United States District Court, D. Maryland
MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
insurance coverage dispute, plaintiff Allstate Insurance
Company (“Allstate”) has filed a declaratory
judgment action against defendants Ky'Won Pitts, Stanley
Rochkind individually and on behalf of corporate defendant
KGB #6, Inc., and Charles Runkles individually and on behalf
of corporate defendant Dear Management and Construction
Company. (See ECF No. 1). The case is
rooted in a suit filed by Pitts in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City against the other defendants alleging injury
from lead paint exposure in connection with a property owned,
maintained, or managed by Rochkind. (ECF 1-2). Allstate, in
turn, seeks a determination of its coverage obligations for
that lawsuit from this Court.
case is before me for all proceedings by the consent of the
parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF No. 15).
Now pending before this Court are three motions. First, is
Plaintiff's fully briefed Motion for Summary Judgment,
(ECF Nos. 22, 24, and 29). Second, is Defendant Ky'Won
Pitt's Motion for Certification, (ECF No. 23), which
Allstate opposed. (ECF No. 26). And third, is Defendant
Ky'Won Pitts' Motion to Stay, (ECF No. 25), which
Allstate also opposed. (ECF No. 31). No. hearing is necessary
to resolve the issues presented. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018).
For the following reasons, Defendant Ky'Won Pitts'
motions for certification and to stay, (ECF No. 23 and 25),
are DENIED, and Allstate's motion for
summary judgment, (ECF No. 22), is GRANTED in
part and DENIED in part without
action arises out of a lead paint poisoning lawsuit filed by
Pitts against the other defendants in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 9). Pitts alleged that
he was exposed to lead paint while residing at and visiting
1701 Darley Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland.In particular,
this case involves a Personal Umbrella Policy issued by
Allstate to Mr. Rochkind beginning on June 13, 1988. Allstate
seeks a declaration that it has no duty to defend or
indemnify Mr. 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. (Id. at ¶¶ 18 and 19). Allstate
argues that the pro rata method of damages allocation
proscribed by the Fourth Circuit in Pennsylvania Nat.
Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. Roberts, 668 F.3d 106 (4th Cir.
2012) controls and results in Allstate being liable for
24.01% of the total judgment for Pitts, and Mr. Rochkind
being liable for the remainder. (Id. at ¶ 20).
Pitts, on the other hand, argues that the pro rata method is
improper. (See ECF Nos. 23, 24, and 25). He asserts
that this area of Maryland law is unsettled and thus this
Court should either certify a question to the Court of
Appeals of Maryland or stay the proceeding pending a decision
by the Court of Special Appeals in Daquantay Robinson v.
CX Reinsurance Company limited, et al. No. 01888, Sept.
Term 2016. Alternatively, Pitts argues that if the pro rata
method is proper, Allstate utilizes the incorrect exposure
“start date” to calculate its pro rata share of
the damages. In light of these arguments, the Court, before
proceeding to the motion for summary judgment, will first
determine whether certification or a stay are proper.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Motion for Certification
the Maryland Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act
(“Certification Act”), Md. Code (2013 Repl. Vol.,
2017 Supp.), § 12-601 et seq. of the Courts and
Judicial Proceedings Article, this Court may certify to the
Maryland Court of Appeals a question of law “if the
answer may be determinative of an issue in pending litigation
in the certifying court and there is no controlling
[Maryland] appellate decision, constitutional provision, or
statute . . . .” The role of a federal court when
considering an issue of state law is to “interpret the
law as it believes that state's highest court of appeals
would rule.” Abadian v. Lee, 117 F.Supp.2d
481, 485 (D. Md. 2000) (citing Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Triangle Indus., Inc., 957 F.2d 1153, 1156 (4th Cir.),
cert. denied, 506 U.S. 824 (1992)).
opinions of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals are not
controlling appellate decisions. Proctor v. WMATA,
412 Md. 691, 704 (2010). But, if the Court of Appeals has yet
to address an issue, a federal court may turn to a decision
of the Court of Special Appeals to ascertain state law
“unless it is convinced by other persuasive data that
the highest court of the state would decide otherwise.”
Allstate Ins. Co. v. Rochkind, CV ELH-17-3400, 2019
WL 1440647, at *7 (D. Md. Mar. 31, 2019) (quoting
Proctor, 412 Md. at 704) (other quotations and
citations omitted). Such “‘[p]ersuasive data'
exists only if the ‘decision of a state's
intermediate court cannot be reconciled with state statutes,
or decisions of the state's highest court, or both . . .
.'” Id. (quoting Assicurazioni
Generali, S.p.A. v. Neil, 160 F.3d 997, 1003 (4th Cir.
1998)). Otherwise, a federal court must follow an
intermediate appellate court's decision. Id.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving
party can do so by demonstrating the absence of any genuine
dispute of material fact or by showing an absence of evidence
to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). A dispute as to
a material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P.
Dev. Ltd. P'ship, 115 F.Supp.35 593, 600 (D. Md.
2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
nonmoving party “opposing a properly supported motion
for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather
must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore
Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.
2003) (citations omitted). The court is “required to
view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to” the nonmoving party. Iko v.
Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)). However,
the Court must also “abide by the ‘affirmative
obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually
unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to
trial.'” Heckman v. Ryder Truck Rental,
Inc., 962 F.Supp.2d 792, 799-800 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting
Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir.
1993)). Consequently, a party cannot create a genuine dispute
of material fact through mere speculation or compilation of
inferences. See Deans v. CSX Transp., Inc., 152 F.3d
326, 330-31 (4th Cir. 1998).