Atlantic States Insurance Company v. Bulldawgs Total Lawn Care, Inc. et al

Filing 48

ORDER denying 13 Motions to Dismiss 13 and 21 . Signed by Chief Judge J. Randal Hall on 08/20/2018. (thb)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA AUGUSTA DIVISION ATLANTIC STATES INSURANCE * COMPANY, * Plaintiff, * CV 118-004 * * V. * BULLDAWGS LAWNCARE INC. et * al., * * Defendants. * ORDER Before (Docs. 13, president 2011, the Court 21.) of are Defendant Defendant Bulldawgs Defendants' Dustin Bulldawgs contracted with motions Michael Lawncare to Vanhouse dismiss. is the C'Bulldawgs"). In Defendants Brad Hogsed and Jennifer Hogsed (the ''Hogseds") to build a retaining wall at their home in Evans, Georgia. In September 2015, the retaining wall collapsed. sued The Hogseds Bulldawgs and Vanhouse in Columbia County Superior Court. In May 2018, a jury found both Bulldawgs for and Vanhouse liable $120,000 in damages and Plaintiff, the $60,000 in attorney's fees. Prior to the jury trial in state court. insurer of Bulldawgs, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in this Court seeking release from its duty to defend and duty to indemnify. (Doc. 1.) The Hogseds moved to dismiss on the grounds that: $75,000; (1) and the (2) amount the in Court controversy should did decline not to exceed exercise jurisdiction pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, due to the imminent state court trial on the issue of liability. (Doc. 13.) Bulldawgs and Vanhouse filed their own motion to dismiss incorporating by reference all the arguments made in the Hogseds' motion to dismiss. (Doc. 21.) After securing a verdict in state court, however, the Hogseds withdrew their motion arguments. to dismiss with (Doc. 35.) respect to their jurisdictional Bulldawgs and Vanhouse made no such withdrawal of their own motion to dismiss. First, to the extent that Bulldawgs and Vanhouse continue to object to this Court's subject matter jurisdiction, the Court finds no basis in their objection. expenses related to defending Vanhouse. The jury in Plaintiff seeks to avoid the and the indemnifying state court Bulldawgs action and awarded compensatory damages of $120,000 and attorney's fees of $60,000. These expenses requirement. far exceed the $75,000 amount in controversy Accordingly, the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. Second, the Court rejects pursuant Declaratory Judgment Act provides that "[i]n a case of actual within its the Declaratory request to decline jurisdiction controversy to Defendants' jurisdiction Judgment . . . any Act. court of The the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought." 28 U.S.C. § 2201. "The Declaratory Judgment Act is an enabling Act, which confers a discretion on courts rather Ameritas (11th than Variable Cir. an Ins. Co. (citations 2005) Life absolute and right v. upon the 411 F.3d Roach, quotations presented no compelling reason should Plaintiff's complaint, the 1328, omitted). Defendants have dismiss litigant." 1330 Because why this Court Court will allow Plaintiff's declaratory judgment action to proceed. Accordingly, dismiss. the Court DENIES Defendants' motions to day of (Docs. 13, 21.) ORDER ENTERED at Augusta, Georgia, this August, 2018, J. RAN^^^ chief judge UNITED^^TATES DISTRICT COURT .SOUTH^N DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

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