In re Chinese Manufactured Drywall Products Liab. Litig..This Document Relates To Cases: 09–6072, 09–7393, 10–688, 10–792, 10–929, 10–930, 10–931, 10–1420, 10–1693, 10–1828., MDL No. 2047.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Writing for the CourtELDON E. FALLON, District Judge.
Citation759 F.Supp.2d 822
PartiesIn re CHINESE MANUFACTURED DRYWALL PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION.This Document Relates to Cases: 09–6072, 09–7393, 10–688, 10–792, 10–929, 10–930, 10–931, 10–1420, 10–1693, 10–1828.
Docket NumberMDL No. 2047.
Decision Date16 December 2010

759 F.Supp.2d 822

In re CHINESE MANUFACTURED DRYWALL PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION.This Document Relates to Cases: 09–6072, 09–7393, 10–688, 10–792, 10–929, 10–930, 10–931, 10–1420, 10–1693, 10–1828.

MDL No. 2047.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana.

Dec. 16, 2010.


[759 F.Supp.2d 826]

Jeffrey P. Berniard, Berniard Law Firm, LLC, New Orleans, LA, for Plaintiffs.Warren Horn, Heller, Draper, Hayden, Patrick & Horn, LLC, New Orleans, LA, Jason Paul Foote, Brittany M. Courtenay, Chopin, Wagar, Richard & Kutcher, LLP, Metairie, LA, for Defendants.

ORDER & REASONS
ELDON E. FALLON, District Judge.

Before the Court are the following motions filed by homeowners' insurance carriers (collectively referred to as the “Insurers”):

(1) Allstate Insurance Company's (“Allstate”) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4472);

(2) ASI Lloyds' Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (R. 4462);

(3) Auto Club Family Insurance Company's (“Auto Club”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4651);

(4) Federal Insurance Company's (“Federal”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4459);

(5) Property & Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford's (“Hartford”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (R. 4494);

(6) Homesite Insurance Company's (“Homesite”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4464);

[759 F.Supp.2d 827]

(7) The Standard Fire Insurance Company's (“Standard”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4467);

(8) State Farm Fire & Casualty Company and State Farm General Insurance Company's (collectively referred to as “State Farm”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4503);

(9) USAA Casualty Insurance Company's (“USAA”) Motion to Dismiss (R. 4515);

(10) USAA's Motion to Dismiss (R. 3251).

As to these motions, the Court has received extensive briefing and heard from the parties on oral argument. The Court has considered the arguments raised therein, as well as the applicable facts and law, and is now prepared to rule on the motions.

I. BACKGROUND

The present matter arises from the manufacture, distribution, sale, and installation of Chinese-manufactured drywall which is contained in homes owned or occupied by the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have filed suit against the manufacturers, distributors, sellers, and installers of the Chinese drywall, as well as others in the chain of commerce, and their insurers, alleging this drywall emits foul odors and damages metal and electronic elements and devices in their homes. These suits, among many others, comprise MDL 2047, In re: Chinese-manufactured Drywall Products Liability Litigation, and do so because of the commonality of facts involved. As the MDL transferee Court, this Court has appointed steering committees, issued numerous pretrial orders, monitored discovery and depositions, held monthly status conferences, issued decisions on numerous motions, and, most notably, resolved ten bellwether cases from Virginia and Louisiana.

A number of these Plaintiffs have procured homeowners' insurance and sought coverage thereunder for the damages wrought on their homes by the Chinese drywall. Accordingly, homeowners' insurers were brought into the litigation directly by the Plaintiffs or on their own in declaratory judgment actions. Many of these homeowners' insurers have since filed dispositive motions seeking relief from the litigation.

The Court, determining it was an appropriate time in the MDL litigation, issued an Order establishing a briefing and hearing schedule for the dispositive motions filed by homeowners' insurers whose coverage is in dispute. (R. 4300). This Order scheduled a hearing on these motions, with oral argument, on September 2, 2010. Id. Ten motions were set for hearing and/or filed in response to this Order and are listed above; eight are Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, and two are Rule 12(c) motions for judgment on the pleadings. The Court will address these motions collectively, first stating the standard of review for Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c) motions, then the law on interpretation of insurance policies, and thereafter, identify and discuss the common legal issues raised and the applicable policy language and facts alleged.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Both a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings are subject to the same standard of review. Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 313 (5th Cir.2002). When reviewing these motions, courts must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir.1996). However, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative

[759 F.Supp.2d 828]

level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “ ‘To survive [these motions], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir.2009)(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ––– U.S. ––––, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). The moving party bears the burden of showing that “plaintiff can prove no set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint which would entitle it to relief.” Baton Rouge Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council AFL–CIO v. Jacobs Constructors, Inc., 804 F.2d 879, 881 (5th Cir.1986). The reviewing court “must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Am. Waste & Pollution Control Co. v. Browning Ferris Inc., 949 F.2d 1384, 1386 (5th Cir.1991). Conclusory allegations or legal conclusions, however, will not suffice to defeat these motions. See Fernandez–Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir.1993).

As a general rule, in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, a district court must limit itself to the facts stated in the complaint. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. For example, a court may also consider documents that a defendant attaches to the motion which are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and central to the claims therein. See Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir.2000). In the present matter, the homeowners' insurance policies are attached to the motions, see (R. 3251, 4459, 4462, 4464, 4467, 4472, 4494, 4503, 4515, 4651), and are central to the coverage claims in the complaints; thus, the Court may consider these policies in resolving the present motions. See e.g. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir.2007).

Additionally, a court, in reviewing these motions, may consider matters of which judicial notice may be taken. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007)(citing 5B Wright & Miller § 1357 (3d ed. 2004 & Supp. 2007)). In particular, a court may take judicial notice of items in the record of the case, related cases, and matters of public record, in reviewing a motion to dismiss and/or motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Jean Alexander Cosmetics, Inc. v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., 458 F.3d 244 (3d Cir.2006); Kourtis v. Cameron, 419 F.3d 989 (9th Cir.2005); Rodi v. S. New England Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5 (1st Cir.2004); Ratcliff v. Rainwater, 93 Fed.Appx. 623 (5th Cir.2004); Gordon v. Impulse Mktg. Group, Inc., 375 F.Supp.2d 1040 (E.D.Wash.2005); Douris v. Dougherty, 192 F.Supp.2d 358 (E.D.Pa.2002); French v. Chosin Few, Inc., 173 F.Supp.2d 451(W.D.N.C.2001). For purposes of the present motions, the Court exercises its discretion to take judicial notice of the Omnibus Complaints in which the Plaintiffs are named in addition to their individual complaints.

III. LAW ON INTERPRETATION OF CONTRACTS

All of the motions before the Court involve the interpretation of coverage-related provisions in homeowners' insurance policies issued to Louisiana Plaintiffs and/or on Louisiana homes which contain Chinese-manufactured drywall. Since these contracts were issued to Louisiana homeowners on Louisiana properties, the Court must look to the substantive law of Louisiana to interpret these contracts. See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1939);

[759 F.Supp.2d 829]

see e.g. In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 206 (5th Cir.2007); Trinity Indus., Inc. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 916 F.2d 267, 269 n. 4 (5th Cir.1990).

The Louisiana Supreme Court has provided the following guidance to courts in interpreting insurance policies,

An insurance policy is a contract between the parties and should be construed by using the general rules of interpretation of contracts set forth in the Louisiana Civil Code. The judiciary's role in interpreting insurance contracts is to ascertain the common intent of the parties to the contract.

Words and phrases used in an insurance policy are to be construed using their plain, ordinary and generally prevailing meaning, unless the words have acquired a technical meaning. An insurance contract, however, should not be interpreted in an unreasonable or strained manner under the guise of contractual interpretation to enlarge or to restrict its provisions beyond what is reasonably contemplated by unambiguous terms or achieve an absurd conclusion. The rules of construction do not authorize a perversion of the words or the exercise of invention powers to create an ambiguity where none exists or the making of a new contract when the terms express with sufficient clearness the parties' intent.

Ambiguous policy provisions are generally construed against the insurer and in favor of coverage. Under this rule of strict construction, equivocal provisions seeking to narrow an insurer's obligation are strictly construed against the insurer. That strict construction principle applies only if the ambiguous policy provision is susceptible to two or more reasonable...

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47 practice notes
  • United Nuclear Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 32,939.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • August 23, 2012
    ...“occur[s] from an unknown cause or [is] an unusual result of a known cause.” In re Chinese Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 759 F.Supp.2d 822, 834 (E.D.La.2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, varying interpretations of “sudden” from cases considering other t......
  • Bethany Boardwalk Grp. LLC v. Everest Sec. Ins. Co., Civil Action No. ELH-18-3918
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 5, 2020
    ...result of the drywall," rather than "the result of an extraneous event." In re Chinese Manufactured Drwyall Prods. Liab. Litig., 759 F. Supp. 2d 822, 851 (E.D. La. Page 222010); see also Bishop v. Alfa Mut. Ins. Co., 796 F. Supp. 2d 814 (S.D. Miss. 2011); Travco Ins. Co. v. Ward, 715 F. Sup......
  • United Nuclear Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., Docket No. 32,939
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • August 23, 2012
    ..."occur[s] from an unknown cause or [is] an unusual result of a known cause." In re Chinese Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 759 F. Supp. 2d 822, 834 (E.D. La. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, varying interpretations of "sudden" from cases considering oth......
  • Taja Invs. LLC v. Peerless Ins. Co., Case No. 1:15-cv-01647-GBL-TCB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • July 21, 2016
    ...drywall were a direct and continuous result of the drywall's defect, the ensuing loss exception was not applicable to restore coverage. 759 F.Supp.2d 822, at 850 (E.D.La.2010) ; see also Holland v. Breaux , 2005 WL 3542899, at *6 (E.D.La. Nov. 22, 2005) (finding the ensuing loss clause inap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • United Nuclear Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 32,939.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • August 23, 2012
    ...“occur[s] from an unknown cause or [is] an unusual result of a known cause.” In re Chinese Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 759 F.Supp.2d 822, 834 (E.D.La.2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, varying interpretations of “sudden” from cases considering other t......
  • Bethany Boardwalk Grp. LLC v. Everest Sec. Ins. Co., Civil Action No. ELH-18-3918
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 5, 2020
    ...result of the drywall," rather than "the result of an extraneous event." In re Chinese Manufactured Drwyall Prods. Liab. Litig., 759 F. Supp. 2d 822, 851 (E.D. La. Page 222010); see also Bishop v. Alfa Mut. Ins. Co., 796 F. Supp. 2d 814 (S.D. Miss. 2011); Travco Ins. Co. v. Ward, 715 F. Sup......
  • United Nuclear Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., Docket No. 32,939
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • August 23, 2012
    ..."occur[s] from an unknown cause or [is] an unusual result of a known cause." In re Chinese Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 759 F. Supp. 2d 822, 834 (E.D. La. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, varying interpretations of "sudden" from cases considering oth......
  • Taja Invs. LLC v. Peerless Ins. Co., Case No. 1:15-cv-01647-GBL-TCB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • July 21, 2016
    ...drywall were a direct and continuous result of the drywall's defect, the ensuing loss exception was not applicable to restore coverage. 759 F.Supp.2d 822, at 850 (E.D.La.2010) ; see also Holland v. Breaux , 2005 WL 3542899, at *6 (E.D.La. Nov. 22, 2005) (finding the ensuing loss clause inap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
  • Louisiana Appellate Court Finds Coverage For Covid Business Losses
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • June 20, 2022
    ...or uninhabitable.’ Widder, 11-0196, p. 4, 82 So. 3d at 296 (citing In re Chinese Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Litigation, 759 F. Supp. 2d 822 (E.D. La. 2010); Ross v. C. Adams Construction & Design, 10-852 (La. App. 5 Cir. 6/14/11), 70 So. 3d 949). Widder’s holding relies on a li......

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