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Ross v. Infinity Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 10, 2013

DOMINIC ROSS, FRANTZ CALIXTE, and JACQUELINE RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
INFINITY INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a INFINITY INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RONALD L. BUCKWALTER, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion by Defendant Infinity Indemnity Insurance Company ("Infinity") to Assess Costs Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted and costs are assessed in favor Defendant and against Plaintiffs Dominic Ross and Frantz Calixte[1] ("Plaintiffs") and their counsel Gary Stewart Seflin, Esquire in the amount of $10, 847.98.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 3, 2012, Plaintiffs Ross, Calixte, and one Jacqueline Rodriguez filed a civil action in state court in connection with injuries they allegedly sustained while passengers in a car insured by Defendant Infinity. As a result of Infinity's refusal to pay underinsured motorist ("UIM") benefits or first party medical benefits, they filed a complaint alleging breach of fiduciary duty to pay medical costs (Count I), breach of contract/breach of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), bad faith insurance practices (Count III), breach of statutory and contractual duty to supply first party benefits (Count IV), breach of statutory and fiduciary duty to pay underinsured motorists benefits (Count V), and breach of contract (Count VI). Defendant successfully removed the case to federal court on September 4, 2012 and, immediately thereafter, filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Plaintiffs did not respond to that Motion, but filed a Motion to Remand the case back to state court. Via orders issued on October 3, 2012, the Court granted the Motion to Dismiss as to Counts I, II, and V and denied Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. Plaintiffs later moved for reconsideration of the denial of remand, to no avail.

Subsequently, the parties began discovery. Given Plaintiffs' repeated failures to respond to discovery requests from Defendant, the Court granted Defendant's Motion to Compel Interrogatories and Requests for Production on January 29, 2013, and Defendant's Motion to Compel Plaintiffs' Depositions on February 13, 2013. One week later, however, upon signed stipulation by both parties, Plaintiffs moved for voluntary dismissal of the case without prejudice. The Court granted the dismissal on February 25, 2013.

Less than four weeks later, on March 22, 2013, Plaintiffs Dominic Ross and Frantz Calixte-but not Jacqueline Rodriguez-filed a new suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. This second lawsuit was filed by the same attorney representing Plaintiffs in the first action and involved the same denial of first party medical benefits by Infinity in connection with the same March 24, 2011 car accident. Plaintiffs sued, for the first time, the two other drivers involved in the accident, thereby defeating diversity. This second complaint alleged several counts against Defendant Infinity: (1) breach of fiduciary duty regarding their first party medical benefits claim; (2) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and breach of contract; and (3) violations of 74 Pa.C.S. §§ 1713, 1716. Although there are no statutory bad faith or UIM claims, two of the aforementioned claims mirror two of the claims dismissed by the Court in the original lawsuit.

Subsequently, on March 8, 2013, Defendant Infinity filed a Motion for Assessment of Costs pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d) against Plaintiffs Ross and Calixte and their attorney, Gary Stewart Seflin. Plaintiffs responded on April 29, 2013, Defendant filed a Reply Brief on May 3, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Sur-reply Brief on May 13, 2013, and Defendant submitted a Supplemental Sur-reply Brief on May 15, 2013. The Motion is now ripe for judicial consideration.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Whether Defendant is Entitled to an Award under Rule 41(d)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d) provides as follows:
(d) Costs of Previously Dismissed Action. If a plaintiff who previously dismissed an action in any court files an action based on or including the same claim against the same defendant, the court:
(1) may order the plaintiff to pay all or part of the costs of that previous action; and
(2) may stay the proceedings until the plaintiff has complied.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(d). "This rule permits a court to award costs to a party required to twice defend the same action where the facts of a case warrant such an award." Huntley, L.L.C. v. Monterey Mushrooms, Inc., No. Civ.A.08-377, 2009 WL 2992553, at *3 (D. Del. Sept. 18, 2009) (citing Meredith v. Stovall , 216 F.3d 1087 (10th Cir. 2000)). Stated differently, "[u]nder 41(d), if a plaintiff has previously dismissed the same claim against the same defendant in any court, state or federal, the federal court may require the plaintiff to pay some or all of the costs of the previous action." 10 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 54.102(2)(e) (3d ed. 2009). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d) is intended to prevent vexatious litigation, forum shopping, and attempts to gain tactical advantage by dismissing and refiling the suit. Rogers v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 230 F.3d 868, 874 (6th Cir. 2000). Thus, costs may be imposed ...


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