Cruickshank-Wallace v. CNA Financial Corp., 042219 FED3, 18-3635

Docket Nº:18-3635
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:BONNIE CRUICKSHANK-WALLACE; WILLIAM WALLACE, Appellants v. CNA FINANCIAL CORPORATION; CONTINENTAL CORPORATION; CONTINENTAL CASUALTY CO; COLUMBIA CASUALTY CO
Judge Panel:Before: CHAGARES, BIBAS, and GREENBERG, Circuit Judges
Case Date:April 22, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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BONNIE CRUICKSHANK-WALLACE; WILLIAM WALLACE, Appellants

v.

CNA FINANCIAL CORPORATION; CONTINENTAL CORPORATION; CONTINENTAL CASUALTY CO; COLUMBIA CASUALTY CO

No. 18-3635

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

April 22, 2019

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) April 22, 2019

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2-18-cv-02769) District Judge: Honorable Gerald J. Pappert

Before: CHAGARES, BIBAS, and GREENBERG, Circuit Judges

OPINION [*]

PER CURIAM

Bonnie Cruickshank-Wallace and William Wallace (collectively, Appellants) appeal the District Court's grant of two motions to dismiss: the first pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) based on the doctrine of res judicata and the second pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) for a lack of personal jurisdiction. For the following reasons, we will affirm.

I.

This case stems from state court proceedings that had their genesis over twenty years ago. In 1998, a bank sued Appellants in Maryland state court for defaulting on loans and receiving fraudulent conveyances. In 2006, at the close of proceedings in the Maryland state court, Appellants retained Philadelphia firm Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg, and Ellers, LLP (Klehr) to sue the bank for abuse of process. That case was removed to federal court and ultimately dismissed.

Immediately following the dismissal, Appellants retained Gerald P. Egan and the Egan Young Law Firm to sue the Klehr firm for legal malpractice in Pennsylvania state court. The court granted summary judgment for the Klehr firm. Appellants then retained James Tupitza to handle the appeal, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Subsequently, Appellants, proceeding pro se, sued Egan for malpractice.[1] At the same time, Appellants sued Tupitza for malpractice in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, and eventually amended their complaint to name CNA Financial Corporation (CNAF), Continental Casualty Company (Continental), and Columbia Casualty Company (Columbia) as additional defendants. In addition to various malpractice claims against Tupitza, Appellants alleged that CNAF, Continental, and Columbia insured both Tupitza and the Klehr firm, and accused them of concerted tortious conduct, tortious interference with Tupitza's contract, and agency liability for Tupitza's alleged breach of fiduciary duties.

The Common Pleas Court dismissed all claims against CNAF for lack of personal jurisdiction, as the record did not demonstrate that CNAF controlled Continental or Columbia. Dkt. #13-8. The court granted summary judgment in favor of Tupitza because Appellants did not produce an expert witness, which the court concluded was required to show that Tupitza committed legal malpractice.2 As a result, the court reasoned that the claims against Continental and Columbia also failed, since those "derivative claims could only succeed . . . if the [c]laims against Tupitza were successful." Dkt. #13-6 at 16. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the summary judgment. See Cruickshank-Wal-lace v. CNA Fin. Corp., No. 2403 EDA 2016, 2017 WL 4231601, at *1 (Pa. Super. Ct. Sept. 25, 2017) (not precedential opinion).

Appellants filed the current suit against CNAF, Continental, Columbia, and The Continental Corporation (TCC)3 (collectively, Appellees) two weeks after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Appellants' petition for allowance to appeal the state court judgment. Appellants later filed an amended complaint, in which they alleged claims virtually identical to those dismissed by the state...

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