The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge
The plaintiffs - Thomas Van Salisbury and his wife - bring this action, inter alia, to recover damages for personal injuries. The defendants are (1) Shelby Vesta Insurance Cos. ("SVI"), and (2) Joseph Horvath, Sr., Joseph Horvath, Jr., and Adam Horvath ("Horvaths").*fn1 SVI moves for summary judgment in its favor as to the claim asserted against it. (Dkt. entry no. 34.) The Court will - without prejudice - (1) dismiss the claim asserted against SVI as premature, and (2) deny the motion.
I. Incident And Civil Actions
Van Salisbury and the Horvaths are lobster fishermen. Van Salisbury was shot during an altercation with the Horvaths on March 8, 2001, while they were on the ocean in their respective vessels ("Altercation"). (Am. Compl., at 4.)
Van Salisbury brought this action against only the Horvaths in New Jersey state court in November 2001; it was removed here on January 11, 2002 ("Federal Action"). (Dkt. entry no. 1.) SVI (1) purportedly insured the Horvaths, and (2) denied coverage concerning claims arising from the Altercation in June 2002. (Purcell Cert., Ex. F.)*fn2
The Horvaths then brought a separate action in June 2002 in New Jersey state court against SVI for a judgment declaring that SVI was obligated to defend and indemnify them in the Federal Action ("State Action"). (Id.) SVI sought to depose the Horvaths in response, but they refused to be deposed due to an ongoing criminal investigation concerning the Altercation. (Id., Ex. H.)
SVI moved for summary judgment in the State Action. (Id., Ex. J.) The state court granted the motion in March 2003 because (1) the Horvaths refused to cooperate with SVI, (2) the Horvaths intended Van Salisbury's injuries, and thus coverage was excluded, (3) the business-pursuits and watercraft-use exclusions applied, and (4) the Horvaths failed to timely notify SVI of the claim ("State Court Order"). (Id., Ex. U, 3-19-03 Order.)
II. Whether Van Salisbury Was Aware Of State Action
The Horvaths did not name, and SVI did not join, Van Salisbury in the State Action. But SVI asserts that (1) during a June 2002 hearing in the Federal Action, the Horvaths' counsel "made it clear to the attorney for the Van Salisburys and the court that a declaratory-judgment action either had been instituted or was about to be instituted in the State Court seeking a declaration of coverage for [SVI]," and (2) a "carbon copy of the summons and complaint for declaratory judgment was forwarded to counsel for Van Salisbury on December 6, 2002." (SVI Br., at 4-5.) SVI also alleges that it served Van Salisbury with its motion for summary judgment in November 2002. (SVI Reply Br., at 3.)
Van Salisbury states in response that (1) there "was no indication from Horvath's counsel [at the June 2002 hearing] when the [State Action] would be filed," (2) he was not notified about the State Action until January 2003, (3) "[i]t was the obligation of [SVI] to join Van Salisbury in that action if it intended to preclude Van Salisbury from pursuing coverage in [the Federal Action]," and (4) he "had no obligation to intercede in [the State Action]." (Van Salisbury Br., at 1-4.)*fn3
This Court - in a matter concerning criminal charges arising from the Altercation - rendered a judgment on September 24, 2004, inter alia, convicting Joseph Horvath, Sr., of possessing a loaded shotgun on a territorial sea of the United States under 18 U.S.C. § 13(a), upon his plea of guilt. (Van Salisbury Br., Ex. B.)
Van Salisbury amended the complaint in December 2004 to (1) add SVI as a defendant, and (2) seek a judgment against SVI declaring that it was obligated to indemnify the Horvaths. (Am. Compl., at 10.) SVI now moves for summary judgment as to the claim asserted against it in the Federal Action, arguing the State Court Order acts to preclude that claim, as well as raising the same arguments addressed in the State Court Order. ...