Jacobsen v. Hartford Insurance Company Flood & Home, 011420 FED3, 19-2381

Docket Nº:19-2381
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:ROBERT JACOBSEN; CAROL JACOBSEN v. HARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY FLOOD & HOME (D.C. No. 3-13-cv-06910) ROBERT JACOBSEN; CAROL JACOBSEN v. HARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE MIDWEST (D.C. No. 3-14-cv-03094) Robert Jacobsen, Appellant
Judge Panel:Before: SHWARTZ, RESTREPO, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges
Case Date:January 14, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

ROBERT JACOBSEN; CAROL JACOBSEN

v.

HARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY FLOOD & HOME (D.C. No. 3-13-cv-06910)

ROBERT JACOBSEN; CAROL JACOBSEN

v.

HARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE MIDWEST (D.C. No. 3-14-cv-03094)

Robert Jacobsen, Appellant

No. 19-2381

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 14, 2020

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) December 2, 2019

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil Action Nos. 3-13-cv-01540 & 3-14-cv-03094) District Judge: Honorable Peter G. Sheridan

Before: SHWARTZ, RESTREPO, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges

OPINION [*]

PER CURIAM.

Robert Jacobsen appeals from the District Court's order entering judgment against him in this property insurance dispute. We will affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I.

Jacobsen, along with his now-deceased wife, 1 owned a property in Brick Township, New Jersey. The Jacobsens maintained flood insurance on the property through an entity we refer to as Hartford-Flood, and they maintained homeowners insurance on the property through an entity we refer to as Hartford-Property.2 The Jacobsens' property sustained damage during Hurricane Irene in 2011 and then again during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. As a result, the Jacobsens submitted claims for flood damage to Hartford-Flood and for non-flood damage to Hartford-Property. Hartford-Flood denied the Jacobsens' claim relating to Hurricane Irene for failure to submit a timely proof of claim, but it paid them approximately $155, 000 for damage related to Superstorm Sandy. Hartford-Property paid the Jacobsens approximately $3, 800 for damage related to Hurricane Irene, but it denied their claim for damage related to Superstorm Sandy on the ground that the non-flood damage caused by that specific storm did not exceed their deducible.

Dissatisfied with that result, the Jacobsens filed suit pro se against both Hartford-Flood and Hartford-Property seeking payment of their full policy limits for damage caused by Hurricane Irene (D.N.J. Civ. No. 3-13-cv-06910) and by Superstorm Sandy (D.N.J. Civ. No. 3-14-cv-03094). (The Jacobsens also filed other actions that they claim are related, but only these two actions are presently before us.) Hartford-Flood ultimately moved for summary judgment in both actions, and the Jacobsens responded with motions for summary judgment against both Hartford-Flood and Hartford-Property. Hartford-Property opposed the Jacobsens' motions, but it did not seek summary judgment itself and instead conceded that the Jacobsens' claims under their homeowners' policy raised genuine issues for trial. By order entered March 31, 2017, the District Court granted Hartford-Flood's motions and denied the Jacobsens' motions.

That ruling left for trial the Jacobsens' claims against Hartford-Property. Pretrial case-management proceedings proved to be protracted, largely as a result of the Jacobsens' numerous and repetitive motions for various forms of relief (including for the recusal of the District Judges and the Magistrate Judge involved in this case). The District Court ultimately scheduled trial for March 11, 2019. At 11:19 p.m. the night before, Jacobsen faxed a letter to the District Court stating that he was "unable to fly out this day" (from Phoenix, Arizona, where he was living) because of "weather problems." Jacobsen also "suggested" that the District Court reschedule trial for the following week. On the morning of March 11-with a jury having been called, with Hartford-Property's counsel present, and with Hartford-Property's witnesses either present or readily available-Jacobsen did not appear. In response, the District Court first ascertained that the flight on which Jacobsen claimed to have been scheduled in fact departed and arrived on March 10 roughly on time. The District Court then called Jacobsen's telephone number of record in Phoenix and received no answer.[3] As a result, Hartford-Property orally moved for dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) for failure to prosecute. The District Court granted that motion and entered a judgment of "no cause of action" that same day. The District Court's judgment did not explain its basis for concluding that such a judgment was warranted.

Shortly thereafter, the Jacobsens filed several motions, including a timely motion for reconsideration. The District Court heard telephonic argument on those motions on May 13, 2019. In his motions and during the argument, Jacobsen claimed that he was unable to be seated on his scheduled flight and that his alleged inability to fly out on May 10 resulted in part from the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX earlier that day. Jacobsen also asserted that he still wanted to go to trial. The District Court, with little discussion, explained that it entered judgment on the basis of what it knew at the time and that Jacobsen had provided no reason for it to change that decision. Thus, by order entered May 16, 2019, the District Court denied Jacobsen's motion for reconsideration for the reasons it explained on the record. Jacobsen appeals.4

II.

As an initial matter, Jacobsen asserts that he appeals "all" of the District Court's rulings, which would include its many interlocutory orders relating to discovery and case-management issues. Jacobsen, however, has neither clearly identified the interlocutory orders that he seeks to challenge nor raised any meaningful argument regarding those orders. To the contrary, his briefs consist largely of conclusory assertions of error, criminality and judicial bias. Those assertions state no basis for relief. In particular, we reject Jacobsen's assertions that the District Judges and Magistrate Judge involved in these cases were biased and should have recused themselves. Jacobsen has offered nothing but conclusory assertions in that regard, and our review reveals that all concerned exhibited considerable patience in the face of his numerous pro se filings and his seeming inability to focus on the relevant issues.

Those points aside, the dispositive rulings before us are (1) the District Court's order entering summary judgment for Hartford-Flood in both actions, and (2) the District Court's order dismissing Jacobsen's claims against Hartford-Property in both actions for Jacobsen's failure to appear at trial.

Regarding summary judgment, Jacobsen once again has not raised any meaningful challenge to that ruling...

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