The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez
This matter comes before the Court on Motion for Joinder of Movant Karin Shaffer, Administrator Ad Prosequendum and General Administrator of the Estate of Barbara Elke Vanaman, deceased ("Shaffer") . Plaintiff in this matter, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") filed a written opposition. Both Shaffer and State Farm appeared for oral argument on the matter on March 14, 2012. For the reasons expressed on the record that day, and for those that follow, movant Shaffer's motion for joinder is denied.
State Farm underwrote a policy of insurance for the Vanamans' home, bearing policy number 30-BE-4103-5. Compl. ¶ 10; Plaintiff's Ex. A., State Farm Insurance Policy. The State Farm policy includes limited coverage for personal liability. However, the policy excludes coverage for "bodily injury . . . which is either expected or intended by the insured; or . . . which is the result of willful and malicious acts of the insured[.]" Compl. ¶24; Plaintiff's Ex. A., State Farm Insurance Policy, Section II, Coverage L. The policy also excludes coverage for "bodily injury to you or any insured[.]" Compl. ¶ 25; Plaintiff's Ex. A., State Farm Insurance Policy, Section II, Coverage L. Defendant shared his home with his wife, Barbara Elke Vanaman, who was a named insured.
Defendant Vanaman, a former police officer, fatally shot his wife, Barbara Elke Vanaman, during the course of an argument in their mutual residence. Compl. ¶¶ 41, 43; Plaintiff's Ex. E, Transcript of Vanaman's Guilty Plea, p. 13. In March 2009, Vanaman entered guilty pleas to manslaughter, a second degree offense, and tampering with evidence and, in so doing, admitted that he "lost it," "overreacted," and "shot [his wife] 2 times." Compl. ¶¶ 40-43; Plaintiff's Ex. E, Transcript of Vanaman's Guilty Plea, p. 13.
State Farm had been providing Vanaman with a defense in a wrongful death action filed against him, captioned Karin Shaffer, Administrator Ad Prosequendum and General Administrator of the Estate of Barbara Elke Vanaman, deceased v. Vanaman (the "Shaffer action"), under a Non-Waiver Agreement dated September 9, 2009. Compl. ¶ 19; Plaintiff's Ex. C. Non-Waiver Agreement. On March 26, 2010, State Farm filed a Complaint against Defendant Vanaman in this Court, seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 57 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. State Farm alleged that Defendant Vanaman was not entitled to be indemnified or defended by State Farm in the Shaffer action, because his conduct fell within the intentional bodily injury exclusion of the policy. See Compl. ¶24; Plaintiff's Ex. A., State Farm Insurance Policy, Section II, Coverage L. Defendant Vanaman was served on April 12, 2010 and never answered the Complaint. Default was entered by the Clerk on June 3, 2010. Accepting as true Plaintiff's factual allegations, this Court recognized that New Jersey courts have held that a manslaughter conviction is evidence of intentional conduct that is sufficient to trigger an exclusion in an insurance contract, Figueroa v. Hartford Ins. Co., 575 A.2d 888, 894, 341 N.J. Super. 578, 588 (N.J. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 1990). In addition, this Court found that State Farm was entitled to a default judgment because Defendant Vanaman was not entitled to be indemnified or defended by State Farm because his conduct fell within the intentional bodily injury exclusion of the policy. See Compl. ¶24; Plaintiff's Ex. A., State Farm Insurance Policy, Section II, Coverage L. On October 7, 2010, default judgment in favor of State Farm was entered and the case was closed.
Movant contends that a motion to vacate, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60, was filed in May 2011, but the Court's docket does not reflect such a filing. On August 8, 2011, movant Karin Shaffer filed the insant motion for joinder as an indispensable party. In her motion, Shaffer argues that she has a clear interest in the subject matter of the declaratory action and is, therefore, an indispensable party, that the Court was, and is, without jurisdiction over the purely state law matter, and that the action should be dismissed for failure to join Shaffer as an indispensable party. The Court addresses these issue in turn.
Movant argues that she should be joined in this action as an indispensable party. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 governs joinder and provides:
(a) Persons Required to Be Joined if Feasible.
(1) Required Party. A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if:
(A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or
(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may:
(i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or
(ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest.
(2) Joinder by Court Order. If a person has not been joined as required, the court must order that the person be made a party. A person who refuses to join as a plaintiff may be made either a defendant or, in a proper case, an involuntary plaintiff.
(3) Venue. If a joined party objects to venue and the joinder would make venue improper, the ...