denied coverage in Specialty II on the basis that it was not an occurrence as defined within the policy; it was an action for injunctive relief only. See Defendants' Exhibit 7.

III. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted when there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To support denial of summary judgment, an issue of fact in dispute must be both genuine and material, i.e., one upon which a reasonable fact finder could base a verdict for the non-moving party and one which is essential to establishing the claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Id. The court's consideration of the facts must be in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be drawn in favor of that party as well. Whiteland Woods, L.P. v. Township of West Whiteland, 193 F.3d 177, 180 (3d Cir. 1999), Tigg Corp. v. Dow Corning Corp., 822 F.2d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1987).

When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P 56(e). Further, the nonmoving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir.1989) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). The non-moving party must respond "by pointing to sufficient cognizable evidence to create material issues of fact concerning every element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. Of Sterling, Inc., 142 F. 3d 639, 643 n. 3 (3d Cir. 1998), quoting Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 n.1 (3d Cir. 1994).

IV. DISCUSSION

This Court is bound in determining which law to apply by the choice of law rules in the state in which it sits. Kruzits v. Okuma Mach Tool, Inc., 40 F.3d 52, 55 (3d Cir. 1994); citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 497 (1941). Pennsylvania's conflict of laws principles dictate that an insurance contract is guided by the law of the state in which it is delivered. I.C.D. Industries, Inc., v. Federal Insurance Co., 879 F.Supp. 480, 484 (E.D. Pa. 1995). Here, no proof has been offered as to where the contract was delivered and the law will presume that the insured's state of residence is the place of delivery. Id.; Jamison v. Miracle Mile Rambler, Inc., 536 F.2d 560, 562 n.1 (3d Cir. 1976) ...


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