O'Neal v. Allstate Indem. Ins. Co., Case No.: 5:20-CV-743-LCB

Decision Date04 December 2020
Docket NumberCase No.: 5:20-CV-743-LCB
Citation505 F.Supp.3d 1193
Parties Wendell Dwayne O'NEAL, Plaintiff, v. ALLSTATE INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama

Wendell Dwayne O'Neal, Harvest, AL, pro se.

J. Mark Hart, Joseph L. Cowan, II, Hand Arendall Harrison Sale LLC, M. Keith Gann, Huie Fernambucq & Stewart LLP, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant Allstate Indemnity Insurance Company Inc.

Davis L. Middlemas, Ruth Elisabeth Bailey, Morris Bart & Associates LLC, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant Morris Bart LLC.

Brad A. Chynoweth, Jeremy Stone Weber, Office of the Attorney General State of Alabama, Montgomery, AL, for Defendant Claude E. Hundley, III.

M. Keith Gann, Huie Fernambucq & Stewart LLP, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant Keith Gann.

Albert J. Trousdale, II, Trousdale Ryan PC, Florence, AL, for Defendant Albert Trousdale.

Caleb Winslow Ballew, Martinson & Beason PC, Huntsville, AL, for Defendants Jeff Knight, William Plyant.

Edward E. Blair, City of Huntsville Office of the City Attorney, Huntsville, AL, for Defendants Trey Riley, Eddie Blair, Charles A. Fann, The City of Huntsville.

Davis L. Middlemas, Morris Bart & Associates LLC, Birmingham, AL, for Defendants Bailey, Davis L. Middlemas.

ORDER

LILES C. BURKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Over the past two decades, Wendell Dwayne O'Neal has sued persons, partnerships, and corporations. He has sued cities, states, and the federal government; federal agencies, federal officers, and federal employees. He's sued community colleges, technical universities, and boards of education; high schools, teachers, and school administrators; sheriffs' deputies, police officers, and 911 dispatchers. He's sued insurance agencies and claims adjustors; hotels and property managers; banks, credit unions, and collection agencies; fitness centers, phone companies, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. He's also sued law firms, defense attorneys, and student lawyers; city, state, and federal prosecutors; judicial clerks, court administrators, and judges throughout the nation. All told, he's sued over 400 parties.1 His 100-plus filings comprise civil actions, appeals, and petitions taken in the state courts of Alabama, Arizona, Minnesota, and Nevada; the District Courts of Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; the Bankruptcy Court of Arizona; the United States Tax Court; the Courts of Appeals for the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits; and the Supreme Court of the United States.2 Together this tidal wave of proceedings has spawned thousands upon thousands of pages of pleadings, motions, briefs, and orders. All but two have been without merit.

This case is no exception. Unhappy with the outcome of a recent settlement agreement, O'Neal now sues the parties involved in the earlier case for federal review of the state-court action, naming as defendants the presiding judge and attorneys of record. But because this case presents no "substantial" federal question, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to decide his claims, and the case must be dismissed.

BACKGROUND3

On October 22, 2018, O'Neal was riding in a car with his mother, Maple McCray, when a drunk driver in a Honda Accord struck them from behind. (Doc. 37 at 10; Doc. 37–5 at 29; Doc. 37–11 at 42). Though the driver, a woman named Geronda Gendron, was carrying no insurance of her own (Doc. 37–5 at 29), the Honda she was driving was covered under a policy issued by Allstate to another woman, Kimberly Broadnax. (Doc. 37–8 at 13). As a permissive driver of the Honda, Gendron qualified as an insured under Broadnax's Allstate policy. Id. The Honda was thus insured against bodily injury up to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. (Doc. 37–11 at 39).

The vehicle in which O'Neal and his mother were riding was also insured. (Doc. 37–2). McCray had subscribed to a policy with Metropolitan Property & Casualty Co. (MetLife) that provided up to $50,000 of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) with a cap of $100,000. (Doc. 37 at 8; 37–2 at 1–2).

Two weeks after the accident, O'Neal sued Gendron, Farmers Insurance Co., MidCentury Insurance Co., and a Farmers's claims adjuster named Leah Goslee for their roles in an alleged conspiracy that he claimed had "constructively denied [his] financial recovery from motor vehicle accident injuries through negligence, misrepresentation and fraud." O'Neal v. Farmers Ins. Co. , 5:18-CV-1831-LCB (N.D. Ala. April 18, 2019). Much like here, O'Neal's thrice-amended pleadings complained of a far-reaching conspiracy to deny him what he claimed to be full entitlements under his mother's UIM policy; and there too (though the parties were different) he reckoned the existence of a widespread misinformation campaign and a misbegotten insurance policy fabricated to deny him additional recovery. Id. And though his pleadings purported to invoke the Court's federal-question jurisdiction by reference to a host of federal statutes, the Court held that these invocations were entirely spurious: having stated no federal cause of action, O'Neal's claims sounded, if anywhere, in state tort law.4 Id. When it became clear in a fourth request to amend the pleadings that O'Neal had omitted essential, diversity-destroying parties, the Court dismissed the case without prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.

With the dismissal of the federal-court lawsuit, O'Neal filed two actions in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Alabama: O'Neal v. Allstate Northbrook Indemnity Co. , CV-2019-40 (Cir. Ct. Madison Cnty. Apr. 14, 2020), and O'Neal v. Metlife Auto & Home Ins. Agency Inc. , CV-2019-47 (Cir. Ct. Madison Cnty. July 26, 2019). Metlife was dismissed without prejudice. Allstate , in contrast, precipitated a settlement agreement, with O'Neal and Allstate settling for a policy-limits payout of $25,000.5 In consideration for the insurance money, O'Neal released Allstate, Broadnax, and Gendron from all claims arising out of the accident and signed a pro tanto stipulation of dismissal with Gendron and Broadnax. (Doc. 50–1; Doc. 52–1 at 3–4). Upon the filing of the stipulation and on motion by Allstate, Judge Claude E. Hundley, III dismissed with prejudice all claims against Gendron, Broadnax, and Allstate. (Docs. 50–1, 50–2, and 50–3).

Once Allstate had finalized the settlement, MetLife, following the procedure set forth in Lambert v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. , 576 So. 2d 160 (Ala. 1991), consented to the settlement agreement and waived subrogation. (Doc. 37–9 at 31). After further investigation, MetLife paid O'Neal the full $50,000 available under his mother's UIM policy. (See Doc. 37 at 34).

DISCUSSION

In this proceeding, O'Neal has sued the parties, attorneys and the presiding judge from the state-court action, alleging that the defendants conspired to deny him full recovery under his mother's UIM policy. (Doc. 37 at 8, 25, 40, and 55). According to O'Neal, Allstate "enjoined" the other defendants to "manufacture" a phony policy, then "concealed" that the policy was "void" in order to deny him full recovery under the MetLife policy and certain so-called "crime victim's benefits."6 O'Neal contends that the defendants violated his due-process and equal-protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, (Doc. 37 at 8, 25, and 40), and "engaged in deceit, misrepresentation, and fraud" (Doc. 37 at 55). To redress his alleged injuries, he seeks $1,000,000 in punitive damages; an award of $25,000 to "repay" the Allstate settlement; another award of $90,000 to cover the costs of the "2020 Chevrolet Camaro and 2020 BMW 301 drive" that he bought under the "mistaken belief" that he'd be able to press his claims after the settlement; and several declaratory rulings.7

I. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

It is a dictum oft-invoked that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Amer. , 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). Before reaching the merits of a dispute, federal courts "have an independent obligation" to ensure that they have jurisdiction over its subject matter. Jacobson v. Fla. Sec'y of State , 974 F.3d 1236, 1245 (11th Cir. 2020). A court may raise the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte "at any stage in the litigation," Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp. , 546 U.S. 500, 506, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006), and, "[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

Federal courts are conferred subject-matter jurisdiction only over those cases within the scope of the judicial power set forth in Article III of the Constitution and "entrusted to them by a jurisdictional grant authorized by Congress." PTA-FLA, Inc. v. ZTE USA, Inc. , 844 F.3d 1299, 1304 (11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Taylor v. Appleton , 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994) ). Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332 contain "[t]he basic statutory grants of federal-court subject-matter jurisdiction." Arbaugh , 546 U.S. at 513, 126 S.Ct. 1235. Section 1331 confers federal courts with jurisdiction over cases that present a "federal-question," cases over which the court may preside if the plaintiff "pleads a colorable claim ‘arising under’ the Constitution or laws of the United States." Id. (citing Bell v. Hood , 327 U.S. 678, 681–85, 66 S.Ct. 773, 90 L.Ed. 939 (1946) ). Section 1332 confers the courts with subject-matter jurisdiction over "diversity-of-citizenship" cases, those in which the plaintiff "presents a claim between parties of diverse citizenship that exceeds the required jurisdictional amount" of $75,000. Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) ).

A case "arises under" federal law within the meaning of § 1331 "if federal law creates the cause of action, or if a substantial disputed issue of federal law is a necessary element of a state law claim." Pacheco de...

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