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J.P. JENKS, INC. v. R.W.sidley, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 16, 2017

J.P. JENKS, INC. and R.W. SIDLEY, INC., P la int if f s,
v.
COMMERCE & INDUSTRY INSURACE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S AND PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

          BARBARA JACOBS ROTHSTEIN U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs J.P. Jenks, Inc., a trucking and warehousing business, and R.W. Sidley, Inc., the parent company of J.P. Jenks, bring this action for breach of contract against Defendant Commerce & Industry Insurance Company. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant breached its contractual obligation to indemnify and reimburse Plaintiffs for costs Plaintiffs incurred during a workers' c ompe ns a t ion pr oc e e ding in O hio. The parties' cross-mot ions f or s umma r y judgme nt a r e c ur r e nt l y before the Court. (Doc. No. 59 (P la in t if f s ' M o t io n), Doc. No. 60 (Defendant's Motion).) Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the record of the case, and the relevant legal authority, the Court w ill G R A N T in p a r t a nd DENY in part De fe nda nt's Motion for Summa ry Judgme nt, a nd GRANT in part and DENY in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In February 2012, P laintiffs entered into a Workers' Compensation and Employe r s Liabilit y Policy with Defendant. (Doc. 1-1.) The Polic y provides that Defendant shall reimburs e Plaintiffs for benefits paid to injured employees and costs incurred in defending these claims, as required by the workers compensation laws of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York. Pennsylvania Worker's Compensation Act applies to all injuries that occur within the Commonwe a lth of P ennsylva nia . 77 P . S. § 1. O n Ja nua ry 16, 2013, P laintiffs' e m p lo y e e A lle n Bowers was injured while working in Pennsylvania . (Doc. No. 1-1.) The parties' problems were precipitated when Bowers initially filed his worker's compensation claim in the state of Ohio. Ohio's laws on workers' compensation require local companies to either purchase insurance from the state or self-insure. (Doc. No. 60-1 at 17-18.) Plaintiffs chose to self-insure, and paid approximately $254, 689 on this claim. Further complications arose when, on April 14, 2014, Bowers filed a worker's compensation claim in Pennsylvania for the same incident. (Doc. No. 60-4.) Plaintiffs gave Defendant notice of this claim on August 11, 2014. (Doc. No. 60-1.) Defendant accepted the Pennsylvania claim and has paid all subsequently arising benefits owing under Pennsylvania law. But Defendant refused to reimburse Plaintiffs for amounts they had paid Bowers pursuant to his Ohio claims.

         On May 19, 2015, Plaintiffs filed in Pennsylvania state court a complaint alleging breach of contract for Defendant's refusal to reimburse Plaintiffs for the approximately $254, 689 that P la in t if f s paid on Bowers's workers compensation claim in Ohio, and for bad faith. Defendant removed the action to federal court on the basis of diversity citizenship. On June 25, 2015, Defendant moved to dismiss both counts for failing to state a claim. (Doc. No. 8.) Defendant argued that the insurance contract does not cover benefits that were paid in Ohio, and that it did not deny coverage in bad faith. The Court dismissed the bad faith claim, but held that “unde r Pennsylvania la w the Polic y does not preclude recovery on claims made pursuant to Ohio law. Ra the r, it a llows P la intiffs to rec ove r on cla ims made pursua nt to Ohio la w up to the a mount tha t would have been required under Pennsylvania law.” (Doc. No. 22 at 5-6 (footnote omitte d; emphasis in original).) Plaintiffs subsequently moved for judgment on the pleadings, which the Court denied on the grounds that two disputes remained: “the extent to which Bowers' claim would have been reimbursed under Pennsylvania law; and the timing and sufficiency of the notic e P laintiffs gave Defendant regarding the claim.” (Doc. No. 39 at 2.) The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on November 29, 2016.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether to grant summary judgment, a trial court must resolve all doubts against the moving party and examine the record in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654 (1962). While the moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must raise “more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor” in order to overcome a summary judgment motion, and cannot survive by relying on “unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions.” Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 801 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989).

         Additionally, because the parties have cross moved for summary judgment, “‘[t]he court must rule on each party's motion on an individual and separate basis, determining, for each side, whether a judgment may be entered in accordance with the Rule 56 standard.'” Schlegel v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 269 F.Supp.2d 612, 615 n.1 (E.D. Pa. 2003) (quoting 10A Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2720 (3d ed. 1998)).

         IV. DISCUSSION A. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendant argues several grounds for why it is not liable for the benefits paid by Plaintif f s while Bowers's claim was in Ohio. These objections can be grouped into three categories: First, Defendant maintains that reimbursement is not required by it s Policy or state statute. Second, Defendant argues that coverage is precluded because Plaintiffs did not timely notify it of the claim. Third, Defendant argues that the Policy's “Other Insurance” clause provides that Defendants are only required to reimburse Plaintiffs for half of the requested amount. The Court will address each in turn.

         1. Reimbursement Is Not Precluded by the Policy or by State Statute.

         Defendant argues that Ohio Revised Code § 4123.82(A) precludes indemnification for benefits that were paid by Plaintiffs. Defendant further suggests that ordering indemnif ication that is prohibited by Ohio law would violate Pennsylvania public policy. Moreover, Defendant maintains that the insurance Policy does not cover reimbursement of Ohio claims.

         These arguments were already shot down in the Court's Order denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The Court held, “under Pennsylvania law the Policy does not preclude recovery on claims made pursuant to Ohio law. Rather, it allows Plaintiffs to recover on claims made pursuant to Ohio la w up to the a mount tha t would ha ve be en re quire d unde r P e nns ylva nia la w . ” (Doc . No. 22 at 5-6 (footnote omitted; emphasis in original).) The Court applies Pennsylvania law via its exercise of diversity jurisdiction, Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 91 (1938), and no Pennsylvania la w (or other codified statement of “public policy”) precludes reimbursement of a covered workers compensation claim that was filed in another state. The Policy states that it inc lude s coverage for a ll b e n e f it s re quired by P ennsylva nia 's w orkma n's c ompe nsa tion la w, and Pennsylvania's la w applies to all injuries that occur within the Commonwealth (without reference to where ...


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