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State National Insurance Company v. the County of Camden

June 14, 2012

STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COUNTY OF CAMDEN, DEFENDANTS. THE COUNTY OF CAMDEN, COUNTERCLAIMANT AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, COUNTERCLAIM-DEFENDANT AND NICHOLAS M. ANDERSON, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT, AND SCIBAL ASSOCIATES, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY COUNTERCLAIMANT. THE INSURANCE COMPANY OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, INTERVENING PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COUNTY OF CAMDEN AND SCIBAL ASSOCIATES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This matter concerns the determination of which entity is liable to pay for a multi-million dollar state court jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff who sued the County of Camden, New Jersey for injuries he sustained when he drove off the road and into a guardrail owned and maintained by the County. Presently before the Court is the motion of Scibal Associates, Inc. for summary judgment in its favor on the claims against it lodged by the Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania.*fn1 For the reasons expressed below, Scibal's motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Because numerous Opinions have been issued in this case, and those decisions detail the underlying facts and legal issues, the Court will not restate them again here, other than to briefly list the relevant pending claims, which all primarily hinge on the issue of "notice" of the state court lawsuit filed against the County:

(1) State National Insurance Company's ("State National") declaratory judgment action against the County of Camden, seeking a declaration that it does not owe coverage to the County for the state court Anderson lawsuit under an excess liability insurance contract; (2) an intervening third-party complaint against State National, the County, and Scibal, filed by the Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania ("ICSOP"), which also provided an insurance policy to the County, seeking, among other things, a declaration that it does not owe insurance coverage to the County;

(3) the County's counterclaim against State National demanding, among other things, coverage under the insurance policy, and the County's third-party complaint against Scibal for breach of its duties as the County's claims administrator pursuant to their Professional Services Agreement ("PSA"); and (4) Scibal's counterclaim against the County.

The current motion for summary judgment filed by Scibal seeks to resolve ICSOP's claim against it. ICSOP contends that it does not owe coverage to the County under the ICSOP policy because the County failed to provide it with timely notice of the Anderson lawsuit as required by the policy terms. In the event, however, that ICSOP is found to have coverage obligations to the County under the policy, ICSOP seeks a declaration that it should be indemnified by, and receive total contribution from, Scibal, because Scibal failed to notify ICSOP about the lawsuit as required by the PSA contract between Scibal and the County. Scibal has moved for judgment as a matter of law in its favor, arguing that ICSOP's claim against it fails because Scibal has no contractual relationship with ICSOP, and it otherwise has no duty to ICSOP to cause it to be liable for contribution or indemnification. ICSOP counters that Scibal's motion is premature because, in denying ICSOP's motion for summary judgment in December 2009, the Court found that discovery was necessary to determine what agency relationships may have existed, what duties were created as a result, and who may be responsible for any obligations breached, and that the County's claim against ICSOP should be resolved first before ICSOP's claim against Scibal is decided.

DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that the materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, or interrogatory answers, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing summary ...


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