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Golden v. Beers

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 21, 2015

SCOTT GOLDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
RAND BEERS, et al., Defendants.

Audwin F. Levasseur, Esquire, The Law Offices of Harbatkin & Levasseur, P.A., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Counsel for Plaintiff.

Michael E. Campion, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Newark, New Jersey. Counsel for Defendants.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

On March 7, 2014, Plaintiff Scott Golden filed a two-count complaint alleging breach of contract, one pursuant to New Jersey state law and one pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4001-4129 (hereafter, "NFIA"), against Defendants Rand Beers[1] and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (hereafter, "FEMA"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion [Doc. No. 8] seeking to dismiss both claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) on the ground that Plaintiff failed to submit a proof of loss in connection with his insurance claim. Defendants alternatively move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 because Plaintiff's property did not "flood" as defined by the insurance policy. Plaintiff did not file a response to the motion.[2] The Court has considered Defendants' submission and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction will be denied, and their alternative motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. JURISDICTION

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 4072, a "claimant, within one year after the date of mailing of notice of disallowance or partial disallowance by the Administrator, may institute an action against the Administrator [of FEMA]... in the United States district court for the district in which the insured property or the major part thereof shall have been situated, and original exclusive jurisdiction is hereby conferred upon such court to hear and determine such action without regard to the amount in controversy." The Court notes that while Defendants challenge the Court's subject matter jurisdiction, the Court finds that it has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 4072 as discussed below.

II. BACKGROUND

This suit concerns the adjustment of an insurance claim under a policy placed through the National Flood Insurance Program ("NFIP"). (Compl. ¶ 6.) As the Third Circuit has explained, the NFIP is "a federally supervised and guaranteed insurance program presently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA') pursuant to the NFIA and its corresponding regulations." Van Holt v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. , 163 F.3d 161, 165 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing 44 C.F.R. §§ 59.1-77.2). The NFIP essentially "guarantees and subsidizes flood insurance." Brusco v. Harleysville Ins. Co., No. 14-914, 2014 WL 2916716, at *1 (D.N.J. June 26, 2014). Congress created the NFIP "to limit the damage caused by flood disasters through prevention and protective measures, spread the risk of flood damage among many private insurers and the federal government, and make flood insurance available on reasonable terms and conditions' to those in need of it." Van Holt , 163 F.3d at 165. The NFIP is currently operated by FEMA, and "the United States treasury funds pay off the insureds' claims." Id . (citations omitted).

Through the NFIP, an insured is issued a Standard Flood Insurance Policy (hereafter, "SFIP"), which is codified at 44 C.F.R. Pt. 61, App. A (2009). According to the allegations in the complaint, Plaintiff purchased an SFIP, policy number XXXXXXXXXX, for his residential property located at 38 Seaview Harbor, Longport, New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Defendant issued the policy in accordance with the NFIP. (Id.) Plaintiff avers that he paid "all related premiums in a timely fashion." (Id. ¶ 7.) On October 29, 2012, within the policy period, Superstorm Sandy struck Longport, New Jersey, purportedly causing catastrophic damage to the covered property. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 7.) Plaintiff made a claim for damage to the insured property, but Defendants allegedly "improperly adjusted and otherwise mishandled Plaintiff's claim" insofar as Plaintiff has not received proper payment for the alleged extensive damages caused by Superstorm Sandy. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 11.)

On March 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant civil action for breach of contract under New Jersey law and the NFIA. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-19.) Defendants seek dismissal of these claims on two grounds. First, Defendants argue that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff failed to submit a proof of loss, which is purportedly a prerequisite to filing suit under the NFIA. Alternatively, Defendants assert that summary judgment should be granted on Plaintiff's claims because the subject property did not "flood" as defined by the SFIP.

III. STANDARDS FOR DISMISSAL

A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction implicates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The standard to be applied when deciding a motion under ...


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