Matter of Nuclear Elec. Ins. & Central Power & Light, No. 96 Civ. 2661 (SHS).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtSTEIN
Citation926 F. Supp. 428
PartiesIn the Matter of the ARBITRATION BETWEEN NUCLEAR ELECTRIC INSURANCE LIMITED, Petitioner, and CENTRAL POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 96 Civ. 2661 (SHS).
Decision Date24 May 1996

926 F. Supp. 428

In the Matter of the ARBITRATION BETWEEN NUCLEAR ELECTRIC INSURANCE LIMITED, Petitioner,
and
CENTRAL POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY, Respondent.

No. 96 Civ. 2661 (SHS).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

May 24, 1996.


926 F. Supp. 429
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
926 F. Supp. 430
Lawrence W. Newman, Baker & McKenzie, New York City, for petitioner

OPINION

STEIN, District Judge:

This matter is before this Court on the petition of Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited ("NEIL") (1) to compel respondent Central Power and Light ("CPL") to arbitrate, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 4, all of CPL's claims that CPL has asserted against NEIL in an action filed in the state courts of Texas, and (2) to stay the pending Texas state court proceedings pending final disposition of the arbitration. Pursuant to an order to show cause signed on April 18, 1996, this matter was heard on May 17, 1996. For the following reasons, the petition is granted.

BACKGROUND

The pertinent facts in this case are essentially undisputed. NEIL is a mutual insurance company owned and managed by member insureds, all of which are United States utilities companies that own or operate nuclear power plants. (Petition to Compel Arbitration and to Stay Texas State Court Proceedings ¶ 1.) NEIL provides insurance coverage to its members for the expense of purchasing replacement power resulting from outages that exceed 21 weeks in duration due to property damage. (Petition ¶ 1). NEIL is a Bermuda corporation with its principal place of business in Delaware. (Petition ¶ 1.) CPL is a Texas corporation with its principal place of business in Texas, a member insured of NEIL, and part-owner of the South Texas Project ("STP") nuclear facility in Bay City, Texas. (Petition ¶ 2.)

On September 15, 1992, CPL purchased and entered into a NEIL Extra Expense Policy, providing for weekly indemnity of $576,827 for STP unit 1 and $593,338 for STP unit 2, for outages exceeding 21 weeks. (Petition ¶ 4.) The limit of liability is $70,188,309 for unit 1 and $72,197,368 for unit 2. (Petition ¶ 4.) The policy provides:

Any claim or controversy between CPL and NEIL as to any matters arising out of or relating to this Policy (other than failure to agree as to the amount of the Loss), which is not settled between themselves, shall be submitted to arbitration in New York City by three arbitrators at the request of either CPL or NEIL.

(Policy, attached to Petition as ex. 1, at § XI.14(b)). The policy also provides: "To the extent that any claim or controversy between CPL and NEIL hereunder is not subject to appraisal or arbitration for any reason whatsoever, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York shall have exclusive jurisdiction thereof." (Petition, ex. 1, at § XI.14(c)). It further provides that New York law governs the agreement. (Petition, ex. 1, at § XI.13.)

Section 8 of Article 1.14-1 of the Texas Insurance Code ("section 8") provides that, except for insurance policies that are "independently procured" pursuant to § 2(b)4 of that Article, "any contract of insurance effective in this state and entered into by an unauthorized insurer is unenforceable by such insurer." While both parties agree that NEIL is an "unauthorized insurer" within the meaning of the Texas Insurance Code, NEIL contends that the policy falls into the "independently procured" exception and CPL disputes this.

On August 19, 1994, CPL submitted a claim in the amount of $24,141,662.74 for losses occurring due to shutdowns at STP. (Petition ¶ 8.) NEIL denied the claim on November 21, 1995, on the ground that the claim was not covered under the policy. (Petition ¶ 9.) On April 9, 1996, CPL filed suit in the 148th Judicial District Court of Nueces County, Texas, claiming breach of contract

926 F. Supp. 431
and of NEIL's obligation of good faith and fair dealing in violation of Texas law. (Petition ¶¶ 10-12.) CPL has also threatened to seek treble damages if NEIL does not pay the claim by June 9, 1996. (Petition ¶ 13.) CPL also demands that NEIL, as an unauthorized insurance company doing business in Texas, post a $25 million bond, pursuant to Texas state law, to cover any potential judgment before filing any pleadings in that action. (Affidavit of Lawrence W. Newman, sworn to on April 15, 1996, at ¶ 16; id. ex. 4, ¶ 31.)

On April 15, 1996, NEIL served on CPL a Request for Arbitration (Petition ¶ 16.), and filed this petition in this Court. By Order to Show Cause, NEIL sought a temporary restraining order staying the Texas action, which was denied. As noted above, argument on the petition was heard on May 17, 1996.

DISCUSSION

A. Abstention

CPL first contends that this Court should abstain from hearing this petition pursuant to the abstention doctrine first enunciated in Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315, 333-34, 63 S.Ct. 1098, 1107, 87 L.Ed. 1424 (1943). In its most recent explication of that doctrine, the U.S. Supreme Court has written:

Where timely and adequate state-court review is available, a federal court sitting in equity must decline to interfere with the proceedings or orders of state administrative agencies: (1) when there are "difficult questions of state law bearing on policy problems of substantial public import whose importance transcends the result in the case then at bar"; or (2) where the "exercise of federal review of the question in a case and in similar cases would be disruptive of state efforts to establish a coherent policy with respect to a matter of substantial public concern."

New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. Council of the City of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 361, 109 S.Ct. 2506, 2514, 105 L.Ed.2d 298 (1989) ("NOPSI") (quoting Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 814, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 1244-45, 47 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976)); see also In re Joint E. & S. Dist. Asbestos Litigation, 78 F.3d 764, 775 (2d Cir.1996); German v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 885 F.Supp. 537, 561 (S.D.N.Y.1995).

CPL argues that abstention is appropriate here because the case involves a difficult question of the interpretation of the Texas Insurance Code, and insurance is an area of regulation uniquely within the cognizance of the states by virtue of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1011 et seq. CPL also notes that the Texas action was filed before this petition.

However, the mere existence of a pending matter in state court, even one that preceded in time the federal proceeding, is insufficient to require abstention. See German, 885 F.Supp. at 561. Nor is abstention required merely because this action may concern the interpretation of Texas law regulating insurance. See Alliance of American Insurers v. Cuomo, 854 F.2d 591, 600-01 (2d Cir.1988). "Burford does not require abstention whenever there exists a complex state administrative process, or even in all cases where there is a potential for conflict with state regulatory law or policy from federal litigation...." Bethphage Lutheran Serv., Inc. v. Weicker, 965 F.2d 1239, 1247 (2d Cir.1992); see also NOPSI, 491 U.S. at 362, 109 S.Ct. at 2515; County of Suffolk v. Long Island Lighting Co., 907 F.2d 1295, 1309 (2d Cir.1990).

This matter is essentially a contract dispute between two purely private parties, implicating Texas's interest as a regulator of the insurance business only indirectly. CPL has not identified with specificity any aspect of Texas's administrative scheme that would be unduly hampered by the Court's exercise of jurisdiction over this case. Moreover, it is not clear that the Texas Insurance Code has any application to this case, given that the parties dispute whether New York or Texas law applies. In short, CPL has not demonstrated that abstention here is necessary to "avoid needless disruption of state efforts to establish coherent policy in" the field of insurance regulation. Friedman v. Revenue

926 F. Supp. 432
Management of New York, Inc., 38 F.3d 668, 671 (2d Cir.1994)

Given the narrowness of the Burford abstention doctrine, see Tribune Co. v. Abiola, 66 F.3d 12, 17 (2d Cir.1995), and this Court's "virtually unflagging obligation" to exercise the jurisdiction it possesses, Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 817, 96 S.Ct. at 1246; see Sheerbonnet, Ltd. v. American Express Bank Ltd., 17 F.3d 46, 49 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 67, 130 L.Ed.2d 23 (1994), the Court declines to abstain from hearing this petition.

B. Petition to Compel Arbitration

Title 9 U.S.C. § 4 provides that, on a petition to compel arbitration, "upon being satisfied that the making of the agreement for arbitration or the failure to comply therewith is not in issue," the Court must grant the petition. Thus, in deciding such a petition, the Court may consider only two questions: first, whether the parties have executed an arbitration clause covering the dispute in issue; and second, whether one party has refused to abide by the arbitration clause. See PaineWebber Inc. v. Bybyk, 81 F.3d 1193, 1198-99 (2d Cir.1996). If both questions are answered in the affirmative, the Court must grant the petition.

CPL does not contest the fact that, by filing an action in state court, it did not abide by the arbitration clause. Therefore, the only remaining question is whether the parties have entered into an arbitration agreement that covers the instant dispute. Section XI.14(b) of the policy provides for arbitration of "any claim or controversy between CPL and NEIL as to any matters arising out of or relating to this Policy (other than failure to agree as to the amount of the Loss)." This language is broad enough to cover a disputed claim made pursuant to the policy. See AT & T Technologies, Inc. v. Communications Workers of America, 475 U.S. 643, 650, 106 S.Ct. 1415, 1419, 89 L.Ed.2d 648 (1986). Indeed, disputes such as the underlying one here appear to be the primary focus of the clause. However, CPL proffers two reasons why the Court should find...

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  • Brito v. Major Energy Elec. Servs., LLC, Civil Action No. ELH-20-0230
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 8, 2021
    ...Citibank FSB , 871 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2017) ; Matter of Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. (Cent. Power & Light Co.) , 926 F. Supp. 428, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Where, however, a party claims that it never actually manifested assent to a contract containing an agreement to ar......
  • Brito v. Major Energy Elec. Servs., Civil Action No. ELH-20-0230
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 8, 2021
    ...v. Citibank FSB, 871 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2017); Matter of Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. (Cent. Power & Light Co.), 926 F. Supp. 428, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Where, however, a party claims that it never actually manifested assent to a contract containing an agreement to ar......
  • Brito v. Major Energy Elec. Servs., Civil Action No. ELH-20-0230
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 8, 2021
    ...v. Citibank FSB, 871 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2017); Matter of Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. (Cent. Power & Light Co.), 926 F. Supp. 428, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Where, however, a party claims that it never actually manifested assent to a contract containing an agreement to ar......
  • Great Earth Companies, Inc. v. Simons, No. 00-2033.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 1, 2002
    ...final judgment of the district court on this issue. See In re Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. and Cent. Power & Light Co., 926 F.Supp. 428, 436 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("The courts in this district have consistently held that a stay [of state-court proceedings], when issued subsequent t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Brito v. Major Energy Elec. Servs., LLC, Civil Action No. ELH-20-0230
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 8, 2021
    ...Citibank FSB , 871 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2017) ; Matter of Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. (Cent. Power & Light Co.) , 926 F. Supp. 428, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Where, however, a party claims that it never actually manifested assent to a contract containing an agreement to ar......
  • Brito v. Major Energy Elec. Servs., Civil Action No. ELH-20-0230
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 8, 2021
    ...v. Citibank FSB, 871 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2017); Matter of Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. (Cent. Power & Light Co.), 926 F. Supp. 428, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Where, however, a party claims that it never actually manifested assent to a contract containing an agreement to ar......
  • Brito v. Major Energy Elec. Servs., Civil Action No. ELH-20-0230
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 8, 2021
    ...v. Citibank FSB, 871 F.3d 1295, 1303 (11th Cir. 2017); Matter of Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. (Cent. Power & Light Co.), 926 F. Supp. 428, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("Where, however, a party claims that it never actually manifested assent to a contract containing an agreement to ar......
  • Great Earth Companies, Inc. v. Simons, No. 00-2033.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 1, 2002
    ...final judgment of the district court on this issue. See In re Arbitration Between Nuclear Elec. Ins. Ltd. and Cent. Power & Light Co., 926 F.Supp. 428, 436 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("The courts in this district have consistently held that a stay [of state-court proceedings], when issued subsequent t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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