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Great American E&S Insurance Co v. John P. Cawley

June 2, 2011

GREAT AMERICAN E&S INSURANCE CO., PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN P. CAWLEY, LTD., D/B/A CAWLEY'S IRISH PUB AND RESTAURANT; JOHN CAWLEY; ANN MARIE CAWLEY; MATTHEW CRAWFORD; AND VINCENT TOMASSETTI,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of a bar fight in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. In the underlying action, pending in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, Matthew Crawford and Vincent Tomassetti seek damages from John P. Cawley Ltd., d/b/a Cawley‟s Irish Pub and Restaurant ("Cawley‟s Irish Pub"), and its owners, John and Ann Marie Cawley. In the instant action, Great American E&S Insurance Co. ("Great American") seeks a declaration that it is not obligated to provide a defense and indemnity in the underlying lawsuit against Cawley‟s Irish Pub and its owners.

Great American has moved for summary judgment against Cawley‟s Irish Pub and John and Ann Marie Cawley (collectively "the Cawley defendants") and for an entry of default against two non-appearing defendants, Vincent Tomasetti and Matthew Crawford. For the reasons given below, both motions are granted.

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

In July 2010, Matthew Crawford and Vincent Tomassetti initiated a lawsuit in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas against several parties, including Cawley‟s Irish Pub. (Pl.‟s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 1.) In that action, Crawford and Tomassetti allege that on July 19, 2008 they were physically attacked at Cawley‟s Irish Pub and that the injuries they sustained were the result of negligence on the part of the Cawley defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 5-8.) Crawford and Tomasetti allege a number of theories of liability against the Cawley defendants, all of which are based on the Cawley defendants (1) permitting the men who allegedly attacked Tomasetti and Crawford to become intoxicated at Cawley‟s Irish Pub, (2) failing to take reasonable steps to protect Tomasetti and Cawley, and (3) violating of the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Act, 47 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4-493. (Id. ¶¶ 4-8.) The Cawley defendants subsequently tendered defense of that action to their insurer, Great American. (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 3.)

In this action Great American seeks a declaration that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify the Cawley defendants, arguing that the insurance agreement between the parties disclaims liability for the claims asserted in the underlying suit. Presently before the Court are Great American‟s Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendants Matthew Crawford and Vincent Tomasetti (Doc. No. 9, filed January 14, 2011) and Motion for Summary Judgment of Plaintiff, Great American E&S Insurance Company (Doc. No. 10, filed January 14, 2011). By letter dated February 22, 2011, counsel for the Cawley defendants advised the Court that his clients did not intend to file a response to the motion for summary judgment. Both motions are ripe for review.

The Court will first address the preliminary question of whether declaratory judgment is an appropriate remedy in this case. It will then proceed to consider the motion for summary judgment and the motion for default judgment.

III. DECLARATORY JUDGMENT

A. Legal Standard

The Declaratory Judgment Act provides that a court "may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration." 28 U.S.C. § 2201. The Third Circuit has set out the following guidelines for the exercise of discretion under the Declaratory Judgment Act: "(1) the likelihood that the declaration will resolve the uncertainty of obligation which gave rise to the controversy; (2) the convenience of the parties; (3) the public interest in a settlement of the uncertainty of obligation; and (4) the availability and relative convenience of other remedies." Terra Nova Ins. Co. v. 900 Bar., Inc., 887 F.2d 1213, 1224 (3d Cir. 1989) (citation omitted); United States v. Pa. Dep‟t of Envtl. Res., 923 F.2d 1071, 1075 (3d Cir. 1991).

B. Analysis

The Court concludes that all four of the factors enumerated in Terra Nova Ins. Co. favor declaratory judgment as an appropriate remedy in this case. First, a declaratory judgment promises to eliminate the uncertainty of Great American‟s obligations by making clear whether it has an obligation to defend or indemnify the Cawley defendants in the underlying suit. This, in turn, would serve the convenience of the parties because it would alert the Cawley defendants to the need to prepare their own defense in the underlying action and to make financial preparations for a possible court award or settlement. Third, the public, including all of the parties to the underlying suit, have an interest in resolving the uncertainly of Great American‟s obligations because that uncertainty threatens to delay the state court proceedings and frustrate settlement discussions. Lastly, there are no other remedies that ...


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