United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
REGIONS INSURANCE, INC.
ACE PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY AND LOGGERS' INSURANCE, INC
For Regions Insurance, Inc., Plaintiff, Defendant: Todd A. Rossi, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kean, Miller, Hawthorne, D'Armond-- B.R., Baton Rouge, LA; Mark D. Mese, Kean Miller, LLP, Baton Rouge, LA; Michael Jason deBarros, Kean Miller LLP, Baton Rouge, LA.
For Ace Property & Casualty Insurance Company, Defendant, Cross Defendant: Robert W. Barton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips, Baton Rouge, LA; Ryan Keith French, Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips, LLP, Baton Rouge, LA.
For Loggers' Insurance, Inc., Defendant, Counter Claimant: Joy Goldberg Braun, LEAD ATTORNEY, April L. Watson, Sessions, Fishman & Nathan - N.O., New Orleans, LA.
RULING AND ORDER
BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Before the Court is Defendant ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Company (" Ace" )'s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Doc. 10). Plaintiff Regions Insurance, Inc. (" Regions" ) has filed a memorandum in opposition to Ace's Motion to Dismiss. ( See Doc. 17). With the Court's leave, Ace has filed a reply to Regions's opposition, ( see Doc. 23), and Regions has filed a sur-reply, ( see Doc. 24). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Oral argument is not necessary. For reasons explained herein, Ace's motion to dismiss is DENIED.
Regions, an insurance services provider, had executed underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage (" UM coverage" ) rejection forms, the validity of which was disputed in two state court lawsuits (herein referred to as the " Abshire suit" and the " Kahn suit" ) filed against Defendant Ace and Defendant Loggers' Insurance (" Loggers" ) (collectively, " Defendants" ) in the Fourteenth Judicial District Court, Parish of Calcasieu, Louisiana. ( See Doc. 1). On April 3, 2014, Regions filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment in this Court, seeking a declaration that Regions is not liable to Defendants for amounts that Defendants expended to settle and defend claims related to UM coverage policies issued by Defendants. ( See id.).
In the instant motion, which the Court construes as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Rule" ) 12(b)(1) although Ace did not cite the Rule in its motion, Ace argues that this matter is not ripe for judicial review and, as such, must be dismissed. Specifically, Ace asserts that the issues are not fit for judicial decision because an arbitration proceeding between Ace and Loggers, which was invoked by Ace subsequent to the filing of this suit, will develop the factual record and " could completely eliminate the possibility of any claim against Regions by any party." (Doc. 10-1 at p. 6). Ace also posits that Regions would not suffer undue hardship should the Court withhold its consideration. ( Id. at pp. 6-7). Regions, however, responds that subject matter jurisdiction is determined by the facts as they exist at the time of the Complaint's filing, in this case before the commencement of arbitration proceedings, and further argues that an actual controversy exists
and is ripe for review. (Doc. 17). Ace and Regions each counter with additional arguments through respective reply and sur-reply pleadings, (Docs. 23, 24), in relevant part discussing the relationship between ripeness and subject matter jurisdiction.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
" Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, . . . which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994) (citations omitted). " Under Rule 12(b)(1), a claim is properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the claim." In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Prods. Liab. Litig. (Miss. Plaintiffs), 668 F.3d 281, 286 (5th Cir. 2012).
" Ripeness is a justiciability doctrine designed to prevent the courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements . . . ." Nat'l Park Hospitality Ass'n v. Dep't of Interior, 538 U.S. 803, 807, 123 S.Ct. 2026, 155 L.Ed.2d 1017, (2003) (quotation marks and citation omitted). " [R]ipeness" is a " jurisdictional issue" pertaining to " whether the suit is being brought at the proper time." Texas v. United States, 497 F.3d 491, 496 (5th Cir. 2007). A case is ripe when it is no longer " abstract or hypothetical," and the key considerations are " the fitness of the issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of withholding court ...