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Comprehensive Microfilm and Scanning Services, Inc.; and James Wasilewski v. the Main Street America Group

April 18, 2012

COMPREHENSIVE MICROFILM AND SCANNING SERVICES, INC.; AND JAMES WASILEWSKI,
PLAINTIFFS
v.
THE MAIN STREET AMERICA GROUP, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 17). Having been fully briefed, the motion is ripe for disposition. Background

This case arises from a dispute over insurance coverage in an underlying lawsuit. On December 10, 2010, a suit was filed against Comprehensive Microfilm and Scanning Services, Inc. and its sole owner James Wasilewski (hereafter "plaintiffs"). (Doc. 19, Ex. 2, Underlying Compl.). The plaintiffs*fn1 in the underlying suit publish journals consisting primarily of peer-reviewed articles authored by scholars, often based upon original research. (Id. ¶ 19). A substantial part of their revenue is derived from the publication of the copyrighted works and journals. (Id. ¶ 22). The complaint alleged that Comprehensive Microfilm and Wasilewski derived substantial revenue from unlawfully copying microfilm versions of these journals for third parties. (Id. ¶ 28). At the request of one of its customers, Princeton Micro Scan Corporation, Comprehensive Microfilm would make a master microfilm copy of a journal and create an additional microfilm copy for an institution. (Id.) Comprehensive Microfilm would then distribute the copies of the microfilm to Princeton Micro Scan or other third parties. (Id.) The complaint asserts counts of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting and unfair competition. (Id. ¶ 1).

Plaintiffs purchased business owners liability insurance from Defendant Main Street America Group (hereafter "defendant") under policy number BPV35907. (Doc. 17, Ex. 2, Def. Statem. of Mat. Fact in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 5). Plaintiffs were insured under the policy from April 1, 2004 to April 1, 2010. (Id.) In 2004, Plaintiff Wasilewski contacted Don Crossin from Frank P. Crossin Agency, Inc. to prepare an insurance policy. (Doc. 19, Pls. Statem. of Add. Genuine Facts in Dispute ¶¶ 5, 7). Crossin went to plaintiffs' business facility and observed plaintiffs' operations and processing. (Id. ¶ 7) Plaintiff Wasilewski placed the insurance policy with Defendant Main Street America Group. (Id. ¶ 8). Crossin delivered the policy to Plaintiff Wasilewski, but never went over it with him. (Id. ¶ 9). Plaintiff Wasilewski never read the insurance policy, nor did he ever have anyone else read it for him. (Id. ¶ 10).

Upon the initiation of the underlying lawsuit, Plaintiff Wasilewski contacted defendant regarding his insurance coverage. (Id. ¶ 12). In a letter dated January 14, 2011, Richard DiNicola, a Senior Litigation Specialist, confirmed that defendant received a copy of the complaint filed against plaintiffs. (Doc. 19, Ex. 5). The letter provided a brief description of the underlying lawsuit and claims. (Id. at 1-2). It also contained excerpts from plaintiffs' insurance policy, which provided a description of plaintiffs' coverage, definitions of the terms used within the policy and exclusions. (Id. at 2-4.) The letter explained,

[W]hile the allegations within the complaint meet the definition of "Advertising Injury," coverage is not afforded because the claim does not fall within the insuring agreement, which states that the "Advertising Injury" must be "caused by an offense committed in the course of advertising your goods, product or services." The allegations in the complaint were not caused by an "offense committed in the course of advertising your goods, product or services."

Furthermore, all of the allegations in the complaint pertain to alleged copyright and/or trademark infringement and, therefore, are excluded under the above-cited policy endorsement 64-5869 1100 -- Intellectual Property Liability Exclusion.

In conclusion, for the above reasons, we must respectfully advise that we are disclaiming coverage to you, your company, and/or anyone else on your behalf. (Id. at 5).

On February 15, 2011, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas seeking declaratory relief regarding coverage and asserting a breach of contract claim. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal ¶¶ 32-40). On March 16, 2011, defendant removed the action to this court based on diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. At the close of discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment on February 13, 2012. (Doc. 17). Having fully briefed the issues, the matter is ripe for disposition.

Jurisdiction

The court has diversity jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff Comprehensive Microfilm is a Pennsylvania corporation. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal ¶ 3). Plaintiff James Wasilewski resides in and is a citizen of Pennsylvania. (Id.) Defendant Main Street is a Florida corporation. (Id.) Because there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00, the court has jurisdiction over the case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332 ("district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States[.]"); 28 U.S.C. § 1441 ("[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant . . . to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.").

As a federal court sitting in diversity, we must apply state law. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). In this case, the relevant state is Pennsylvania. If the state supreme court has not yet addressed an issue before us, we must predict how that court would rule if presented with that issue. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Buffetta, 230 F.3d 634, 637 (3d Cir. 2000). In so doing, we must examine the opinions of the lower state courts, and we cannot disregard them unless we are convinced by other persuasive data that the highest court would rule otherwise. Id.

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper "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 judgment as a matter of law." See Knabe v. Boury Corp., 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

Discussion

Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because this case presents a purely legal question as to whether defendant must defend and/or indemnify plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit. Plaintiffs argue that there are genuine issues of material fact and disputes of law, which makes the granting of summary judgment improper. After a review of the facts in this case, the court finds that there are no disputed material facts, only a dispute ...


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