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Guzman v. Farmers New Century Insurance

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


April 25, 2008

TONY A. GUZMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FARMERS NEW CENTURY INSURANCE, INC., DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

OPINION

This action for declaratory judgment, which involves Plaintiff's claim of entitlement to insurance coverage, was removed to this Court from the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County. The action involves the denial of coverage based on an exclusion in the pertinent insurance policies, and implicates the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. Defendant timely removed the action based on diversity of citizenship.

Plaintiff argues that the exercise of jurisdiction would be based on the Declaratory Judgment Act (the "Act"), 28 U.S.C. § 2201.*fn1 Defendant argues, instead, that this matter is based on diversity of citizenship. The Act, alone, does not provide grounds for subject matter jurisdiction. United States v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Envtl. Resources, 923 F.2d 1071 (3d Cir. 1991). The Act confers upon a court the discretion to decide whether to declare the rights of litigants. Valley Forge Ins. Co. v. Melodini, No. 8-48, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7146 (W.D.Pa. Jan. 28, 2008). Broadly speaking, Plaintiff suggests that the absence of federal issues is important to his motion.*fn2

I agree with Plaintiff's suggestion. "The state's interest in determining issues of state law...weighs against exercising jurisdiction in declaratory judgment actions." Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co. v. Gula, 84 Fed. Appx. 173, 175 (3d Cir. Pa. 2003). Importantly, "[t]he central question is whether the controversy may 'better be settled' in the state court ." Id. at 174. I note that the case involves no federal issues; the issues present no matter of federal concern; and the case involves only matters of state law. As my colleague on this Court has stated, in a similar case, "[t]hese factors weigh heavily against exercising jurisdiction over this action." Melodini, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7146, at *4. Under the circumstances, I am persuaded that the Fayette County courts are best equipped to determine the issues presented in this matter. Given the discretionary nature of the Act, matters best decided by the state courts, even if properly removed based on diversity, may be remanded. Cf. Del Suppo, Inc. v. Nautilus Ins. Co., No. 7-952, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60199 (W. D. Pa. Aug. 16, 2007). None of the exceptions to such discretion are present in this case, and remand is appropriate. See id. at *5.

ORDER

AND NOW, this 25th day of April, 2008, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Docket No. [10]) is GRANTED, and this matter is remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County. The clerk shall mark this matter CLOSED forthwith.

Donetta W. Ambrose Chief Judge, U.S. District Court


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