Secura Insurance v. Komacko et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting 16 Motion to Dismiss WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Rudy Lozano on 7/16/2013. (rmn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
JANET KOMACKO, et al.,
CAUSE NO. 2:12-CV-481
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the: “Defendant Janet
Komacko’s Motion to Dismiss Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1),” filed
by Defendant, Janet Komacko, as Administratrix of the Estate of
Gary Komacko, Deceased, on November 30, 2012 (DE #16).
reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.
The Clerk is
ORDERED to DISMISS the case WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Lake County,
Indiana, on June 29, 2012, Janet Komacko obtained a judgment
against Defendant American Erectors, Inc., for the wrongful death
of her husband, in the amount of $4.93 million.
October 16, 2012, Komacko filed a Verified Motion to Enforce
Judgment by Proceedings Supplemental to Execution under Ind. Trial
R. 69(E). (DE #18-2.)
Komacko served Admiral Insurance Company
and Secura, American Erectors’ putative insurers, as garnishee
(DE #18-1, pp. 5, 9.)
On November 20, 2012, Admiral appeared by counsel in the
proceedings supplemental and demanded a jury.
(DE ##18-3, 18-4.)
That same day, Secura appeared by counsel in those proceedings. (DE
Komacko served interrogatories on Admiral and Secura.
Admiral answered Komacko’s interrogatories, stating that
coverage was excluded under the terms of its policy with America
Erectors. (DE #18-6, pp. 1-2.) Admiral also provided Komacko with
a copy of the policy to which it referred in denying coverage.
(Id., p. 5.)
Secura did not answer Komacko’s interrogatories as
Instead, Secura filed a complaint in this Court and
commenced the instant action for declaratory judgment.
Secura has asked the Court to issue a declaration under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201 regarding a primary general liability insurance policy that
it issued to American Erectors. According to Secura, the “coverage
dispute centers just on whether Secura has fully paid all that its
policy required it to pay on behalf of American Erectors to
(DE #19, pp. 2-3 (emphasis in original).)
proceeding was pending before Judge Theresa L. Springmann as case
Komacko opposed this, and filed a Motion to
Remand on December 14, 2012 (case no. 2:12-cv-495, DE #4).
meantime, Komacko filed the current motion to dismiss the petition
for declaratory judgment on November 30, 2012.
On June 17, 2013, Judge Springmann transferred case number
2:12-cv-495 to this Court because the two cases were related under
N.D. L.R. 43(e).
(2:12-cv-495, DE #18.)
This Court then granted
the motion to remand in case number 2:12-cv-495 (DE #19), remanding
Insurance filed a motion for reconsideration of the remand order
which this Court denied for lack of jurisdiction.
This Court now has before it a motion to dismiss the
complaint for declaratory judgment under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a
defendant may move to dismiss claims over which the federal court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is the "power to
decide" and must be conferred upon a federal court.
In re Chicago,
Rock Island & Pac. R.R. Co., 794 F.2d 1182, 1188 (7th Cir. 1986).
When jurisdictional allegations are questioned, the plaintiff has
the burden of proving that the jurisdiction requirements have been
Kontos v. United States Dep't of Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576
(7th Cir. 1987).
In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss,
the Court may look beyond the complaint and review any extraneous
evidence submitted by the parties to determine whether subject
matter jurisdiction exists.
United Transp. Union v. Gateway
Western R.R. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996).
discretion, to stay or to dismiss an action seeking a declaratory
judgment before trial or after all arguments have drawn to a
Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 288 (1995).
Komacko contends that the Court should exercise its discretion
Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277; Brillhart v.
Excess Ins. Co. Of Am., 316 U.S. 491 (1942).
Under that doctrine,
“the district courts possess significant discretion to dismiss or
stay claims seeking declaratory relief, even though they have
subject matter jurisdiction over such claims.”
R.R. Street & Co.,
Inc. v. Vulcan Materials Co., 569 F.3d 711, 713 (7th Cir. 2009).
Komacko also argues that abstention is appropriate under
the three practicality considerations articulated in Colorado
River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800,
813-17 (1976) and Wilton, 515 U.S. 277. Those three
considerations are: (1) the inconvenience of the federal forum,
(2) the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation, and (3)
the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent
fora. Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 818-19. Because this Court
has already remanded the supplemental proceedings back to state
court, there is a potential parallel proceeding, and this Court
believes the Zavalis factors are thus more appropriate in this
case. Nationwide Ins. v. Zavalis, 52 F.3d 689, 695 (7th Cir.
1995). But even if the Colorado River and Wilton test was
applied, the Court believes abstention would still be
The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2202, provides that
district courts “may declare the rights and other legal relations
of any interested party seeking such declaration . . . .”
U.S.C. § 2201(a).
In view of that discretionary nature, the
Supreme Court held in Brillhart and Wilton that “district courts
have substantial discretion in deciding whether to declare the
rights of litigants and may, in the sound exercise of their
judgment in favor of an ongoing state court case.”
Healthcare, Inc. v. PreferredOne Ins. Co., 604 F.3d 983, 986 (7th
Cir. 2010)(citing Brillhart and Wilton).
Importantly, the Seventh
Circuit has noted that:
The existence of overlapping proceedings does not
diminish a district court’s power but does present
a question on which the judge should exercise sound
discretion. A judge asked to enter a declaratory
judgment that as a practical matter will dispose of
some other case should consider whether a multitrack course of litigation is the best way to
resolve the dispute.
Klene v. Napolitano, 697 F.3d 666, 669 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing
Wilton and Brillhart).
The Seventh Circuit has identified the following factors
Courts must consider in deciding whether to abstain under the
[W]hether the declaratory suit presents a question
distinct from the issues raised in the state court
proceeding, whether the parties to the two actions
are identical, whether going forward with the
declaratory action will serve a useful purpose in
clarifying the legal obligations and relationships
among the parties or will merely amount to
duplicative and piecemeal litigation, and whether
comparable relief is available to the plaintiff
seeking a declaratory judgment in another forum or
at another time.
Zavalis, 52 F.3d at 695 (citations omitted).
Regarding the first
factor, this Court believes that this declaratory suit does not
raise a question distinct from the issues raised in the state court
As argued by Komacko:
The underlying tort action is finished, having been
reduced to judgment. The state-court proceeding is
in its post-judgment stage, where the only issue
left to determine is what assets American Erectors
has to collect. The question in the state court,
then, is whether the proceeds of Secura’s policy is
a garnishable asset - which is essentially
identical to the issue Secura raised here by filing
its petition for declaratory judgment.
(DE #26, p. 4.)
Indeed, the petition for declaratory judgment
“[t]he Estate has taken the position that Secura owes
further sums under the policy in connection with the judgment and
post-trial awards entered against American Erectors” (DE #1, p. 2)
and asks this Court to find that “Secura does not have any
obligation to make any further payment to American Erectors or to
the Estate for the judgment or post-trial awards of pre-judgment
interest, court costs, attorney’s fees, and post-judgment interest
in the Komacko lawsuit.”
(DE #1, p 7.)
Thus, both proceedings
center around the same factual issues and whether Secura owes
additional money on the state court judgment. The declaratory suit
does not raise a different question.
proceedings are identical.
Certainly Secura, American Erectors,
and Komacko are all parties to both the supplemental proceedings in
state court and the action for declaratory judgment here.
putative insurers), was served as a garnishee defendant in the
state action but is not a party to the motion for declaratory
Although not identical parties, there is at least a
large overlap in the parties.
The next enumerated factor is whether going forward with the
declaratory action will serve a useful purpose in clarifying the
legal obligations and relationships among the parties or will
merely amount to duplicative and piecemeal litigation.
case, because the supplemental proceedings have already begun and
will be determining the potential legal obligations of Secura and
Admiral, there is no additional issue that needs clarifying in this
court; indeed, a parallel proceeding in district court could be
duplicative. Moreover, any determination by this Court of Secura’s
policy coverage could be at odds with the decisions made in the
supplemental proceedings taking place in the underlying state suit.
Finally, the Court should consider whether comparable relief
is available to the plaintiff seeking a declaratory judgment in
another forum or at another time.
Secura has not stated any
concerns that it would be entirely unable to seek declaratory
judgment in another forum if the Court did not exercise its
jurisdiction to hear this case.
Thus, this factor also seems to
weigh in favor of abstention.
In sum, the factors overall support this Court exercising
abstention over the declaratory judgment action.
example of when abstention is proper occurs where, as it is here,
solely declaratory relief is sought and parallel state proceedings
Envision, 604 F.3d at 986.
This Court believes
deferring to the ongoing state court matter is “wise judicial
administration, giving regard to conservation of judicial resources
and comprehensive disposition of litigation.”
Colorado River, 424
U.S. at 817 (quotation omitted).
For the reasons set forth above, Komacko’s Motion to Dismiss
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) (DE #16) is GRANTED.
The Clerk is
ORDERED to DISMISS the case WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
DATED: July 16, 2013
/s/ RUDY LOZANO, Judge
United States District Court
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