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Scottsdale Insurance Co. v. Westfall Township

October 19, 2006

SCOTTSDALE INSURANCE CO., PLAINTIFF,
v.
WESTFALL TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

JUDGE CAPUTO

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). (Doc. 19-1.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter due to diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332*fn1 , and under 28 U.S.C. § 2201 et seq. (the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act).

BACKGROUND

This action arises from the shooting death of Michael F. Walter by Joseph Stacy on July 5, 2002, in Port Jervis, New York. Mr. Stacy had earlier been accused of sexually and/or indecently assaulting two of Mr. Walter's daughters, and the murder was seemingly in retaliation for Mr. Walter's participation in eliciting a confession from Mr. Stacy thereto. This confession--which was made to Michael Walter and Defendant Timothy Mitchell separately--was elicited at the Walter home on August 16, 2001. More detailed facts of this exchange will not be described here, but may be discovered by reference to the underlying action. Walter v. Pike County, No. 03-1690.

On September 25, 2003, Susan L. Walter, Michael Walter's widow, filed a complaint--in her individual capacity, as administratrix of her husband's estate, and as parent and guardian of her minor children--against Pike County, Westfall Township, its police department, Timothy J. Mitchell, Pike County District Attorney's office, and several Pike County District Attorneys (hereinafter referred to as the "Underlying Plaintiffs" and "Underlying Defendants," respectively). On October 30, 2003, Underlying Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint with this Court (hereinafter referred to as the "Underlying Action"). Walter v. Pike County, No. 03-1690, Doc. 6. Claims from the Underlying Action that survived Underlying Defendants' motions to dismiss include, inter alia, claims for violations of substantive and procedural due process for failing to provide police protection--which Underlying Plaintiffs claim right to under the "state-created danger" doctrine--to the Walter family following Michael Walter's participation in eliciting a confession from Joseph Stacy on August 16, 2001.

Prior to the shooting death of Mr. Walter on July 5, 2002, Plaintiff Scottsdale Insurance Co. provided insurance coverage to Westfall Township, through policy number PLO0543049, which was in effect from February 7, 2001 through February 7, 2002. The Scottsdale Policy was renewed for the period of February 7, 2002 through February 7, 2003 under policy number PKO0000459 (this renewal policy will be hereinafter referred to as "the Scottsdale Policy").

Plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment on May 5, 2004, alleging that they have no duty to defend or indemnify Defendants in the Underlying Action because, inter alia, the Scottsdale Policy was cancelled on July 1, 2002, prior to the "occurrence" that potentially triggered coverage, i.e. the shooting of Michael Walter. (Doc. 1.) On August 16, 2004, Defendant Timothy Mitchell filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 7.) That motion was dismissed by this Court on April 7, 2005. (Doc. 14.) The Plaintiff later filed, on November 11, 2005, the present motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), along with supporting documentation. (Docs. 19, 20, 21, 22.) Defendants failed to file a timely brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment; nevertheless, this motion is ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case...." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute ...


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