The opinion of the court was delivered by: DICKINSON DEBEVOISE, Senior District Judge
Plaintiff, The Travelers Indemnity Company ("Travelers"), filed
a complaint seeking a declaration of non-liability under two
insurance policies which it issued to Defendant, Dammann & Co.,
Inc. ("Dammann"). Travelers contends that Defendant,
International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. ("IFF") should be a
party to this action because it raised a justiciable controversy
by seeking to collect from Dammann damages that it suffered when
Dammann allegedly supplied it with contaminated vanilla beans.
IFF contends that it should not be a party to this suit because
the controversy, if any, is between Travelers, as the insurance
carrier, and Dammann, as the insured. Thus, IFF filed a motion to
dismiss Travelers' claim against it.
The motion was referred to the Honorable G. Donald Haneke,
United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)
and L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2), such that he could prepare a
recommendation for disposition of the matter. After Judge Haneke
issued his Report and Recommendation ("Report"), in which he
recommended that the complaint be dismissed as against IFF,
Travelers submitted its opposition to the Report, objecting to
nearly all of Judge Haneke's findings.
The facts of this case have already been discussed in Judge
Haneke's Report. As such, a complete reiteration is unnecessary.
It need only be noted that upon discovering the contaminated
vanilla beans, IFF sent a letter to Dammann characterized as a
"formal claim . . . for the full and immediate compensation . . . of $5,189,924." It
is that letter which forms the basis for Travelers declaratory
action, though IFF has not yet filed suit against Dammann.
In his Report, Judge Haneke determined that there is no actual
controversy between Travelers and IFF and that IFF is not a
necessary party to Traveler's claim against Dammann. Furthermore,
Judge Haneke found that Travelers' attempt to join IFF in its
request for declaratory judgment is contrary to the purposes of
the Declaratory Judgment Act. Therefore, he recommended that
IFF's motion be granted and Traveler's claim against IFF be
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) and L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2), when a
party objects to the Magistrate Judge's report, a District Judge
must make a de novo determination of those portions of the report
to which the party has objected. Travelers has objected to nearly
all of Judge Haneke's report and thus each of his findings must
be addressed. As matters outside the pleading will be considered,
this motion will be treated as one for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record "show[s] that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,"
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party," See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the applicable rule of law, Id.
Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a
grant of summary judgment, Id. In deciding whether there is a
disputed issue of material fact, the court must view the evidence
in favor of the nonmoving party by extending any reasonable
favorable inference to that party; in other words, "the nonmoving
party's evidence `is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
[that party's] favor,'" Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552
(1999), quoting, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. But where the
nonmoving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, "the
burden on the moving party may be discharged by `showing' that
is, pointing out to the district court that there is an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case," Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (U.S. 1986).
Under the Declaratory Judgment Act, a party seeking declaratory
judgment must demonstrate the existence of an actual case or
controversy. 28 U.S.C. 2201(a); Cardinal Chem. Co. v. Morton
Int'l, Inc., 508 U.S. 83, 95 (1993). "The question in each case
is whether the facts alleged show that there is a substantial
controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, `of
sufficient immediacy and reality to justify judicial
resolution.'" Peachlum v. York, Pa., 333 F.3d 429, 433 (3d Cir.
2003). "The difference between an abstract question and a
`controversy' contemplated by the Declaratory Judgment Act is
necessarily one of degree, and it would be difficult, if it would
be possible, to fashion a precise test for determining in every
case whether there is such a controversy." Maryland Casualty Co.
v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273 (U.S. 1941).
Courts have frequently found that in cases regarding liability
insurance and a carrier's obligation to indemnify the insured, an
actual controversy exists once the events underlying the
insured's liability have occurred. See e.g., Riehl v.
Travelers Ins. Co., 772 F.2d 19, 23 (3d Cir. 1985); Simmonds
Aerocessories, Ltd. v. Elastic Stop Nut Corp. of America,
275 F.2d 485, 490 (3d Cir. 1958). A party need not wait until an
underlying suit has been filed before it seeks declaratory relief.
In the present case, an actual controversy arises between
Travelers and Dammann once underlying events have called into
question Travelers's obligation to indemnify Dammann. Such events
have already occurred as IFF not only received and is aware of
the contaminated beans but also sent a letter to Dammann
requesting payment for the damage incurred. ...