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Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Overturf

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 19, 2015

ALLSTATE INDEMNITY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
SAVANNAH OVERTURF, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE J. HAZEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Allstate Indemnity Company ("Allstate") filed this declaratory action to resolve a dispute under an automobile insurance policy issued in Maryland with Maryland choice of law and forum selection provisions. The accident triggering this dispute occurred in Colorado where two of the defendants now reside. Defendant Jodine Cress has filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 19, arguing that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her. Alternatively, she asserts that this case should be transferred to Colorado where the accident occurred, hi. at 25-30. She also contends that A.O. (a minor), decedent's daughter, is a necessary party to the action. Id. at 31-39. Defendants Michael and Savannah Overturf (the "Overturfs") argue that they should be dismissed from this case for lack of a case or controversy between them and Allstate. ECF No. 20.

A hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated below. Cress' Motion lo Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Change of Venue. ECF No. 19, is DENIED, the Overtufs Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 20. is GRANTED. Allstale's informal request for Leave to Amend to add a necessary party. A.O., ECF No. 22, is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

The Overturfs purchased an automobile insurance policy with Allstate when they lived in Maryland. ECF No. 1-1 at 29; ECF No. 19-2. The policy contains uninsured motorist coverage of $100, 000 per person/$300.000 per accident. ECF No. 1-1 at 9-10. The policy explains that it is "issued in accordance with the laws of Maryland and covers property or risks principally located in Maryland." ECF No. 1-1 at 33. It further explains that Maryland law is to govern the dispute, although the laws of the jurisdiction where the covered loss takes place may govern if "the laws of that jurisdiction would apply in the absence of [the] contractual choice of law provision..." Id. The policy also contains a forum-selection clause, stating:

... any and all lawsuits in any way related to this policy, shall be brought, heard, and decided only in a state or federal court located in Maryland. Any and all lawsuits against persons not parties to this policy but involved in the sale, administration, performance, or alleged breach of this policy, or invoked in any other way with this policy, shall be brought, heard, and decided only in a state or federal court located in Maryland, provided that such persons are subject to or consent to suit in the courts specified in this paragraph.
If a covered loss to the auto, a covered auto accident, or any other occurrence for which coverage applies under this policy happens outside Maryland, lawsuits regarding that covered loss to the auto, covered auto accident, or other covered occurrence may also be brought in the judicial district where that covered loss to the auto, covered auto accident, or other covered occurrence happened.

Id.

Part five of the insurance policy outlines the coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists. Id. at 43. Under the policy. Allstate will "pay those damages which an insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured auto because of: 1. bodily injury sustained by an insured person, and 2. Property damage." id. An "insured person" is the policy holder, a resident relative of the policy holder, an occupant of an insured auto with the policy holder's permission, or "any other person who is legally entitled to recover because of bodily injury to the [policy holder], a resident relative, or an occupant of [the policy holders] insured auto with [the policy holder's] permission." Id. An uninsured auto is. in part, "an underinsured motor vehicle which is lawfully self-insured or has bodily injury liability protection in effect and applicable at the time of the accident, but in an amount less than the applicable bodily injury limit of liability for this coverage shown on the declarations page." Id. at 43-44. Bodily injury includes death. Id. at 44. A resident relative means a relative who has "physical presence" in the policy holder's household with the "intention to continue living there." Id.

On July 1, 2013. Michael Overturf's brother, Dustin Overturf (the "decedent"), was a passenger in an automobile that was involved in a single-vehicle accident in Montrose. Colorado. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 4. 19. He died as a result of the accident. Id. at ¶ 4. Cress (decedent's mother) and A.O. (decedent's daughter) shared in a wrongful death settlement with the at-fault driver's liability carrier. ECF No. 19-8 at ¶ 10. The at-fault driver was insured by Progressive Insurance Company with bodily injury liability limits of S100.000 per person/$300.000 per accident. ECF No. I at ¶ 11. Cress resides in Colorado. ECF No. 19-7 at ¶ 5. Cress contends that both Michael Overturf and the decedent resided with her in Colorado before the decedent's death. Id. at ¶ 9. Thus. Cress believes decedent is covered by the uninsured motorists section of the Overturf's policy as a resident relative of one of the policy holders. ECF No. 19-1 at 7.

The family of the decedent made a claim for insurance benefits with Allstate on October 23. 2013. ECF No. 19-9. The family includes Cress and the deceased's minor daughter. A.O. ECF No. 19-1 at 33-34. On October 28, 2013. Allstate responded to the claim with a letter indicating its belief that there was no coverage under Maryland law. ECF No. 19-10. Then, on February 18, 2014. Allstate tiled this action seeking declaratory judgment that "Plaintiff Allstate Indemnity Company does not owe uninsured motorist benefits to Jodine Cress, or anyone else claiming such benefits due to or arising out of injuries sustained by, or the death of, Dustin Overturf, under a policy of automobile insurance issued by Allstate Indemnity Company to Savannah L. and Michael N. Overturf." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1. In support of its request for declaratory judgment. Allstate alleges that the vehicle that caused the accident was not "an underinsured auto" and that the decedent was not a resident relative of the Overturfs. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 19-22.

II. DISCUSSION

Cress contests this Court's personal jurisdiction over her. ECF No. 19-1 at 8-14. She alternatively argues that, even if the Court has personal jurisdiction over her, the case should be transferred to Colorado. Id. at 16-30. The Overturfs argue that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Allstate's action against them. ECF No. 20-1 at 14-18. Cress also contends that A.O. is a necessary party to this litigation. ECF No. 19-1 at 33-34. The Court addresses these arguments in turn.

A. Personal Jurisdiction over Cress

Cress asserts that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her because she does not have sufficient minimum contacts with Maryland. ECF No. 19-1 at 8-14. A motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction arises under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). "When a court's personal jurisdiction is properly challenged by a Rule 12(b)(2) motion, the jurisdictional question thus raised is one for the judge, with the burden on the plaintiff ultimately to prove the existence of a ground for jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence." Combs v. Bukker. 886 F.2d 673. 676 (4th Cir.1989) (citation omitted). "In deciding whether the plaintiff has made the requisite showing, the court must take all disputed facts and reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Carefirst of Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Centers. Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003). Notably, "district courts are not required... to look solely to the plaintiffs proof in drawing those inferences." Mylan Laboratories, Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 62 (4th Cir. 1993).

Discovery and an evidentiary hearing are not required to resolve a motion under Rule 12(b)(2). See generally 5B Wright & Miller. Fed. Prac. & Pro. Civ. § 1351 at 274-313 (3d ed. 2004. 2012 Supp.). Rather, the district court may address the question of personal jurisdiction as a preliminary matter, ruling solely on the basis of motion papers, supporting legal memoranda, affidavits, and the allegations in the complaint. Consulting Engineers Corp. v. Geometric Lid. 561 F.3d 273. 276 (4th Cir. 2009). The ...


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