Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, No. 2:97-1171.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtHaden
Citation991 F.Supp. 767
PartiesALLSTATE INSURANCE CO., Plaintiff, v. Danielle DiGIORGI, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date11 February 1998
Docket NumberNo. 2:97-1171.
991 F.Supp. 767
ALLSTATE INSURANCE CO., Plaintiff,
v.
Danielle DiGIORGI, et al., Defendants.
No. 2:97-1171.
United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division.
February 11, 1998.

Brent K. Kesner, Kesner, Kesner & Bramble, Charleston, WV, for plaintiff.

Vincent J. King, Charleston, WV, J. Timothy DiPiero, DiTrapano & Jackson, Charleston, WV, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HADEN, Chief Judge.


Pending is Defendants' motion to dismiss. The matter is ripe for review. For reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Danielle DiGiorgi, daughter of divorced parents Gino DiGiorgi and Amy Carte,1 suffered an accidental gunshot wound while at her father's residence on September 29, 1996.

Page 768

A neighborhood friend wounded Danielle, using a gun found in Gino DiGiorgi's home.

At the time of the occurrence, Gino DiGiorgi's home was insured under a policy issued by Plaintiff Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate"). A claim was filed with Allstate on Danielle's behalf. Based on its investigation of the claim, Allstate filed a complaint with this Court on December 3, 1997, seeking a determination of its obligations under the policy. Allstate is the sole Plaintiff and Danielle DiGiorgi and Amy Carte, the Defendants. It appears the main issue is whether any policy language excludes coverage for Danielle DiGiorgi. For instance, if Danielle was an "insured person or regular resident of the insured premises," see Pl.'s Mem. Resp. at 3 (quoting Coverage Y of policy), an exclusion may preclude coverage.

On December 8, 1997 Danielle DiGiorgi, Amy Carte, Glenn A. Carte, Jr., and Danielle's half-sister, Catherine Faye Carte, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia. The defendants are Gino DiGiorgi and Allstate. The complaint sought (1) damages from Gino DiGiorgi for his alleged negligence; (2) declaratory judgment of Allstate's obligations under the policy; and (3) damages from Allstate for its alleged unfair claims settlement practices in handling the case. Mr. and Mrs. Carte and Catherine Faye Carte also seek damages for loss of consortium.

On December 23, 1997 Danielle DiGiorgi and Amy Carte moved to dismiss the federal action, arguing this Court should exercise its discretion to decline to hear the case.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Jurisdiction for Declaratory Judgment Actions

Our Court of Appeals has held federal courts have discretion over whether to hear a declaratory judgment action under the Declaratory Judgment Act. Mitcheson v. Harris, 955 F.2d 235, 237 (4th Cir.1992). The Supreme Court has stated,

Consistent with the nonobligatory nature of the remedy, a district court is authorized, in the sound exercise of its discretion, to stay or to dismiss an action seeking a declaratory judgment before trial or after all arguments have drawn to a close. In the declaratory judgment context, the normal principle that federal courts should adjudicate claims within their jurisdiction yields to considerations of practicality and wise judicial administration.

Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 288, 115 S.Ct. 2137, 132 L.Ed.2d 214 (1995). In an action such as this, where a lawsuit "involving the same parties and presenting opportunity for ventilation of the same state law issues is pending in state court, a district court might be indulging in `[g]ratuitous interference,' ... if it permitted the federal declaratory action to proceed." Id. at 283. The declaratory judgment remedy "should not be used `to try a controversy by piecemeal, or to try particular issues without settling the entire controversy, or to interfere with an action which has already been instituted.'" Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256-57 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir.1937)).

B. The Fourth Circuit Framework

Consistent with Wilton, our Court of Appeals has established a framework to guide district courts in their decision whether to retain jurisdiction. First, a district court must consider the Quarles criteria of whether the federal action

(i) "`will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue,'" and (ii) "`will terminate and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.'"

Gatewood Lumber, Inc. v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 898 F.Supp. 364, 367 (S.D.W.Va. 1995) (Haden, C.J.) (quoting Continental Cas. Co. v. Fuscardo, 35 F.3d 963, 965 (4th Cir.1994)) (citations omitted). If the first set of criteria are met, the district court next considers the criteria enumerated in ...

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3 practice notes
  • Dababnah v. West Virginia Bd. of Medicine, No. Civ.A. 5:98-0639.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • 11 de maio de 1999
    ...and decline to hear plaintiff's claims for declaratory relief. In this district, the recent decision of Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, 991 F.Supp. 767 (S.D.W.Va.1998), detailed the Fourth Circuit's framework for the court's exercise of discretion under the Declaratory Judgment First, a dist......
  • First Financial Ins. v. Crossroads Lounge, CIV. A. No. 5:00-1172.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • 21 de maio de 2001
    ...92 F.2d at 324]." Nautilus Ins. Co. v. Winchester Homes, Inc., 15 F.3d 371, 375 (4th Cir. 1994); cf. Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, 991 F.Supp. 767, 768 (S.D.W.Va.1998) (Haden, C.J.) (noting that Fourth Circuit framework is "[c]onsistent with Wilton"); but cf. Poston, 88 F.3d at 257-58 ("To......
  • Erie Ins. Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Viewpoint, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:12-CV-81
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • 5 de outubro de 2012
    ...presented by the instant action are not already pending before the state court. Moreover, as the court in Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, 991 F.Supp. 767, 770 (S.D. W.Va. 1998) noted, "it is not uncommon for insurers to file declaratory judgment actions to determine efficiently their duties ......
3 cases
  • Dababnah v. West Virginia Bd. of Medicine, No. Civ.A. 5:98-0639.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • 11 de maio de 1999
    ...and decline to hear plaintiff's claims for declaratory relief. In this district, the recent decision of Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, 991 F.Supp. 767 (S.D.W.Va.1998), detailed the Fourth Circuit's framework for the court's exercise of discretion under the Declaratory Judgment First, a dist......
  • First Financial Ins. v. Crossroads Lounge, CIV. A. No. 5:00-1172.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • 21 de maio de 2001
    ...92 F.2d at 324]." Nautilus Ins. Co. v. Winchester Homes, Inc., 15 F.3d 371, 375 (4th Cir. 1994); cf. Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, 991 F.Supp. 767, 768 (S.D.W.Va.1998) (Haden, C.J.) (noting that Fourth Circuit framework is "[c]onsistent with Wilton"); but cf. Poston, 88 F.3d at 257-58 ("To......
  • Erie Ins. Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Viewpoint, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:12-CV-81
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • 5 de outubro de 2012
    ...presented by the instant action are not already pending before the state court. Moreover, as the court in Allstate Ins. Co. v. DiGiorgi, 991 F.Supp. 767, 770 (S.D. W.Va. 1998) noted, "it is not uncommon for insurers to file declaratory judgment actions to determine efficiently their duties ......

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