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Insurance Co of the State of Pennsylvania v. National Union Fire Insurance Co of Pittsburgh

April 14, 2009

THE INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA; GEOFFREY N. FIEGER; LORI SLIDER, IN HER OWN RIGHT AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF RYAN E. TAYLOR, A MINOR; RYAN E. TAYLOR, INDIVIDUALLY; AND BRADLEY BASSI, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This is an action in the nature of interpleader pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, section 1335, filed by Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania ("ICSOP") to resolve alleged "competing" claims against the proceeds of a Supersedeas Bond in the amount of $19,300,000.00 (the "Bond"), which secures payment of a judgment entered in favor of Lori Slider, in her own right and natural guardian of Ryan E. Taylor, a minor, in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County.

On April 6, 2009, ICSOP filed a three-count Complaint in this Court. Count One of the Complaint is an interpleader action against all defendants; Counts Two and Three seek a declaratory judgment against Geoffrey N. Fieger; Lori Slider, in her own right and as parent and natural guardian of Ryan E. Taylor, a minor; Ryan E. Taylor, individually; and Bradley Bassi (collectively referred to as the "Slider Defendants").

On April 7, 2009, ICSOP filed an Emergency Motion, with brief in support, to Deposit Funds and/or a Bond in the Registry of the Court, Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Interpleader Injunction); and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (Document Nos. 3 and 4). Attached to the Motion were twenty-one exhibits, including various opinions issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County; the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, and the Order of March 31, 2009 issued per curiam by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in which National Union's Petition for Allowance of Appeal was denied.

On April 9, 2009, Defendants Lori Slider, in her own right and as parent and natural guardian of Ryan E. Taylor, a minor; Ryan E. Taylor, individually; and Geoffrey Fieger filed a Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Interpleader pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants also argue that the instant action is barred by the well-established principles of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and the Younger abstention doctrine. Attached to the Motion to Dismiss were five (5) exhibits, which included, inter alia, an Assignment of Rights executed on November 8, 2001 by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh ("National Union") and Lori Slider, in her own right and as parent and natural guardian of Ryan Taylor, a minor.

On April 14, 2009, Plaintiff filed the following two documents:

* Plaintiff's Response to Motion to Dismiss and in Further Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Injunctive Relief (Document No. 6); and

* Plaintiff's Memorandum In Response To the Motion to Dismiss And in Further Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Injunctive Relief (Document No. 7).

The Court has also been provided with a copies of the following:

* Correspondence of April 9, 2009 from Michelle K. Carson, Esquire, attorney for ICSOP to Geoffrey N. Fieger, Esquire; and

* An Application for Attachment and Release of Supersedeas Appeal Bond and for Judgment Against ICSOP, which counsel for the Slider Defendants represents will be presented "to the Honorable Debbie O'Dell Seneca . . . on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at 9:15 a.m." in Washington County Court of Common Pleas. The Application and its attachments total 245 pages.

Factual and Procedural Background

"This case proves the axiom that 'the wheels of justice grind slowly." Gary v. Braddock Cemetery, 517 F.3d 195, 198 (3d Cir. 2008). The underlying facts,*fn1 which are straightforward and largely undisputed, have occupied state courts since September 30, 1994, when Lori Slider, as parent and natural guardian of Ryan E. Taylor, a minor, filed a personal injury lawsuit against The Washington Hospital (the "Hospital"); Paul Wodlinger, M.D.; Edward Foley, M.D., individually and trading and doing business as Pediatric Associates of Washington (the "Doctors").*fn2 Plaintiff alleged that the Hospital and the Doctors were negligent in their care of her while pregnant and in labor, and in their care of her newborn son, resulting in injuries to her minor child.

The case was tried before a jury and, on May 3, 2000, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Lori Slider, as parent and natural guardian of Ryan E. Taylor, and against the Hospital and the Doctors. A judgment of $19,759,896.87 was entered in favor of Plaintiff. The jury determined that the Hospital was responsible for 70% of the liability and the Doctors were each responsible for 15% of the liability (a total of 30%).*fn3 Following post-trial motions, the trial court entered a judgment jointly and severally against the three defendants in the sum of $19,759,896.87, which was later amended to reflect delay damages in an amended amount of $22,994,535.64.

The Hospital and the Doctors filed separate and timely appeals of the judgment.*fn4

Following entry of judgment, Judge David L. Gilmore, now deceased, ordered that the defendants post a supersedeas bond, jointly and severally, in the sum of $19,637,860.33, pending resolution of the appeals filed by the defendants. On March 12, 2001, the Doctors filed a supersedeas appeal bond in the amount of $400,000,*fn5 ...


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