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Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Co. v. Mazuran

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 13, 2017

EMPIRE FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON MAZURAN and NATALIE BLANTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          TED STEWART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' declaratory judgment action. For the reasons discussed below, the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over this matter.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of an incident that occurred on October 5, 2012, where Defendant Natalie Blanton was injured after being struck by a moving truck driven by Defendant Jason Mazuran. Mazuran borrowed the truck from his friend and realtor Andrew Adams to move items into Mazuran's new home. Mr. Adams offered the truck to his real estate clients to help them move their belongings. The truck was owned by Mr. Adams' company, A&A Moving.

         A&A Moving contracted with a company called On the Move, Inc. (“On the Move”) to provide insurance for the truck. Under the agreement between A&A Moving and On the Move, On the Move agreed to provide A&A Moving with insurance of the minimum statutory limits required in Utah. To that end, On the Move obtained a policy from Plaintiff Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Company (“Empire”). That policy provided for coverage of $25, 000 per person for bodily injury.

         Blanton brought suit against Mazuran in Utah state court for negligence (hereinafter, “state negligence action”). The state negligence action has not been resolved.

         Blanton also brought suit against Mazuran and Empire's parent company Zurich North America, Inc. (“Zurich”) (hereinafter, “state declaratory judgment action”). In the state declaratory judgment action, Blanton sought a declaration that the truck at issue was required to have $750, 000 of insurance under the Utah Administrative Code and Zurich must insure the truck for that amount.

         Zurich sought and obtained a dismissal of the state declaratory judgment action against it. The state court ruled that Blanton failed to establish that she had an interest in the insurance policy or that her rights were affected by the policy. The court also found that it was unclear whether Blanton could obtain the declaratory judgment she requested. The court noted that the Utah Administrative Code provisions cited by Blanton did not provide her with an avenue for relief. “Thus, while Plaintiff may be able to establish entitlement to a declaratory judgment that Mazuran was required to have $750, 000 in coverage, the court has been unable to find any language in these rules that would require Zurich to provide such coverage regardless of whether Mazuran contracted or paid for it.”[1]

         The state declaratory judgment action remains pending against Mazuran. Seven days after Zurich obtained dismissal of Blanton's state court declaratory judgment action against it, Empire, Zurich's subsidiary, brought this declaratory judgment action. In its Complaint, Empire seeks construction of the insurance policy and a declaration that the policy coverage available to Mazuran is limited to $25, 000. Blanton filed a counterclaim against Empire seeking a declaration that $750, 000 of liability insurance was required for the truck and that Empire is required to insure the truck for that amount. As of this date, Mazuran has not answered Empire's Complaint.

         On June 29, 2017, Empire moved for summary judgment. Empire asserted that this action requires the resolution of six issues: (1) whether the policy limits on the date of loss were $25, 000; (2) whether Mr. Mazuran was a private motor carrier; (3) whether Mr. Adams was a private motor carrier; (4) if either of them was a private motor carrier, whether Utah law required Empire to provide $750, 000 of coverage; (5) if either of them was a private motor carrier and Utah law did require Empire to provide $750, 000 of coverage, whether Blanton has standing to reform the insurance contract to comply with the law; and (6) whether the doctrine of res judicata precludes Blanton's counterclaim against Empire.[2]

         After briefing was completed on Empire's Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court asked for supplemental briefing on the issue of whether it should exercise jurisdiction over this matter. Having carefully reviewed the parties' briefs, the Court issues the following Memorandum Decision and Order.

         II. DISCUSSION

         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.”[3] The Declaratory Judgement Act is “an authorization, not a command.”[4] It gives “the federal courts competence to make a declaration of rights, ” but does “not impose a duty to do so.”[5]

         The Tenth Circuit has identified five factors the Court should consider when deciding whether or ...


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