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Allstate Insurance Co. v. N-4, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 22, 2018

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY Plaintiff,
v.
N-4, INC. ET AL. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this insurance dispute, plaintiff Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) has filed a declaratory judgment action against defendants N-4, Inc. (“N-4”); Dear Management and Construction Company (“Dear Management”)[1]; Stanley Rochkind, individually and on behalf of the corporate defendants; and Tyrel M. Pitts. See ECF 1 (“Complaint”). The case is rooted in a lead paint suit filed by Pitts in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against the other defendants here, alleging injury from lead paint exposure in connection with a property owned, maintained, and/or managed by Rochkind. ECF 1-2 (the “Tort Case”).

         In particular, Allstate issued a Personal Umbrella Policy to Rochkind beginning in June 1988. Allstate seeks a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Rochkind for any alleged lead paint injuries that occurred on or after June 13, 1999, when the policy excluded coverage for claims arising from lead paint exposure. ECF 1, ¶¶ 12, 13. Moreover, Allstate maintains that in view of the exclusion, and the subsequent termination of the policy in June 2000, Rochkind is responsible for a pro rata share of his defense and indemnity costs. ECF 1, ¶ 14.

         On February 9, 2018, the parties to this case and the parties in two similar federal cases moved to consolidate the three cases for pretrial purposes. ECF 23. The other cases are: Allstate Insurance Co. v. Uptown Realty Co., et al., ELH-17-3288 (“Uptown”) and Allstate Insurance Co. v. JAM #32 Corp., ELH-17-3293 (“JAM”). In those two cases, Da'Quan Roberts, Sha'Quan Roberts, [2] and Martaze Gaines are, like Pitts, plaintiffs in lead paint cases pending in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. And, they are defendants in the federal cases cited above. (I shall refer to Pitts, Da'Quan, Sha'Quan, and Gaines collectively as the “Tort Plaintiffs”). I granted the motion. ECF 24.

         All three federal suits concern Allstate's potential liability for lead-poisoning under a Personal Umbrella Policy (the “Policy”) that it issued to Rochkind in June 1988. The Policy provided excess personal liability coverage to Rochkind, who owns and manages residential properties in Baltimore in which the Tort Plaintiffs resided. ECF 28, ¶ 12; Uptown, ECF 30, ¶ 14; JAM, ECF 27, ¶ 12. On June 13, 1999, Allstate excluded coverage for claims arising from lead paint exposure. ECF 1, ¶¶ 12, 13; ECF 28, ¶ 12; Uptown, ECF 30, ¶ 14; JAM, ECF 27, ¶ 12. A year later, the Policy was terminated in its entirety. ECF 28, ¶ 12; Uptown, ECF 30, ¶ 14; JAM, ECF 27, ¶ 12. In Allstate's view, because the exclusion went into effect on June 13, 1999, and the policy was cancelled on or about June 13, 2000, Rochkind “is responsible for a pro-rata allocation of his defense and indemnity costs . . . .” in each tort case. Id. ¶ 14.

         Now pending is the motion of the Tort Plaintiffs to certify to the Maryland Court of Appeals a question concerning the allocation of damages in certain lead-based paint lawsuits. See ECF 31. In support of their Motion for certification (ECF 31), defendants have submitted a memorandum of law (ECF 31-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and an exhibit. See ECF 31-2. Allstate opposes the Motion. ECF 36 (“Opposition”). The Tort Plaintiffs have filed a reply. ECF 37 (“Reply”).

         The Motion is fully briefed and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny the Motion.

         I. Factual Summary

         The Tort Plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against Rochkind and various corporate entities, alleging injuries from exposure to lead paint at certain residential properties where they had resided. See Tyrel M. Pitts v. N-4, Inc., Case No. 24-C-16-2490; Gaines v. Uptown Realty Co., Case No. 24-C-16-3569 LP; Roberts v. Wyman Park Co., Case No. 24-C-16-949. They asserted claims of battery, negligence, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. ECF 1-2 at 6-17 (“Pitts' Complaint”); Uptown, ECF 1-2 at 5-16 (“Gaines' Complaint”); JAM, ECF 1-2 (“Roberts' Amended Complaint”).

         A. Pitts and N-4.

         On April 27, 2016, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Pitts sued N-4, Dear Management, and Rochkind, individually and on behalf of the corporate defendants. Pitts, Case No. 24-C-16-2490; see also ECF 1-2. He alleged that he was exposed to lead paint from 1997 to 2001, while residing at 3508 Virginia Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland. ECF 1-2, ¶¶ 3, 8. This property was owned or operated by N-4, Dear Management, and Rochkind. ECF 1-2, ¶ 3.

         Because of the underlying suit, Allstate seeks a declaratory judgment as to potential liability, asserting, inter alia, that in the event of liability, its share of the pro-rata allocation of liability is limited to 14.51% of any judgment in favor of Pitts. ECF 28 at 6.

         B. Gaines and Uptown

         Gaines filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on June 14, 2016, against defendants Uptown Realty Co. a/k/a Uptown Realty Co. Limited Partnership (“Uptown Realty”); Dear Management; Jack W. Novograd, individually and on behalf of Uptown Realty; Charles W. Runkles, individually and on behalf of Dear Management, and Rochkind, individually and on behalf of both corporate defendants. Gaines, Case No. 24-C-16-3569 LP; Uptown, ECF 1-2. Gaines alleged that he was exposed to lead paint from March 6, 1996 through 2001, while residing at or visiting 2320 Druid Hill Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland. Uptown, ECF 1-2, ¶ 3. This property was allegedly owned or operated by Uptown Realty, Dear Management, Novograd, Runkles, and Rochkind. Uptown, ECF 1-2, ¶ 3; ECF 1-2 at 2-4 (“Case Information Report”).

         In Uptown, Allstate filed suit against defendants Uptown Realty; Dear Management; Novograd, individually and on behalf of Uptown Realty; Runkles, individually and on behalf of Dear Management; Rochkind, individually and on behalf of both corporate defendants; and Gaines, seeking a declaratory judgment that, inter alia, limits its share of liability to 51.4% of any judgment in favor of Gaines. Uptown, ECF 1; Uptown, ECF 30 at 7.

         C. Roberts and JAM

          Da'quan and Sha'quan filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on February 17, 2016, against Wyman Park Co. (“Wyman Park”); Homewood Realty, Inc. (“Homewood”); Stanley Sugarman, individually and on behalf of Wyman and Homewood; JAM #32 Corp. (“JAM”); Dear Management; and Rochkind, individually and on behalf of JAM and Dear Management. Roberts, Case No. 24-C-16-949; see also JAM, ECF 1-2. Da'quan alleges that he was exposed to lead paint from 1996 through 2002, while residing at or visiting 919 N. Collington Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland and 1635 N. Spring Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 1, 3, 5, 10. Sha'quan alleges that she was exposed to lead paint from 1997 through 2002, while she resided at or visited the aforementioned properties. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 1, 3, 7, 10. The property located at 919 N. Collington Avenue ...


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