Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wiseman Oil Co., Inc., Estate of Joseph Wiseman, Estate of Ruth N. v. Tig Insurance Co. F/K/A Transamerica Insurance Co.

May 22, 2012

WISEMAN OIL CO., INC., ESTATE OF JOSEPH WISEMAN, ESTATE OF RUTH N. WISEMAN, EILEEN FANBURG, AS EXECUTRIX PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TIG INSURANCE CO. F/K/A TRANSAMERICA INSURANCE CO. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF No. 36

OPINION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

I. CASE HISTORY; SUMMATION

The claims presently before this Court are for (1) declaratory judgment as to Defendant TIG Insurance Company's (hereafter "Defendant" or "TIG") duty to defend; (2) breach of contract concerning Defendant's duty to defend and covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (3) breach of TIG's statutory duty of good faith under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 8371.

Plaintiffs Wiseman Oil Co., Inc., Estate of Joseph Wiseman, Estate of Ruth N. Wiseman and Eileen Fanburg as Executrix (hereafter collectively "Plaintiffs" or "Wiseman") assert that they were entitled to a defense by their insurer, TIG, against claims brought in 1997 by the United States under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 ("CERCLA") (the "Underlying Litigation").

In July, 2004, Plaintiffs corresponded with TIG, enclosing a certificate of insurance for policy number 12513225 and requesting a defense.*fn1 In April, 2005, Defendant advised that it had "conducted a diligent search" and was "at this time . . . unable to provide any coverage determination" and requested Wiseman to provide "a copy of the alleged policy . . . [or] additional secondary evidence". The Underlying Litigation was administratively closed until December, 2009 and in February, 2010, Plaintiffs provided TIG: (1) a second certificate of insurance discovered in the files of a customer and indicating the existence of policy 12513225; and (2) certificates of insurance for three additional insurance policies numbered 12069979, 18438624, and 11324471.*fn2 Defendant responded that it would "continue to keep [Plaintiffs] updated as to the status of our investigation." By correspondence of June 22, 2010, TIG indicated that it had "conducted a diligent and comprehensive search of [its] records" and that in the absence of copies of the alleged policies, it was "without foundation to further proceed in the handling of this matter" and that if it did not receive the additional information requested within thirty (30) days it would "take no further action."

The deposition testimony of TIG's Rule 30(b)(6) representative in this litigation is that "over its operating life TIG's document policy was to stick stuff in boxes. It had no central database, no standard way of identifying things, and boxes of documents could be sent to Iron Mountain for storage but with no rhyme or reason." See January 31, 2012 Deposition at 192 (Ex. A to Plaintiffs' Opposition to TIG Insurance Company's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings") (hereafter "Plaintiff's Opposition to Judgment"). See also id. at 193, 198 (testifying that there are presently still 160,000 unopened boxes and "no way to figure out if Wiseman Oil is in any of those boxes").

A Consent Decree was entered in the Underlying Litigation on April 20, 2011. Plaintiffs' Complaint in this action was filed on August 4, 2011.

Presently pending is Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on statute of limitations grounds which, for reasons set forth below, will be denied.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c) may be granted when "the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved" and that it is "entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008); see also Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 259 n. 25 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court construes the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.; see also Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 219 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Soc'y Hill Civic Ass'n v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980)).*fn3 And it may consider undisputedly authentic documents attached to or submitted with the Complaint, as well as evidence outside the complaint/other items of record. See, e.g., Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n., 228 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002); Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994).

III. ANALYSIS AS TO STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS APPLICABLE TO DEFENDANTS' CONTRACTUAL DUTY

In Pennsylvania, claims for breach of duty pursuant to an express written contract (and related claims for declaratory judgment) are subject to the four (4) year statute of limitations provided by 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 5525(a)(8), which begins to run when the cause of action accrues.

The Court is in accord with Plaintiffs' observations regarding applicability of the majority rule to this case. Our sister Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania concluded, almost fifty (50) years ago, that under Pennsylvania law the statute of limitations on an action for breach of an insurer's duty to defend would not begin to run until termination/judgment against the insured in the underlying litigation, rather than "on the date of the disclaimer" by the insurer. See Moffat v. Metro. Cas. Ins. Co. of N.Y., 238 F.Supp. 165, 175 (M.D. Pa. 1964) (concluding that an interpretation by which "an insured could find that the statute had run long before he had incurred his trial and appellate expenses" would be "absurd" and that "the Legislature is presumed not to intend unreasonable or absurd results") (emphasis added);*fn4 id. (concluding that "statute of limitations does not begin to run until the right of action is complete", i.e., in Moffat, when the Supreme Court denied petition for reargument, and that until that time insurer "had the right at any time to revoke its disclaimer" and assume its duty to defend).*fn5 The District Court's interpretation has not been controverted by the Pennsylvania Court*fn6 and its reasoning that "the right of action is complete" only after there is a final judgment against the insured has become the clear majority rule. See, e.g., Dutton-Lainson Co. v. Cont'l Ins. Co., 716 N.W.2d 87, 101-02 (Neb. 2006) (referring to "clear majority view"); Vigilant Ins. Co. v. Luppino, 723 A.2d 14, 18-19 (Ct. App. Md. 1999) (collecting cases); Kielb v. Couch, 374 A.2d 79, 81-83 (N.J. Super. 1977)(also citing cases in other jurisdictions and noting that "[a]s the full amount of his claim for reimbursement was not ascertainable until the termination of the [underlying action], it was not until then that plaintiff was in a position to assert his complete claim"). See also UTI Corp. v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 896 F.Supp. 362, 368 (D.N.J. 1995) (applying ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.