Scottsdale Insurance Company v. Collins et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 17 MOTION to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 4/15/2015. (JLC)
2015 Apr-15 PM 04:48
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JIMMIE COLLINS, ALTON
POWERS, and POWERS
) Case No.: 4:15-CV-135-VEH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On January 23, 2015, Plaintiff Scottsdale Insurance Company (“Scottsdale”),
initiated this insurance declaratory judgment action against three defendants
(hereinafter “Scottsdale II”),1 including Defendant Jimmie Collins (“Ms. Collins”).
(Doc. 1). Pending before the court is Ms. Collins’s Motion To Dismiss (Doc. 17) (the
“Motion”) filed on March 19, 2015.
Scottsdale opposed the Motion (Doc. 18) on March 31, 2014, and Ms. Collins
has filed no reply. For the reasons explained below, the Motion is DENIED.
Scottsdale I is defined infra at 4.
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (“[A] party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6)
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]”). The Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “‘a short and plain statement
of the claim’ that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99,
103, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)),
abrogated by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S. Ct. 1955,
1965, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (setting forth general
pleading requirements for a complaint including providing “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”).
While a plaintiff must provide the grounds of her entitlement to relief, Rule 8
does not mandate the inclusion of “detailed factual allegations” within a complaint.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.
Ct. at 103). However, at the same time, “it demands more than an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). “[O]nce a claim has been
stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the
allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, 127 S. Ct. at 1969.
“[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying
pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the
assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S. Ct. at 1950. “While legal
conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by
factual allegations.” Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to
an entitlement to relief.” Id. (emphasis added). “Under Twombly’s construction of
Rule 8 . . . [a plaintiff’s] complaint [must] ‘nudge [any] claims’ . . . ‘across the line
from conceivable to plausible.’ Ibid.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S. Ct. at 1950-51.
A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556, 127 S. Ct. at 1965).
The Motion is denied as inadequately developed.
Ms. Collins’s Motion consists of 2 pages (Doc. 17) and lacks any attached or
separately filed supporting brief. Further, while the Motion suggests that a dismissal
of Scottsdale’s lawsuit is appropriate for 3 reasons, Ms. Collins offers no analysis or
legal authority substantiating her positions. Instead, she expresses her purported
points in 3 separate paragraphs, each one consisting of only a single sentence.
As this court has repeatedly held, it is under no obligation to address such
perfunctorily made contentions. See Flanigan’s Enters., Inc. v. Fulton County, Ga.,
242 F.3d 976, 987 n.16 (11th Cir. 2001) (holding that a party waives an argument if
the party “fail[s] to elaborate or provide any citation of authority in support” of the
argument); Ordower v. Feldman, 826 F.2d 1569, 1576 (7th Cir. 1987) (stating that
an argument made without citation to authority is insufficient to raise an issue before
the court). Consequently, the Motion is DENIED as underdeveloped.
The Motion is also denied on the merits.
Alternatively, the Motion is DENIED on the merits. Ms. Collins first claims
that a dismissal of Scottsdale II is appropriate because an earlier declaratory judgment
action, 4:14-CV-495-VEH (hereinafter “Scottsdale I”),2 filed by Scottsdale against
the same defendants that have been sued here, was dismissed. (Doc. 17 at 1 ¶ 1).
What Ms. Collins fails to acknowledge in her Motion is that the dismissal in
Scottsdale I was originally pending before Judge Propst, but the lawsuit was
reassigned to the undersigned on October 7, 2014. (Doc. 19).
Scottsdale I, entered by the undersigned, related to the inadequate nature of
Scottsdale’s diversity allegations and, accordingly, was done without prejudice to
filing a new lawsuit. (Doc. 43 at 3 (“Because Scottsdale has invoked the jurisdiction
of this court, and because its complaint fails to allege the proper jurisdictional facts,
it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that this action is HEREBY
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.”) (emphasis in original)).
Therefore, the jurisdictional-only dismissal of Scottsdale I does not demand a
dismissal of Scottsdale II, especially as Scottsdale has, in Scottsdale II, corrected its
previous error committed in Scottsdale I and established the existence of diversity in
a manner that comports with the rules governing the citizenship of limited liability
companies. (See Doc. 1 at 2 ¶ 3 (“Alton Powers is the sole shareholder, member,
and/or partner of Powers Roofing, LLC, and is a resident of Madison County,
Second, Ms. Collins suggests that a dismissal of Scottsdale II is appropriate
“because the actual amount in controversy does not exceed this Court’s jurisdictional
limit of $75,000.” (Doc. 17 at 1 ¶ 2). Scottsdale alleges in its complaint that “the
amount in controversy . . . exceeds this Honorable Court’s minimum jurisdictional
limits of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs . . . .” (Doc. 1 at 2 ¶ 7).
As the United States Supreme Court has made clear, “[t]he rule governing
dismissal for want of jurisdiction in cases brought in the federal court is that, unless
the law gives a different rule, the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is
apparently made in good faith.” St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303
U.S. 283, 288-89, 58 S. Ct. 586, 590, 82 L. Ed. 845 (1938) (footnote omitted).
Moreover, “[i]t must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than
the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal.” Id. at 289, 58 S. Ct. at 590 (emphasis
Ms. Collins’s mere assertion that the actual amount in controversy in this
insurance coverage dispute falls under the jurisdictional minimum is ineffective to
show the absence of Scottsdale’s apparent good faith and that “to a legal certainty”
the parties’ dispute is really worth less than the federal threshold. Further, Scottsdale
more than substantiates satisfaction of the Red Cab standard by pointing to and
attaching the underlying commercial general liability insurance policy at issue, which
has “annual per-claim limits of $1,000,000.” (Doc. 1 at 4 ¶ 12).
Additionally, Ms. Collins’s underlying state court complaint seeks to recover
a punitive award for the extensive property damage caused to her home. (See Doc. 1-1
at 5 (“[P]laintiff demands judgment against defendant in an amount of compensatory
and punitive damages as a jury deems reasonable and may award costs.”)).3
Furthermore, the appraised value of Ms. Collins’s home for the 2013 tax year was
$78,400.00. (Doc. 18-7 at 2).4 Thus, Ms. Collins’s amount in controversy argument
does not warrant a dismissal of Scottsdale II.
Finally, Ms. Collins contends that this court should dismiss Scottsdale II due
to her underlying state court action, which is pending in the Circuit Court of Marshall
County, Alabama–“Case No. CV 12-40 with the same parties and which includes the
issue of Scottsdale Insurance Company’s liability to Jimmie Collins for representing
to Collins that it afforded insurance coverage for any loss for damage she sustained
to her residence as a result of Powers’ conduct.” (Doc. 17 at 1 ¶ 3). Here, Ms. Collins
appears to be making an abstention-based argument in favor of dismissing Scottsdale
Scottsdale first responds that it was dismissed from Ms. Collins’s state court
action on September 30, 2014. (Doc. 18 at 7). However, the collection of attachments
to Scottsdale’s opposition lacks any confirmation of this circuit court dismissal.
Scottsdale then explains why it believes that this particular argument is subject
Any page references to Doc. 1-1 correspond with the court’s CM/ECF
Any page references to Doc. 18-7 correspond with the court’s CM/ECF
to issue preclusion as the substance of this ground for dismissal was previously raised
in and decided adversely to Ms. Collins by Judge Propst in Scottsdale I.5 (Doc. 18 at
7-9). Scottsdale also offers several other reasons to reject this part of her Motion.
Ms. Collins has not attempted to counter Scottsdale’s opposition by way of a
reply and more specifically she leaves uncontested the representation made by
Scottsdale that it is no longer a party to her state court action. Moreover, Ms. Collins
has not otherwise demonstrated why an abstention-driven dismissal of Scottsdale II
on account of her state court case is appropriate under the factor-related framework
adopted by the Eleventh Circuit in Ameritas Variable Life Ins. Co. v. Roach, 411 F.3d
1328, 1330-31 (11th Cir. 2005) (listing factors to weigh “in balancing state and
federal interests” when deciding a dispute over abstention).
In particular, even assuming that Scottsdale is still a defendant in Ms. Collins’s
state court suit, Ms. Collins simply has not carried her burden in persuading this court
that a dismissal of Scottsdale II is an appropriate exercise of its discretion on the basis
of abstention. As a result, the court does not address the substance of the remaining
issues identified by Scottsdale in opposition to this portion of Ms. Collins’s Motion.
On June 6, 2014, Judge Propst denied Ms. Collins’s Motion To Dismiss
(Doc. 13) filed in Scottsdale I, by way of a margin entry that did not discuss his
reasoning. See CM/ECF margin order dated June 6, 2014 (“ORDER denying 13
Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Robert B[.] Propst on 06/09/2014.”).
Accordingly, Ms. Collins’s Motion is DENIED.
DONE and ORDERED this 15th day of April, 2015.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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