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UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION v. GRANT ASSURANCE CORPORATION et al

ATTENTION: It is possible that this information may no longer be current and therefore may be inaccurate. The index contains both open and closed cases and is not a complete list of cases in which an ACE Insurance Group company is involved. This information is provided to give interested persons an idea of the issues disputed in the indexed cases. For a full understanding of a case, one should read the rest of the court file, including the response. For the most up-to-date and complete information on a case, visit www.pacer.gov or contact the clerk of the relevant court.

Case Number: 
2:15-cv-00558 Search Pacer
ACE Group party(s): 
Opposing Party: 
UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION
Court Type: 
Federal
US District Court: 
Western District of Pennsylvania
Date Filed: 
Apr 28 2015

NOTICE OF REMOVAL

Defendant, Grant Assurance Corporation (“Grant”), the only defendant known to be
served with process in this case at the time of filing, by its attorneys, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332, 1441 and 1446, hereby gives notice of removal of the case bearing the above caption
and assigned case No. G.D. 15-003164 as filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny
County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division, to the United States District Court for the Western District
of Pennsylvania. A copy of the Writ of Summons and Complaint, together with exhibits, process
and any orders, are attached hereto as Exhibit A. In support of the Notice of Removal, Grant
states as follows:

Background

1.    On April 2, 2015, the plaintiff United States Steel Corporation (“USS”) filed a
Complaint in the instant case in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Grant accepted service of USS’ Complaint on April 9, 2015.
2.    The Complaint alleges that Grant is USS’s captive insurer (Exhibit A If 1); that
Grant issued an “All Risk Property” insurance policy (“the Policy”) to USS (id. 1, 19); that
USS made a claim under the Policy for a loss initially valued at $48 million but subsequently
revised to $57.5 million (id. ^ 27, 36); that the Policy provides for a per occurrence deductible
of $25 million (id. (f22); that Grant disputed USS’s valuation of the alleged loss (id. If 29); that
USS then attempted to invoke the appraisal procedure under the Policy (id. If 32); and that Grant
subsequently raised certain coverage issues in response to the claim (id. If 40).
3.    The Complaint further alleges that the remaining defendants, which are
collectively referred to as “Reinsurers,” have financial obligations derivative of Grant’s and bear
the ultimate financial responsibility for any loss paid by Grant under the Policy. (Id. If 2.) Based
on such financial responsibility, the Complaint claims that the Reinsurers are interested parties
whose joinder is necessary under the Pennsylvania Declaratory judgments Act. (Id. (f 4.)
4.    The Complaint seeks relief in two counts. Count I is for declaratory relief
brought against all the defendants. That count asks for a declaration that Grant does not have a
right to reject the appraisal procedure invoked by USS, that Grant waived the coverage issues it
identified, and that USS is entitled to a declaration that the coverage issues be resolved in its
favor, all of which is disputed by Grant. Count II is brought solely against Grant for alleged
breach of contract. That count seeks damages against Grant for amounts allegedly owed by
Grant under the Policy, including pre- and post-judgment interest.

Diversity Jurisdiction

5.    This Court has original jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)
because complete diversity exists between USS and Grant; the matter in controversy exceeds the
sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, as reflected by the Complaint; and, to
the best of Grant’s knowledge, no other defendant has yet been served.
6.    Specifically, the Complaint itself alleges that USS is a Delaware corporation with
its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. (Exhibit A ^ 5.)
7.    The Complaint further alleges, although mistakenly, that Grant is a Vermont
corporation with its principal place of business also in Pennsylvania. (Id. ^ 6.) In fact. Grant is
both incorporated and has its principal place of business in Vermont. (Affidavit of Kimberly A.
Whitcomb UU 2-11 attached hereto as Exhibit B.) Grant conducts its day-to-day business
operations and activities through its captive manager, Marsh Management Services Inc., which is
located in Burlington, Vermont. (Id.) Grant’s business is centered in Vermont because
Vermont’s captive insurance laws require Grant to maintain its principal place of business there.
See 8 V.S.A. § 6002(b)(3) (“No captive insurance company shall do any insurance business in
this State unless ... it maintains its principal place of business in this State”). Indeed, Vermont is
the only jurisdiction in which Grant is licensed to conduct business. (Id. ]} 3.) Complete
diversity therefore exists as between USS and Grant. Complete diversity therefore exists as
between USS and Grant both as of the commencement of the state court action and as of the
filing of this Notice. Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U S. 77, 92-93 (2010) (holding that a
corporation’s principal place of business is “the actual center of direction, control, and
coordination, i.e., the ‘nerve center,’ and not simply an office where the corporation holds its
board meetings”).
8.    In addition, none of the Reinsurers have been served with process. The
citizenship of the non-served defendants is irrelevant with respect to Grant’s right to remove.
Boyer v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., No. 12-739, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 58751 at *7 (E.D. Pa.
2012) (“The pre-service removal of this action by a non-forum defendant where the forum
defendant had not been served prior to removal was proper under the unambiguous language of
§ 1441(b)”), Moore’s Federal Practice § 107.30[3][d] (Matthew Bender 2015). Consent of the
Co-defendants to removal is only required where they have been “properly joined and served.”
28 U.S.C. § 1446 (b)(2)(A).

Fraudulent Joinder

9.    Even if served, moreover, no basis exists for relief as to the Reinsurers, and they
must be regarded as having been fraudulently joined for purposes of removal. As this Court has
stated in the context of a motion to remand following removal, “[j]oinder is fraudulent where
there is no reasonable basis in fact or colorable ground supporting the claim against the joined
defendant. . . .” Ozanne v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co., No. 2:ll-cv-00327-TFM,
2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48611, at *8 (W.D. Pa. 2011) (quoting case). In Hogan v. Raymond
Corp., 777 F. Supp. 2d 906 (W.D. Pa. 2011), aff’d in part and rev’d in part on other grounds,
536 Fed. Appx. 207 (3d Cir. 2013), for example, this Court, applying the fraudulent joinder
approach just quoted, denied a motion to remand following removal because the plaintiff sought
to plead a cause of action against the non-diverse party not recognized by Pennsylvania courts.
Id. at 920. On appeal, the Third Circuit agreed that “[t]he fraudulent joinder doctrine permits
courts to ignore the citizenship of a non-diverse defendant for diversity purposes if the plaintiff’s
joinder of that defendant is ‘fraudulent’” and thus “there is no reasonable basis in fact” for a
claim against that defendant. 536 Fed. Appx. at 210. Furthermore, the general rule that all
defendants served with a Complaint must join or consent to the removal does not apply to
fraudulently joined defendants. Helman-Jones v. Anheuser-Busch, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1828
at n.2 (E.D. Pa. 2001).
10.    In the case at bar, relief against the Reinsurers is sought only in Count I of the
Complaint. The relief sought, however, is limited to a declaration with respect to Grant’s alleged
contract obligations under the Policy. (Exhibit A p. 14, prayer for relief.) The Reinsurers are not
alleged to be parties to the Policy.
11.    Because USS lacks privity of contract with the Reinsurers, it may not bring suit
against the Reinsurers. Brand v. AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co., No. 08-2859, 2008 U.S.
Dist. Lexis 69661, at *5 (E.D. Pa. 2008) (holding that an insured may not bring suit against
“reinsurers and third party administrators, who are not in privity with the insured” and
dismissing action against a reinsurer); USXCorp. v. Adriatic Insurance Co., 64 F. Supp. 2d 469,
476 (W.D. Pa. 1998) (“It is well established in Pennsylvania that in general a policyholder has no
direct cause of action against a reinsurer”): Jarupa Valley Spectrum, LLC v. National indemnity
Co., 555 F. 3d 87, 88 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding under New York law that a party lacking privity of
contract with a reinsurer “cannot sue the reinsurer directly to obtain payment of the reinsured
bond”).
12.    Furthermore, USS has not alleged that it is a third party beneficiary of the
reinsurance contracts between Grant and Reinsurers, and cannot do so in good faith, because
third-party beneficiary status requires reliance on express contract language. Premium Mortgage
Corp. v. Equifax Information Services, LLC, 583 F. 3d 103, 108 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that a
third party may not enforce a contract absent contract terms that clearly so provide); see also,
Brand, 2008 US. Dist. Lexis 69661, at *5; USX Corp., 64 F. Supp. 2d at 476. But even if USS
were to attempt to so allege, USS would become subject to all the terms and conditions of the
reinsurance contracts, and even further grounds for dismissal would arise, such as the need to
allege compliance with all conditions precedent set forth in those contracts (not so alleged), as
well as the need to comply with their arbitration provisions. See Doeff v. Transatlantic Co., No.
07-2110, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 91879, at *2-3, 12-13 (E.D. Pa. 2007) (stating that “[a] non-
signatory to a contract cannot invoke the benefits of a contract and, at the same time, disavow
portions that impose an obligation,” and finding specifically that the contract’s arbitration clause
would bind the non-signatory).
13.    Accordingly, no basis exists for the relief USS seeks directly against the
Reinsurers, and the citizenship of the Reinsurers must be ignored for purposes of removal. The
fact that USS may not seek relief against the Reinsurers also disposes of any contention that the
Reinsurers are “necessary” or “indispensable” parties to this litigation, as alleged by USS under
Pennsylvania law. (Exhibit A flf 4, 47.) They are not. Fed. R. Civ. P. 19, moreover, governs the
joinder of parties in this Court. Under that rule, this Court, in the absence of the Reinsurers, can
accord complete relief under both Counts I and II by determining of the rights and obligations of
USS and Grant under the Policy.
14.    The absence of a colorable claim for declaratory relief against the Reinsurers
additionally is demonstrated by the duplicative nature of Counts I and II of the Complaint.
Count I seeks a declaration of Grant’s obligations under the Policy, and Count II seeks damages
against Grant based on an alleged breach of the Policy. Since Count II necessarily requires that
the court first determine what Grant’s obligations are before enforcing those obligations with a
damage award, the declaratory count is duplicative and must be dismissed. Nova Financial
Holdings, Inc. v. Bancinsure, Inc., No. 11-07840, 2012 U.S.Dist. Lexis 53800, at *12 (E.D. Pa.
2012) (dismissing declaratory count as duplicative of breach of contract count); Smithkline
Beecham Corp. v. Continental Insurance Co., No. 04-2252, 2004 U.S. Dist. Lexis 15751, at *2
(E.D. Pa. 2004) (same).
15.    For all these reasons, this Court need not consider the citizenship of the
Reinsurers, who are named defendants only in Count I of the Complaint, for purposes of
evaluating the adequacy of this removal.
Procedural Requirements
16.    All procedural requirements for removal have been or will be complied with.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a), true and correct copies of all process, pleadings and orders
served upon Grant are attached hereto as Exhibit A and filed herewith. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1446(d), promptly after filing this Notice of Removal, a copy of this notice will be filed with
the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division, and will be
served on all counsel of record.
17.    This Notice of Removal has been filed within 30 days of the date that Grant was
served with the Complaint in this matter. Removal therefore is timely in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 1446(b).
18.    Venue is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and 1446(a)
because the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania is the federal
judicial district embracing the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,
where the state court action was originally filed.
19.    By this Notice of Removal, Grant does not waive any objections it may have as to
service, jurisdiction or venue, or any other defenses or objections it may have to this action.
Grant intends no admission of fact, law or liability by this Notice, and expressly reserves all
defenses, motions and/or pleas.

WHEREFORE, Grant prays that, upon filing of this Notice of Removal, this action be
regarded as having been removed to, and pending in, the United States District Court for the
Western District of Pennsylvania.
 

The provided text is an excerpt from a document filed in this case. For a full understanding of the case, one should read the complete court file, including the response.

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