State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. El-Moslimany

Decision Date15 April 2016
Docket NumberCASE NO. C15-0124-MAT
Citation178 F.Supp.3d 1048
Parties State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, an Illinois corporation, Plaintiffs, v. Samia El-Moslimany; Ann P. El-Moslimany; and Hayat Sindi, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Washington

Michael Simpson Rogers, Reed McClure, Seattle, WA, for Plaintiffs.

Elena Luisa Garella, Seattle, WA, for Defendants.


Mary Alice Theiler

, United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm) filed a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. (Dkt. 27.) State Farm seeks a declaratory judgment that it has no duty to defend Samia El-Moslimany and her mother Ann P. El-Moslimany (defendants El-Moslimany” or defendants) in the matter of Sindi v. El

Moslimany , No. 13–10798–IT (D.Mass.). Defendants El-Moslimany oppose the motion. (Dkt. 29.) Now, having considered the motion and opposition, as well as the complaint in the underlying matter of Sindi v. El

Moslimany , the Court concludes the motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 27) should be GRANTED, and a declaratory judgment entered that State Farm owes no duty to defend.


In January 2013, Hayat Sindi filed suit against defendants El-Moslimany in Massachusetts state court. Defendants El-Moslimany, in April 2013, removed the action to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. See Sindi v. El Moslimany , No. 13–10798–IT. Pursuant to a homeowners policy effective January 2011 and renewed annually, State Farm is defending defendants El-Moslimany in Sindi v. El Moslimany under a reservation of rights.

In April 2015, State Farm filed the current action, against Sindi and defendants El-Moslimany, seeking a declaratory judgment that it owes no duty to defend Sami or Ann El-Moslimany from any of the claims pleaded in the underlying action. (See Dkts. 1 & 9.) State Farm repeatedly tried and failed to serve Sindi, and ultimately required two extensions to allow for service. (Dkts. 17, 22.) After she failed to appear or respond, State Farm, in February 2016, secured an Order of Default against Sindi. (Dkt. 28.) State Farm filed its summary judgment motion shortly after moving for the default.

A. Allegations in Sindi v. El Moslimany

Sindi avers defendants El-Moslimany, beginning in or around September 2011 and continuing through the current day, have engaged in a “knowing, intentional, and malicious campaign of defamation”, and “a relentless course of conduct designed and intended to publicly embarrass, humiliate, and destroy [Sindi] through the perpetuation of intentional falsehoods.” (Dkt. 9–1 at 1.) Sindi contends defendants engaged in this conduct based on their misapprehension of a personal, romantic relationship between Sindi and Samia El-Moslimany's husband, Fouad Dehlawi. (Id. at 1–7.) Sindi describes herself as an accomplished scientist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, and alleges defendants “have sought to tarnish [her] reputation and publically humiliate her by, among other things, falsely accusing [her] of engaging in fraud, misrepresenting her professional credentials, engaging in illegal misconduct, plagiarizing her scientific research and publications, and other libels which are demonstrably false and defamatory per se.” (Id. at 1–3.)

Sindi alleges defendants repeatedly made knowingly false statements published to third parties in writing, orally, and through electronic means, in response to on-line articles written about her, in Facebook postings and emails, and in a blog maintained by Samia El-Moslimany, found at (Id. at 14.) She alleges defendants appeared in person and slandered her in her neighborhood, as well as at public conferences, where they distributed leaflets and spread out banners containing false and defamatory statements and directing onlookers to Samia's blog. (Id. at 7–19.) Sindi avers these actions damaged her reputation and career, interfered with investments, relationships, and fundraising efforts in her business and other ventures, prompted a publishing company to back out of a contract to publish her biography, caused her to fear for her physical safety, and otherwise adversely affected her physical and mental health. (Id. at 17-23.)

Sindi includes a count of defamation, libel, and slander, describing a “campaign of libel and slander,” styled by defendants as “operation arabian [sic] EXPOSURE”. (Id. at 23.) She avers the false statements “were made negligently, intentionally, and/or with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of such statements,” and that Samia El-Moslimany “acted negligently and/or with actual malice; ... with reckless and wonton [sic] disregard of the truth; and ... with the intent to ruin” Sindi's reputation. (Id. at 24.)

Sindi raises counts of tortious interference with contractual relationships and tortious interference with prospective business relationships. (Id. at 25-26.) She alleges defendants knew of her publishing contract and other business relationships and intentionally published libelous statements they “knew or should have known” would induce the publishing company, among other parties, to refuse to perform its contractual obligation. (Id. at 25.) She alleges defendants knew of her contacts in academic, scientific, and business communities, as well as that “their intentionally published libelous statements would discourage these individuals from associating with, donating to, investing in, or otherwise engaging” in her endeavors. (Id. at 26.) Sindi avers defendants “were motivated by malice, with the intent, as they expressed it, to make [her] 'rue the day' she ever met” Samia El-Moslimany, and “expressed their intent to ruin her reputation as a business woman, entrepreneur, and scientist.” (Id. at 25-26.)

Sindi also claims intentional infliction of emotional distress through the publishing of malicious statements in multiple forums, by directly harassing her and by appearing at her home and at events at which she was scheduled to appear, and that defendants knew or should have known emotional distress would result from their extreme and outrageous conduct. (Id. at 26-27.) Sindi maintains she suffered harm in the form of “constant anxiety of her safety, even in her own neighborhood, in which [defendants] El-Moslimany have actively incited fellow Muslims to violence against her, with some posting comments that she should be 'stoned.”' (Id. at 27.)

Sindi seeks a permanent injunction, in addition to money damages. (Id. at 27-28.) She contends defendants El-Moslimany “have vowed to set forth their defamatory campaign at all cost and without end”, and seeks an injunction to “halt the malicious campaign of libel, slander, and defamation[.] (Id. at 28.)

B. Homeowners Insurance Policy

The State Farm homeowners policy issued to defendants El-Moslimany includes a personal liability provision that provides in part:

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, caused by an occurrence , we will:
1. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable; and
2. provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice.

(See Dkt. 9, ¶11 and Dkt. 16, ¶11.) The policy excludes from that coverage bodily injury or property damage [ ] (1) which is either expected or intended by the insured ; or (2) which is the result of willful and malicious acts of the insured [.] (See Dkt. 9, ¶12 and Dkt. 16, ¶12.)

Until January 2013, the policy defined an “occurrence” as follows:

occurrence ... means an accident, including exposure to conditions, which results in:
a. bodily injury ; or
b. property damage ;
during the policy period. Repeated or continuous exposure to the same general conditions is considered to be one occurrence .

(See Dkt. 9, ¶13 and Dkt. 16, ¶13.) This definition was thereafter altered to reflect:

occurrence ... means an accident, including exposure to conditions, which first results in:
a. bodily injury ; or
b. property damage ;
during the policy period. All bodily injury and property damage resulting from one accident, series of related accidents or from continuous and repeated exposure to the same general conditions is considered to be one occurrence .

(See Dkt. 9, ¶14 and Dkt. 16, ¶14.)

The policy defines bodily injury as meaning “physical harm to a person, including any resulting sickness or disease”, and including “the required care, loss of services and death resulting therefrom.” (See Dkt. 9, ¶13 and Dkt. 16, ¶13.) However:

Bodily injury does not include:
c. emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, mental injury, or similar injury unless it arises out of actual physical injury to some person.

(Id. )


Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a)

. The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of the case with respect to which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322–23, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials in the pleadings, unsupported conjecture, or conclusory statements. Hernandez v. Spacelabs Med. Inc. , 343 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir.2003). The nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial, Fed. R. Civ. P. (c)(1), and must present significant and probative evidence to support his or her claims, Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. , 952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir.1991). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.”'...

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