United Property & Casualty Insurance v. Hunter et al
ORDER denying 12 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Honorable Patrick Michael Duffy on March 27, 2017.(jmcg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
United Property & Casualty Insurance,
Joseph Steven Hunter, Sr., Rose Wadford
Hunter, and Mary Roe, individually and
as parent and natural guardian on behalf
of Jane Doe, a minor under the age of 18,
C.A. No.: 9:16-cv-2926-PMD
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Joseph Steven Hunter, Sr.’s motion to
dismiss this case for failure to join a necessary party under Rule 19 (ECF No. 12). For the
reasons set forth herein, Joseph Hunter’s motion is denied.
This declaratory judgment action arises out of underlying litigation filed in the Beaufort
County Court of Common Pleas. United seeks a declaration that no coverage is available to
Hunter or his wife, Rose Hunter, in the underlying case, which involves Joseph Hunter’s alleged
abuse and molestation of a child. Joseph Hunter filed his motion to dismiss on January 18, 2017.
On February 1, United responded in opposition, while Defendant Mary Roe responded in
Joseph Hunter replied on February 6. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for
“Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth a two-step inquiry for courts
to determine whether a party is necessary and indispensable.” Home Buyers Warranty Corp. v.
Hanna, 750 F.3d 427, 433 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The first question
under Rule 19(a) is whether a party is necessary to a proceeding because of its relationship to the
matter under consideration.” Id. (quoting Teamsters Local Union No. 171 v. Keal Driveaway
Co., 173 F.3d 915, 917 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted)). “If a party is
necessary, it will be ordered into the action.” Owens–Ill., Inc. v. Meade, 186 F.3d 435, 440 (4th
Cir. 1999). “Second, if the party is necessary . . . the court must decide under Rule 19(b)
whether the proceeding can continue in that party’s absence.” Hanna, 750 F.3d at 433 (quoting
Teamsters, 173 F.3d at 917–18 (internal quotation marks omitted)).
“Rule 19 is not to be applied as a ‘procedural formula.’”
Id. (quoting Provident
Tradesman Bank & Trust Co. v. Patterson, 390 U.S. 102, 119 n.16 (1968)). “Decisions must be
made pragmatically, in the context of the substance of each case.” Id. (quoting Patterson, 390
U.S. at 199 n.16) (internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “courts must take into
account the possible prejudice ‘to all parties, including those not before it.’” Id. (quoting
Owens–Ill., Inc., 186 F.3d at 441). “While dismissal of a case is a ‘drastic remedy that should be
employed only sparingly,’ it is required if a non-joined party is both necessary and
indispensable.” Id. (quoting Keal, 173 F.3d at 918). The burden is on the party raising the
defense to make the required showing under Rule 19, Am. Gen. Life & Acc. Ins. Co. v. Wood,
429 F.3d 83, 92 (4th Cir. 2005), and the Rule 19 inquiry is left to the sound discretion of the
Court, Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Rite Aid of S.C., Inc., 210 F.3d 246, 250
(4th Cir. 2000) (citing Coastal Modular Corp. v. Laminators, Inc., 635 F.2d 1102, 1108 (4th Cir.
Joseph Hunter’s motion to dismiss for failure to join a necessary party is based on
United’s alleged failure to join Rose Hunter, as well as several other insurers. In his reply,
Joseph Hunter concedes that Rose Hunter’s presence in the case moots his argument as to her
joinder. Thus, the only question before the Court is whether the other insurers are necessary
parties, and, if so, whether they are indispensable and require that the case be dismissed.
The Court concludes that Joseph Hunter has failed to meet his burden of proving that the
other insurance carriers are necessary parties. As stated above, “the burden is on the party
moving under Rule 12(b)(7) to show the nature of the unprotected interests of the absent
individuals or organizations and the possibility of injury to them or that the parties before the
court will be disadvantaged by their absence.” 5C Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice
and Procedure § 1359 (3d ed. 2007). “To discharge this burden, it may be necessary to present
affidavits of persons having knowledge of these interests as well as other relevant extra-pleading
evidence.” Id. If the moving party fails to discharge their burden, the Rule 12(b)(7) motion to
dismiss should be denied. See, e.g., Alexander Contracting Co. v. Nat’l Trust Ins. Co., No. 1:14CV-002423-ELR, 2015 WL 11347588, at *4 (N.D. Ga. July 8, 2015) (“Because [the movant] has
not satisfied its evidentiary burden, the Court cannot dismiss this case for failure to join an
Joseph Hunter has not attached any exhibits to his motion to dismiss or to his reply that
would indicate whether any of the absent insurers actually insure the Hunters. Because the Court
is not certain based on the evidence before it whether the absent insurers even issued policies to
the Hunters, much less what interests those insurers might or might not have in this action, any
determination by the Court as to the absent insurers’ necessity in this case would necessarily be
based on speculation. As a result, it is plain that Joseph Hunter has failed to meet his burden of
proof, and the Court must deny his motion.
For the reasons stated herein, it is ORDERED that Joseph Hunter’s motion to dismiss for
failure to join an indispensable party is DENIED.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
March 27, 2017
Charleston, South Carolina
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