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United Financial Casualty Co. v. Paddon

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 30, 2017

JOHN PADDON, et al., Defendants.


          Lawrense E. Kahn U.S. District Judge

         This case stems from a car accident that resulted in substantial injuries to one of the defendants, Matthew Picard. Plaintiff United Financial Casualty subsequently commenced this action against Defendants John Paddon, Christina Paddon, John Paddon and Son Paving and Construction, Inc., Matthew Picard, B&L Motorsports Offroad Park, Jeff Hayes, Adam Wemple, and TGW Productions, Inc., seeking a declaratory judgment from this Court. Dkt. No. 1 (“Complaint”) ¶¶ 1-9. Specifically, Plaintiff seeks a judgment declaring that it has no obligation to defend or indemnify any of the Defendants in relation to the underlying incident or in a separate resulting lawsuit. Id. ¶ 41. Currently before this Court is TGW's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dkt. No. 14 (“Motion to Dismiss”); see also Dkt. Nos. 14-1 (“Memorandum”), 15-1 (“Response”), 16 (“Reply”). For the following reasons, the Complaint is dismissed, sua sponte, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


         A. The Underlying Dispute

         The incident underlying this case took place on July 12, 2013, at an event called “Trucks Gone Wild.” Compl. ¶ 13. This event, which Picard attended, took place on property owned by Hayes in Fulton, New York. Id. Spectators watched drivers operate ATVs, off-road vehicles, and sport vehicles on a mud track. Id. ¶¶ 14, 17. According to the Complaint, Trucks Gone Wild was promoted, sponsored, hosted, and operated by B&L, Wemple, and TGW. Id. ¶ 16.

         At some point during the event, Picard was hit by a 1996 Ford F-350 pickup truck, which was owned and operated by John Paddon. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. After the accident, Paddon handed Picard a business card bearing the “John Paddon and Son” company name. Id. ¶ 21. At the time, Paddon and Son had an insurance policy with Plaintiff (the “Policy”). Id. ¶ 22. According to the Policy, Plaintiff agreed to pay any damages for bodily injury that an insured became legally responsible for because of an accident arising out of the ownership or use of an “insured auto.” Id. ¶ 26. The Policy defines “insured auto” as either (1) an auto specifically described on the declarations page, (2) an additional auto on the date the holder becomes the owner (subject to limitations), or (3) any replacement auto on the date the holder becomes the owner (subject to limitations). Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify any of the Defendants because the auto involved in the incident was not an insured auto under the Policy. Id. ¶¶ 32-37. Plaintiff contends that the truck is not listed on the declarations page and that it does not constitute an additional or replacement auto. Id. ¶¶ 34-35. Thus, on October 15, 2014, Plaintiff sent a letter to Paddon and Son (copying Picard) denying coverage for the incident. Id. ¶ 29.

         There are no allegations in the Complaint suggesting that Paddon and Son, TGW, or any other defendant challenged or disputed Plaintiff's determination in any manner.

         B. Procedural History

         Picard sued Paddon and the rest of the Defendants for the injuries that Paddon allegedly caused him in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. Id. ¶ 30; Picard v. Paddon, No. 16-CV-420 (N.D.N.Y. filed Apr. 13, 2016). Because of its concern that Defendants will seek indemnification if Picard is successful in his lawsuit, Plaintiff subsequently filed the Complaint here seeking a declaration from the Court that it need not defend or indemnify Defendants. Compl. ¶ 41.

         In response, TGW filed its motion, asserting that the Complaint does not adequately specify why it is a defendant in this case. Mem. at 4-6. In the alternative, TGW argues that the Complaint should be amended to include a more definite statement in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Id. at 3-4. TGW's central argument is that there are no specific allegations in the Complaint establishing a controversy between it and Plaintiff, and thus the Complaint has not stated a claim for declaratory judgment. Id. at 4-6.

         Plaintiff's motion for default judgment against John Paddon, Christina Paddon, Paddon and Son, B&L Motorsports, and Wemple is also before the Court. Dkt. No. 30 (“Motion for Default Judgment”). Plaintiff sets out the timetable for the underlying action's commencement and the subsequent dates of service of process. Dkt. No. 30-1 (“Attorney Affirmation”) ¶¶ 3-24. On June 3, 2016, Plaintiff commenced this declaratory judgment action by filing its Complaint. Id. at 2. Shortly thereafter, each defendant was served by either personal service or substitute service. Id. ¶¶ 12-21. Defendants Wemple and B&L Motorsports were served on June 14, 2016, and were due to appear July 5, 2016. Id. Next, Paddon and Son was served on June 28, 2016, and was due to appear July 18, 2016. Id. Finally, John and Christina Paddon were served on September 30, 2016, and both were due to appear October 21, 2016. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that all of these defendants have failed to plead or otherwise defend the action and thus are in default. On September 6, 2016, the Clerk of the Court issued an entry of default against Paddon and Son, B&L Motorsports, and Wemple. Id. ¶ 22. On December 20, 2016, the clerk entered default against John and Christina Paddon. Id. ¶ 23.

         III. ...

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