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Seneca Insurance Company, Inc. v. Alton Coal Development, LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah

June 21, 2017

SENECA INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ALTON COAL DEVELOPMENT, LLC and CATERPILLAR FINANCIAL SERVICES CORPORATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Ted Stewart United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation's (“Caterpillar”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The case involves an insurance dispute regarding certain mining equipment. Plaintiff brought suit seeking, among other things, declaratory judgment as to the parties' rights and responsibilities under an insurance policy. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Caterpillar was the manufacturer/seller of the mining equipment and may have incurred substantial expense and loss during the efforts to recover the equipment. Plaintiff named Defendant Caterpillar because Caterpillar is a loss payee under the policy issued by Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Caterpillar is an interested party and was joined “so that it may be heard and bound by any outcome of this action in respect of the Seneca policy.”[1] Plaintiff seeks a judicial determination that it “has no duty to make payment to Defendants with respect to the claims asserted.”[2]

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         Defendant seeks either judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) or summary judgment under Rule 56.

         In deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court considers only the pleadings, here Plaintiff's Complaint and Caterpillar's Answer.[3] The Court applies the same standards in evaluating motions under Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c).[4] In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded factual allegations, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff as the nonmoving party.[5] Plaintiff must provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ”[6] which requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully harmed-me accusation.”[7] “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'”[8]

         “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.”[9] As the Court in Iqbal stated,

only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.[10]

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[11] In considering whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the Court determines whether a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party in the face of all the evidence presented.[12] The Court is required to construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[13]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Caterpillar first argues that it is entitled to judgment on the pleadings because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against it. Caterpillar argues that there is no “case or controversy” involving it.

         The Declaratory Judgment Act provides that “[i]n a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction, . . . any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought.”[14] “[T]he phrase ‘case of actual controversy' in the Act refers to the type of ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies' that are justiciable under Article III” of the United States Constitution.[15] “Basically, the question in each case is whether the facts alleged, under all the circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.”[16]

         In this case, Plaintiff seeks a declaration as to the parties' rights and responsibilities under an insurance contract covering certain mining equipment. Plaintiff alleges that Caterpillar was the manufacturer/seller of that equipment, incurred substantial expense and loss in trying to recover the equipment, and is a loss payee under the insurance contract. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that it has no obligation to make payment to Defendants, including Caterpillar. In contrast, Caterpillar asserts that Plaintiff does have a “duty to make payment to or indemnify [Caterpillar] under the Policy” and does have a “duty to make payment to [Caterpillar] with respect to the claims asserted by Defendant Alton Coal Development, LLC under the ...


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