Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, No. 95-1038

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore WILKINSON, Chief Judge, ERVIN, Circuit Judge, and BUTZNER; ERVIN
Citation88 F.3d 255
Docket NumberNo. 95-1038
Decision Date20 June 1996
PartiesThe CENTENNIAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Barbara POSTON; Victor Poston, Defendants-Appellees.

Page 255

88 F.3d 255
The CENTENNIAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Barbara POSTON; Victor Poston, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 95-1038.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.
Argued April 4, 1996.
Decided June 20, 1996.

Page 256

ARGUED: Eric Wayne Iskra, Spilman, Thomas & Battle, Charleston, West Virginia, for Appellant. John Frederick Cyrus, Gardner & Cyrus, Huntington, West Virginia, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: Charles L. Woody, Neva G. Lusk, Spilman, Thomas & Battle, Charleston, West Virginia, for Appellant. David M. Pancake, Levy, Trautwein & Pancake, Huntington, West Virginia, for Appellees.

Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, ERVIN, Circuit Judge, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge ERVIN wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge WILKINSON and Senior Judge BUTZNER joined.

CORRECTED OPINION

ERVIN, Circuit Judge:

The district court dismissed Centennial Life Insurance Company's declaratory judgment action. Because a pending state action will resolve the issue raised in the federal action, along with a number of issues not raised here, we believe that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Therefore, we affirm the decision below.

I.

Soon after Centennial Life Insurance Company issued a health insurance policy to Victor and Barbara Poston, it began to suspect that the insurance application contained material misrepresentations. A hospital requested that Centennial authorize a liver transplant for Victor Poston, and two days later the insurer rescinded the policy. The Postons objected to the notice of rescission.

On June 22, 1994, Centennial brought this diversity action in the district court, seeking a declaration that the insurance policy was void based on the Postons' fraudulent misrepresentations. On August 12, 1994, Barbara Poston initiated a state court action seeking enforcement of the policy and damages, and asserting separate and alternative claims against the insurance agent. On the same day, Poston moved to dismiss the federal action.

The district court found that the issues involved in Centennial's declaratory judgment action could be resolved as efficiently in state court as in federal court, and had in fact been raised in the state proceeding. The court thus concluded that "it should decline jurisdiction over this action in deference to the state court action."

II.

The Federal Declaratory Judgment Act provides that district courts "may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration whether or not further relief is or could be sought." 28 U.S.C.A. § 2201(a). This power has consistently been considered discretionary. See, e.g., Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co., 316 U.S. 491, 494, 62 S.Ct. 1173, 1175, 86 L.Ed. 1620 (1942); Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., --- U.S. ----, ----, 115 S.Ct. 2137, 2144, 132 L.Ed.2d 214, 225 (1995); Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 324 (4th Cir.1937).

The Fourth Circuit has explained that a declaratory judgment action is appropriate "when the judgment will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue, and ... when it will terminate and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding." Quarles, 92 F.2d at 325 (quoting Edwin M. Borchard, Declaratory Judgments 107-09 (1934)). It should not be used "to try a controversy by piecemeal, or to try

Page 257

particular issues without settling the entire controversy, or to interfere with an action which has already been instituted." Quarles, 92 F.2d at 325. The Supreme Court explained that, when a related state proceeding is underway, a court considering a declaratory judgment action should specifically consider whether the controversy "can better be settled in the proceeding pending in the state court." Brillhart, 316 U.S. at 495, 62 S.Ct. at 1176. This consideration should be guided by a number of factors, including the nature and scope of the state proceeding and "whether the...

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  • Gaston v. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:16-CV-00009-KDB-DCK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • September 2, 2020
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding." Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston , 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir. 1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles , 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir. 1937) ). In short, "declaratory judgments are desi......
  • Herrmann Int'l, Inc. v. Herrmann Int'l Eur., CIVIL CASE NO. 1:17-cv-00073-MR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • March 6, 2021
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.'" Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 324 (4th Cir. 1937)).Page 66 Here, the Plaintiffs have brought cla......
  • Radiance Found., Inc. v. Nat'Lass'N, Civil Action No. 2:13cv53.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • June 10, 2014
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.” Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir.1937)). A court's authority to grant a declaratory jud......
  • Radiance Found., Inc. v. Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People, Civil Action No. 2:13cv53.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • June 10, 2014
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.”Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir.1937) ). A court's authority to grant a declaratory jud......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
299 cases
  • Gaston v. LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:16-CV-00009-KDB-DCK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • September 2, 2020
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding." Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston , 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir. 1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles , 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir. 1937) ). In short, "declaratory judgments are desi......
  • Herrmann Int'l, Inc. v. Herrmann Int'l Eur., CIVIL CASE NO. 1:17-cv-00073-MR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • March 6, 2021
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.'" Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 324 (4th Cir. 1937)).Page 66 Here, the Plaintiffs have brought cla......
  • Radiance Found., Inc. v. Nat'Lass'N, Civil Action No. 2:13cv53.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • June 10, 2014
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.” Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir.1937)). A court's authority to grant a declaratory jud......
  • Radiance Found., Inc. v. Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People, Civil Action No. 2:13cv53.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • June 10, 2014
    ...and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.”Centennial Life Ins. Co. v. Poston, 88 F.3d 255, 256 (4th Cir.1996) (quoting Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 325 (4th Cir.1937) ). A court's authority to grant a declaratory jud......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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