Sparta Insurance Company v. Poore et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 17 MOTION to Dismiss as set out herein. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 12/3/2013. (JLC)
2013 Dec-03 PM 01:17
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SPARTA INSURANCE COMPANY, )
) Case No.: 1:13-CV-1692-VEH
DANNY JOE POORE, et al,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This is a declaratory judgment action filed by the plaintiff, SPARTA Insurance
Company (“SPARTA”) against its insureds, the defendants, Danny Joe Poore d/b/a
Economy Pest Control1, Carlos Slaght, Joan Slaght, and Andrew Hunter. (Doc. 1).
The plaintiff seeks, inter alia, a declaration that it is not required to indemnify or
provide a defense for the defendants in underlying lawsuits filed against them in the
Circuit Court of Calhoun County, Alabama.
The case comes before the court on the motion to dismiss filed by defendants
Carlos Slaght, Joan Slaght, and Andrew Hunter, pursuant to Rule 19 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 17). In the alternative, these defendants ask the
Economy Pest Control is at times referred to in the complaint as “EPC.”
court to stay this case “until consideration of the joinder of indispensable parties and
their appearance and answer.” (Doc. 17 at 3). The motion was filed on October 28,
2013. (Doc. 17). The court’s non-summary judgment motion scheduling order
provides that the plaintiff’s response to that motion was due “no later than fourteen
(14) calendar days thereafter,” (doc. 4 at 23) which in this case would have been
November 11, 2013. That day being a Federal Holiday, the response was due
November 12, 2013. Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(1)(C). On November 15, 2013, the plaintiff
filed a response to the motion. (Doc. 19). The court’s scheduling order provides that
any reply was due “no later than seven (7) calendar days after the date on which the
opponent’s responsive brief was due.” (Doc. 4 at 23). Using the date on which the
response was actually filed, the reply would have been due on November 22, 2013.
As of the date of this opinion, the movants have not filed a reply.
For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be DENIED.
Under Rule 19 and Rule 12(b)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
party may move to dismiss an action if a “required” party cannot feasibly be joined.
“With respect to motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7), the “‘courts are loathe
to grant motions to dismiss of this type.”’ Microsoft Corp. v. Cietdirect.com LLC, 0860668-CIV, 2008 WL 3162535 at *5 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 5, 2008) (quoting Sever v.
Glickman, 298 F.Supp.2d 267, 275 (D.Conn.2004)). The party moving for dismissal
of the case bears the burden of proof in a motion to dismiss for failure to join an
indispensable party under Rule 12(b)(7). West Peninsular Title Co. v. Palm Beach
County 41 F.3d 1490, 1492 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing 5A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur
R. Miller and Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1359); see also
Am. Gen. Life & Acc. Ins. Co. v. Wood, 429 F.3d 83, 92 (4th Cir. 2005) (“The burden
of proof rests on the party raising the defense . . . to ‘show that the person who was
not joined is needed for a just adjudication.’”) (quoting 7 Charles Alan Wright,
Arthur R. Miller and Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1609 (3d
“[A] ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to join a necessary and
indispensable party requires the Court to accept the allegations of the complaint as
true, and the Court may go outside the pleadings and look at extrinsic evidence.”
Rotec Indus., Inc. v. Aecon Grp., Inc., 436 F. Supp. 2d 931, 933 (N.D. Ill. 2006)
(citing Davis Cos. v. Emerald Casino, Inc., 268 F.3d 477, 479-80 nn. 2, 4 (7th
Cir.2001)); see also, U.S. ex rel. Century Ready Mix Corp. v. N. Am. Specialty Ins.
Co., 72 Fed. R. Serv. 3d 1372 at *1 (W.D. Ark. 2009) (Barnes, J.) (same); Microsoft
Corp. v. Cietdirect.com LLC, 08-60668-CIV, 2008 WL 3162535 at *5 (S.D. Fla. Aug.
5, 2008) (Ungaro, J.) (same). “A Rule 12(b)(7) motion will not be granted because
of a vague possibility that persons who are not parties may have an interest in the
action.” Raytheon Co. v. Continental Cas. Co., 123 F. Supp. 2d 22, 32 (D. Mass.
The Eleventh Circuit has explained:
Rule 19 is a two-step inquiry. First, we determine whether the parties .
. . are “required” parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a); see also Temple v. Synthes
Corp., 498 U.S. 5, 7, 111 S.Ct. 315, 316, 112 L.Ed.2d 263 (1990). If
they are required parties, but cannot be joined . . . Rule 19(b) provides
a list of factors to “determine whether, in equity and good conscience,
the action should proceed among the existing parties or should be
dismissed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(b).
Molinos Valle Del Cibao, C. por A. v. Lama, 633 F.3d 1330, 1344 (11th Cir. 2011).
“In making the first determination-i.e., whether the party in question should be joined,
pragmatic concerns, especially the effect on the parties and the litigation, control.”
Focus on the Family v. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Auth., 344 F.3d 1263, 1280 (11th
Cir. 2003) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
The proponent of a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(7) has the burden of
producing evidence showing the nature of the interest possessed by an
absent party and that the protection of that interest will be impaired by
the absence. Ilan–Gat Eng'rs, Ltd. v. Antigua Int'l Bank, 659 F.2d 234,
242 (D.C.Cir.1981); Martin v. Local 147, Int'l Bro. of Painters, 775
F.Supp. 235, 236–37 (N.D.Ill.1991); Ashley v. American Airlines, Inc.,
738 F.Supp. 783, 788 (S.D.N.Y.1990). The proponent’s burden can be
satisfied by providing “affidavits of persons having knowledge of these
interests as well as other relevant extra-pleading evidence.” Martin, 775
F.Supp. at 236 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1359, at 427 (1990)).
Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Oklahoma v. Collier, 17 F.3d 1292, 1293
(10th Cir. 1994); see also, Weeks v. Hous. Auth. of City of Opp, Ala., 86 Fed. R. Serv.
3d 849 (M.D. Ala. 2013) (Fuller, J.) (citing Collier); Davis v. CDA, Inc., 1:09-CV406-WKW, 2010 WL 454909 at n. 3 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 10, 2010) (Watkins, J.) (citing
Collier). “When the court decides under Rule 19(a) that a person should be joined
the court should direct the plaintiff to amend his complaint to add the person. Failure
to comply with such an order may result in dismissal of the plaintiff's action under
Rule 41(b)for failure of a party to comply with an order of court.” English v.
Seaboard Coast Line R. Co., 465 F.2d 43, 47-48 (5th Cir. 1972).2
“‘If a person who is required to be joined if feasible cannot be joined, the court
must determine whether, in equity and good conscience, the action should proceed
among the existing parties or should be dismissed.’” Molinos Valle Del Cibao, C.
por A. v. Lama, 633 F.3d 1330, 1344 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Rule 19(b)); see also,
Davis v. Raymond, 12-22578-CIV, 2013 WL 2047424 at *4 (S.D. Fla. May 14, 2013)
(“[D]ismissal for failure to join an indispensable party is only appropriate where the
nonparty cannot be made a party.”). A district court’s dismissal is reviewed for abuse
of discretion on appeal. Laker Airways, Inc. v. British Airways, PLC, 182 F.3d 843,
See Bonner v. City of Prichard, Ala., 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (holding
that decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the close of business on
September 30, 1981, are binding in the Eleventh Circuit).
847 (11th Cir. 1999).
On June 20, 2012, Carlos Slaght and Joan Slaght filed a lawsuit in the Circuit
Court of Calhoun County, Alabama, against “Danny Joe Poore d/b/a Economy
Termite and Pest Control.” (Doc. 1-1 at 8 (complaint in Slaght, et al. v. Danny Joe
Poore d/b/a Economy Termite and Pest Control, CV-2012-900319.00). In that
lawsuit, the Slaghts allege that they had a “written termite retreatment and damage
repair contract, bond, and guarantee” with the defendant (doc. 1-1 at 13), and that
they paid the amounts due on the agreement (doc. 1-1 at 13). The Slaghts allege that
the termite treatment and protection services EPC provided at the Slaght
house beginning in 1991 were faulty, and that EPC either did not
disclose or remedy a termite infestation each subsequent year it serviced
the Slaghts’ house until 2012. Due to the alleged poor treatment/service,
the Slaghts’ house became infested with termites, causing them to
sustain property damage and mental anguish.
(Doc. 1 at 4).
On June 19, 2013, Andrew Hunter filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of
Calhoun County, Alabama, against “Danny Joe Poore d/b/a Economy Termite and
Pest Control.” (Doc. 1-1 at 29 (complaint in Hunter v. Danny Joe Poore d/b/a
Economy Termite and Pest Control, 11-CV-2013-900368.00). In that lawsuit, Hunter
alleges a that he had an “annually renewable termite treatment warranty and service
agreement” with the defendant (doc. 1-1 at 33) and that he paid the amounts due on
the agreement (doc. 1-1 at 33). Hunter alleges
that the termite treatment and protection services EPC provided at his
house in 2010 were faulty, and that EPC either did not disclose or
remedy a termite infestation each subsequent year it serviced Hunter’s
house until 2012. Due to the poor treatment/service, Hunter claims his
house became infested with termites, causing him to sustain significant
property damage and mental anguish.
(Doc. 1 at 6).
According to the complaint in the instant case, “Economy Pest Control is the
named insured on an insurance policy issued by SPARTA, which is defending the
underlying lawsuits under a strict reservation of rights.” (Doc. 1 at 3). The complaint
states that “Kathleen Poore” was listed as an “owner” of EPC on the original
application of insurance. (Doc. 1 at 8).
The application referenced is attached to the complaint as “Exhibit E.” (Doc.
1-1). It lists “Economy Pest Control” as the “First Named Insured.” (Doc. 1-1 at 50).
It is undated, except that the following appears, in handwriting, in a blank next to the
words “Requested Policy Period:” “Immediate 11/15/08-09.” (Doc. 1-1 at 50). One
line of this document contains four boxes. (Doc. 1-1 at 50). The first is followed by
the word “Individual” and has a handwritten “x” in it. (Doc. 1-1 at 50). The
remaining three boxes have written next to them the words “Partnership,”
“Corporation,” and “Other,” respectively. (Doc. 1-1 at 50). None of those boxes are
marked. (Doc. 1-1 at 50). The document notes that Kathleen Poore, who is listed as
an “officer/owner,” owns “100%” of the insured. (Doc. 1-1 at 50). The document is
signed only by Danny Poore. (Doc. 1-1 at 52).
Danny and Kathleen Poore
also submitted signed, handwritten letters as part of the application
process. The first stated:
Effective 11-5-08, Danny J. Poore and Kathleen Poore
DBA Economy Pest Control, 604 Ledford St., Weaver, AL
36227, (256) 820-7172, no longer will engage in structural
pest control ‘termite treatments.’ We do not perform wood
infestation inspection reports. We only engage in general
household pest control.
The second stated, “We do not perform WRI's for real estate company's
[sic]. The only WRI’s that we do perform is [sic] on homes that have a
current termite contract with our company. Please call if you have any
(Doc. 1 at 8-9) (quoting doc. 1-1 at 53-54).
A later application for renewal of the insurance, dated November 2009, lists
Danny Poore as the 100% owner of Economy Pest Control. (Doc. 19-1 at 2).
Attached to the instant motion as Exhibit A are four documents which, on their
face, each purport to be a “Certification of Insurance Pertaining to Licensed
Structural Pest Control Business.” (Doc. 17-1 at 2-5). Each document lists EPC as
the “Insured” and contains the following language:
Rule 80-10-9-.28, Alabama Administrative Code requires that
before a permit is issued or reissued to engage in Control of
Wood Destroying Organisms; Industrial, Institutional, and
Household Pest Control; or Fumigation Pest Control applicant
shall provide proof of insurance coverage of not less than
$150,000.00 to insure against liability for damage to persons or
property occurring as a result of applicant’s work or service to
premises or any other property under applicant’s care, custody or
Rule 80-10-9-.28, Alabama Administrative Code requires that
applicants permitted to engage in Control of Wood Destroying
Organisms and that perform Wood Destroying Organisms
Inspections for Real Estate Transaction Inspections shall also
have errors and omissions coverage in an amount not less than
$100,000.00. Does the insured have errors and omissions
coverage as required?
(Doc. 17-1 at 2, 3, 4, 5) (original emphasis omitted). Below this section, the
following language appears on each document: “Certification is hereby made that
insurance coverage as required by Rule 80-10-9-.28, Alabama Administrative Code
has been established by the above named insured through liability insurance that
meets or exceeds the minimum amounts specified above.” (Doc. 17-1 at 2, 3, 4, 5).
Below that line are blanks for the name and address of a “Carrier or Agent” and for
an individual making the certification. (Doc. 17-1 at 2, 3, 4, 5).
The certifications appear to be for the years 2008-2009 (doc. 17-1 at 5), 20099
2010 (doc. 17-1 at 4), 2010-2011 (doc. 17-1 at 3), and 2011-2012 (doc. 17-1 at 2).
The “Yes” box is checked on all certifications except 2011-2012. (Doc. 17-1 at 2, 3,
4, 5). The Carrier or Agent listed on each certification is “Crutchfield & Graves
Insurance Agency, LLC.” (Doc. 17-1 at 2, 3, 4, 5). For all years except 2008-2009,
each certification states that it was performed on behalf of the agency “by” Jim
Crutchield. (Doc. 17-1 at 2, 3, 4). For 2008-2009, the certification was by Angie
Barber. (Doc. 17-1 at 5).
The policy itself is attached to the complaint and states that the named insured
is “Economy Pest Control.” (Doc. 1-2 at 3).
The movants first argue that Kathleen Poore “must be joined” as a “required
party” under Rule 19. The rule instructs that Kathleen Poore is “required” only if:
(A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief
among existing parties; or
(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and
is so situated that disposing of the action in the person’s absence may:
(I) as a practical matter impair or impede the person’s
ability to protect the interest; or
(ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of
incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent
obligations because of the interest.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(A)-(B). The entirety of the movants’ argument on this point
is as follows:
Plaintiff admits in paragraph 15 and Exhibit E to the Complaint
that Kathleen Poore, Defendant Danny Poore’s wife, is an owner of
“Economy Pest Control” (herein “Economy”) which is listed as a
proprietorship. DOC 1. In fact, Exhibit E to the Complaint lists Kathleen
Poore as the “100%” owner of Economy. Exhibit E also lists the
“insured” as Economy Pest Control. Consequently, according to
Plaintiff’s evidence, “Economy” is a nonexistent legal entity and the
only legal entity that applied for and could have been issued the policies
at issue was Danny Poore’s wife, Kathleen. Hence, as the owner of the
policy according to Plaintiff’s complaint, Kathleen Poore’s rights will
be litigated in this case, and Danny Poore is more correctly described as
an “additional named or unnamed insured” in insurance parlance.
Mrs. Poore is subject to service of process and her joinder will not
deprive this Court of Jurisdiction. In her absence, the Court cannot
accord any relief between the parties, much less complete relief and her
absence may leave the Poores subject to inconsistent obligations and the
Defendants (including the Slaghts) open to duplicitous litigation.
(Doc. 17 at 1).
The conclusory statement that “[i]n her absence, the Court cannot accord any
relief between the parties, much less complete relief,” does not carry the movant’s
burden to show how complete relief could not be accorded in this case. The plaintiff
in the instant case seeks a judgment that it is not required to indemnify or defend “any
defendant in the underlying suit[s].” (Doc. 1 at 18) (emphasis added). The only
defendant in the underlying cases is Danny Poore. The fact that the complaints name
him as “Danny Joe Poore d/b/a Economy Termite and Pest Control” does not change
the fact that the actions are brought against him, individually. (Doc. 1-1 at 8, 29)
(emphasis added). The complaints describe only conduct by Danny Poore. Kathleen
Poore is not specifically named in the underlying suits in any capacity. There is no
evidence that she may be liable, in whole or in part, directly or through respondeat
superior, for any judgment rendered in those cases. There does not appear to be any
reason why the court cannot declare the extent of coverage in this case without her
becoming a party.
Nor is there evidence that Kathleen Poore “claims an interest relating to the
subject of this action.” The complaint in this case notes that Kathleen Poore “was
listed as an owner on the original application.” (Doc. 1 at 8). That application,
attached to the complaint, notes that Kathleen Poore is the “100%” owner of the
named insured on the policy. (Doc. 1-1 at 50). The movants seem to argue that she
is the real named insured because of this language. They argue that her “rights will
be litigated in this case,” without explaining what those rights are, or how they will
be affected. Further, the renewal application, filed later, shows that Danny Poore
owns the company 100%. That is the latest application in the record. Accordingly,
even if the court were to assume that the “100% owner of the company” is
conclusively established by the representations made in the applications, the most
recent application shows that Kathleen Poore currently has no interest in the company
at all. The movants have failed to show how, under these circumstances, Kathleen
Poore would be affected in any way by a judgment in this case.
Further, even if Kathleen Poore is the 100% owner of the company, the
movants have provided no authority for the proposition that a named insured must
always be considered a necessary party, especially where, as here, she is unnamed in
the underlying suits. Indeed, “[c]ontrary to [any] blanket assertion that all insured are
always indispensable parties[,] . . . courts have held in a variety of circumstances that
not all insureds must be joined in a declaratory judgment action.” Great W. Cas. Co.
v. Firstfleet, Inc., CA 2:12-00623-KD-N, 2013 WL 4165715 (S.D. Ala. July 18,
2013) report and recommendation adopted as modified, CIV.A. 12-00623-KD-N,
2013 WL 4165719 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 15, 2013) (citing In re Chinese Mfd. Drywall
Prods. Liab. Litig., 273 F.R.D. 380, 390–91 (E.D.La.2011)); see also, Royal Ins. Co.
of Am. v. Caleb V. Smith & Son, Inc., 3:90CV651(WWE), 1997 WL 835058 at *3 (D.
Conn. June 16, 1997) (citing cases).
Also, since her husband has been sued here, Kathleen Poore is surely aware of
this action, but has not sought to intervene. It has been noted that
[i]f a person knows of the action but chooses not to participate, the court
should be reluctant to find that person to be a required party under Rule
19 based on the possible harm to its interests.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 19 Westlaw
Commentary; see also Powers v. City of Seattle, 242 F.R.D. 566, 568
(W.D.Wash.2007) (“[T]he Court will not second-guess the [absent
party's] assessment of its own interests.”); Rotec Industries, Inc. v.
Aecon Group, Inc., 436 F.Supp.2d 931, 937 (N.D.Ill.2006) (“When the
outsider is aware of the action and does not claim such an interest,
courts typically will not second-guess the decision.”); Blumberg v.
Gates, 204 F.R.D. 453, 455 (C.D.Cal.2001) (“[T]he Court believes that
it should, consistent with Rule 19, respect the decision of the absent
parties, who have never claimed an interest in the present litigation, to
remain on the sidelines since doing so will not prejudice the City.”).
Innotex Precision Ltd. v. Horei Image Products, Inc., 679 F. Supp. 2d 1356, 1362
(N.D. Ga. 2009). Surely Kathleen Poore, moreso than the movants or this court, is
the better judge of whether her rights might be impaired by this action. Absent some
explanation as to why she has not sought to intervene, the court will not second guess
her failure to do so by ordering her to be made a party.
The movants also write:
Moreover, Plaintiff fails to join the following parties who
presence is indispensable to decisions on the defenses in this case
and important to all Defendants: Crutchfield and Graves
Insurance Agency LLC (herein “C&G¡¨); Jim Crutchfield, an
Alabama citizen and insurance broker; Angie Barber, a citizen of
an unknown state and insurance broker and agent of C&G as well
as an agent and broker of Capital Risk Underwriters and National
Purchasing Group for Pest Control Operators, Inc. (herein
“Capital Risk” and “NPGPCO”; Capital Risk and NPGPCO, are
believed to be Florida entities and agents of Plaintiff; and Michael
Howard Schmidt, believed to be a Florida citizen and licensed
broker as well as agent for Plaintiff as well as a licensed Alabama
insurance broker and principal in Capital Risk and NPGPCO.
Parties identified in the immediately preceding paragraph, on
information and belief, sold non-compliant insurance to
Defendant Poore and Kathleen Poore, or were themselves
underwriters of some or all of the risk associated with any policy
at issue between the parties, as agents of Plaintiff and thereafter
either amended said policies or, alternatively, falsely certified to
the Alabama Department of Agriculture that such insurance
complied with the financial responsibility provisions of Alabama
Statutory law on behalf of and as agents for both Plaintiff and
Defendant Poore (or as agents of plaintiff). EXHIBIT A hereto.
(Doc. 17 at 2-3). This argument is pure speculation that there might be some cause
of action against these entities and individuals. But “[h]ypothetical proceedings ...
are not sufficient to establish a potential for multiple or otherwise inconsistent
liabilities ....” Rotec Indus., Inc. v. Aecon Grp. ., Inc., 436 F.Supp.2d 931, 938
(N.D.Ill.2006). Even if there is some claim against these entities and individuals, or
some of them, the movants fail to show why they must be added to this case.3
The movants also state:
if joinder is feasible and diversity is not destroyed, the pro se Defendants Danny
and Kathleen Poore who are lay persons without resources to hire legal counsel,
should be equitably deemed to have asserted causes of action against the entities
identified in paragraph three, above, consistent with the affirmative defenses
raised by the Slaghts, and counterclaims and cross-claims for promissory fraud,
misrepresentation and deceit and concealment connected with issuing
Certifications of Insurance coverage when none was actually provided as
acknowledged in the 2011 Certification as to Errors and Omissions coverage or
alternatively for negligent failure to procure insurance coverage. EXHIBIT A
Based on the foregoing, the motion is DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED this 3rd day of December, 2013.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
(Doc. 17 at 3). As the motion to add these parties will be denied, this request is also DENIED as
moot. Further, the movants provide no legal authority or evidentiary basis for why such relief
would be appropriate. Further, they do not explain why they, as opposed to Danny and Kathleen
Poore themselves, have standing to request such relief. The request is DENIED for these
reasons as well.
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