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All State Insurance Co. v. Hopper

November 18, 2009

ALL STATE INSURANCE CO., PLAINTIFF
v.
TIMOTHY HOPFER, ET AL DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is a motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Plaintiff Allstate Insurance Company on April 29, 2009. Allstate filed a declaratory judgment complaint on September 18, 2008 seeking a declaration of its duties to defend and indemnify David, Linda Lee, Kevin, and Timothy Hopfer in an underlying state civil action against them for the death of Abigail Alexis Tagert.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On December 7, 2005, Ms. Tagert died at the Honeybrook, Pennsylvania home of David and Linda Hopfer, who are the named insureds under an Allstate Deluxe Homeowners insurance policy. Pl.'s Declaratory J. Compl. at ¶¶ 10, 13. Their son Timothy resided with Mr. and Mrs. Hopfer at the time of Ms. Tagert's death.*fn1 Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12.

As a result of Ms. Tagert's death, her parents, Defendants Darlene Pfeiffer and Thomas Tagert, filed suit against the Hopfers in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. Am. Compl. of Darlene Pfeiffer and Thomas Tagert, individually and as co-administrators of the Estate of Abigail Alexis Tagert v. Timothy Hopfer, Linda Lee Hopfer, David Hopfer, and Kevin Hopfer, Docket No. 07--08771 ("Tagert Complaint").

The following facts as alleged in the Tagert complaint are crucial to the determination whether Allstate is required to defend and indemnify the Hopfers in this underlying suit. On December 6, 2005, Timothy Hopfer took a quantity of the prescription drug Dilaudid, a Schedule II controlled substance, from the Chester County Hospital. Tagert Compl. at ¶ 10. Timothy worked at the hospital as a registered nurse, but took the Dilaudid with the intention to use it for recreational purposes. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10. That night, he took it to the Hopfer residence, where Ms. Tagert was a guest. Id. at ¶ 12. While there, he injected Ms. Tagert with Dilaudid three separate times through a "port" he had inserted into her foot. Id. at ¶ 13. Following the third injection, Ms. Tagert began to experience "labored breathing, discoloration, vomiting, and loss of consciousness." Id. at ¶ 17. Timothy was aware the third injection had contained more of the drug than the previous two, and was also aware Ms. Tagert was experiencing potentially deadly side effects. Id. at ¶ 19. Timothy attempted to resuscitate Ms. Tagert at some point following her adverse reaction. Id. at ¶ 18. However, he failed to seek medical attention for Ms. Tagert for at least another two hours and ignored the requests of another guest, Kourtney Rowe, that he do so. Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.

David, Linda, and Kevin Hopfer also became aware of the symptoms Ms. Tagert was experiencing but similarly failed to seek medical help for her for at least two hours after learning of them. Id. at ¶ 22. Ms. Tagert died at the Hopfer residence as a result of drug toxicity later that night. Id. at ¶ 24.

In connection with his actions, Timothy Hopfer was charged with and pleaded guilty to drug delivery resulting in death in violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 2506; theft by unlawful taking in violation of 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 3921(a); and illegal manufacture, delivery, or possession of a controlled substance in violation of 35 Pa. C.S.A. § 780--113(a)(30).

Pl.'s Declaratory J. Compl. at ¶ 19.

Count I of the Tagert Complaint alleges negligence on the part of Timothy Hopfer for, inter alia, engaging in dangerous activities within his home, repeatedly injecting Ms. Tagert with Dilaudid, failing to obtain medical attention for her in a timely manner following her adverse reaction, observing her condition and allowing her to "sleep it off", allowing and causing a prolonged delay in obtaining medical attention for her by "moving and cleaning" her body, and misinforming authorities about the identity and nature of the substance causing her condition. Tagert Complaint at ¶ 31(c)--(e), (g), (i), (p), (q).

Counts II and III of the Tagert Complaint allege negligence on the part of Linda and David Hopfer for, inter alia, failing to properly monitor the activities conducted in their residence by Timothy and Kevin Hopfer, allowing Timothy and Kevin to engage in activities dangerous to others, breaching their duty to safeguard guests in their home, failing to obtain medical attention for Ms. Tagert upon learning of her adverse reaction, allowing Ms. Tagert to "sleep it off", and allowing a prolonged delay in obtaining medical care for her. Tagert Complaint at ¶ 33(a), (b), (e), (g), (l), (p), ¶ 34 (a)--(c),(e), (j), (m), (q).

Count IV of the Tagert Complaint alleges negligence on the part of Kevin Hopfer for, inter alia, engaging in behavior that was dangerous to others, failing to promptly obtain medical attention for Ms. Tagert at the first sign of her adverse reaction, allowing and causing a prolonged delay in obtaining care for her, and failing to inform authorities of the nature of the substance with which she had been injected. Tagert Complaint at ¶ 37(a)--(c), (i), (q), (r).

Counts V, VI, VII, and VIII of the Tagert Complaint allege wrongful death against Timothy, Linda, David, and Kevin Hopfer and seek damages pursuant to the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301.

Allstate Insurance Company seeks a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2201 that it does not have a duty to defend or indemnify the Hopfers in the civil action filed by Darlene Pffeiffer and Thomas Tagert in state court. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the citizenship of the parties is diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

II. STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. In order to prevail, the movant must show that "no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir.1988)). In reviewing a 12(c) motion, the court must view the ...


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