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Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois v. Tremblay

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

June 28, 2018

SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY OF ILLINOIS and SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOSEPH A. TREMBLAY, CODY JAMES MORRISON, ROMARRIO ANTHONY SCOTT, RAQUEL MARIA NUNEZ, JULIE LIPPSON and STEVEN LIPPSON, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER [1]

          SHERI POLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Safeco Insurance Company of America's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 96) and Defendant Cody Morrison's Response in Opposition (Doc. 97). Safeco America moves the Court to reconsider its Opinion and Order that granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs' summary judgment motion. (Doc. 94). For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Safeco America's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This declaratory judgment suit arose to resolve an insurance coverage dispute. In July 2015, Defendant Joseph Tremblay leased a Nissan Rogue for his friend, Defendant Julie Lippson. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 5). In April 2016, Julie's husband, Seth Lippson, was driving the Rogue when he allegedly caused an accident that injured Morrison. (Id. at ¶ 7). Thereafter, Morrison sued Tremblay and Seth Lippson for negligence in Florida state court.[2] (Doc. 78-13). The underlying state court action remains ongoing.

         Before the car accident, Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois issued Tremblay three motor vehicle policies. (Docs. 78 at ¶¶ 1-3; 78-2; Doc. 78-3; 78-4). The policies covered two cars and one motorcycle. (Docs. 78-2; 78-3; 78-4). In addition to these policies, Safeco America issued Tremblay an umbrella insurance policy, which required him to provide underlying liability insurance for all motor vehicles he owned, leased, or used. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 4; Doc. 78-4 at 6). These policies were in effect at the time of the car accident. Notably, Tremblay failed to add the Nissan Rogue to any policy and Plaintiffs were unaware of the leased vehicle until two weeks after the accident. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 6).

         Plaintiffs bring this three-count action under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. (Docs. 1; 10). On May 7, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs' summary judgment motion as to Counts I and II because the automobile and motorcycle policies did not cover the April 2016 car accident and, thus, Safeco Illinois had no duty to defend/indemnify Tremblay, the Lippsons, or anyone else under the policies. (Doc. 94 at 4). As to Count III, the Court denied summary judgment because it lacked jurisdiction to decide the unripe issue of whether Safeco America had a duty to indemnify Tremblay under the umbrella policy. (Id. at 5-8). Safeco America now seeks reconsideration of the Court's ruling on Count III.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to grant a motion for reconsideration. See Drago v. Jenne, 453 F.3d 1301, 1305 (11th Cir. 2006). In exercising its discretion, the court balances two competing interests: the need for finality and the need to render just rulings based on all the facts. The former typically prevails, as reconsideration of an order is an extraordinarily remedy used sparingly. See Am. Ass'n of People with Disabilities v. Hood, 278 F.Supp.2d 1337, 1339 (M.D. Fla. 2003); Lamar Adver. of Mobile, Inc. v. City of Lakeland, 189 F.R.D. 480, 489 (M.D. Fla. 1999). “A motion for reconsideration must demonstrate why the court should reconsider its prior decision and set forth facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision.” Fla. Coll. of Osteopathic Med., Inc. v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 12 F.Supp.2d 1306, 1308 (M.D. Fla. 1998).

         Courts recognize three grounds to justify reconsideration of a prior order: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; and (3) the need to correct a clear error or manifest injustice. See McCreary v. Brevard Cnty, Fla., No. 6:09-cv-1394, 2010 WL 2836709, at *1 (M.D. Fla. July 19, 2010). “A motion to reconsider is not a vehicle for rehashing arguments the [c]ourt has already rejected or for attempting to refute the basis for the [c]ourt's earlier decision.” Parker v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 874 F.Supp.2d 1353, 1359 (M.D. Fla. 2012); see also Michael Linet, Inc. v. Vill. of Wellington, 408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir. 2005). “A motion to reconsider should raise new issues, not merely redress issues previously litigated.” PaineWebber Income Props. Three Ltd. P'ship v. Mobil Oil Corp., 902 F.Supp. 1514, 1521 (M.D. Fla. 1995); see also Ludwig v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., No. 8:03-cv-2378, 2005 WL 1053691, at *11 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 30, 2005) (stating “a motion for reconsideration is not the proper forum for [a] party to vent dissatisfaction with the Court's reasoning”).

         DISCUSSION

         Safeco America seeks reconsideration of the Court's ruling on Count III because it (1) did not address Safeco America's duty to defend and indemnify Julie and Seth Lippson under the umbrella policy; and (2) declined to exercise jurisdiction over whether Safeco America had a duty to indemnify Tremblay. (Doc. 96). Morrison agrees that the Court should have decided whether Safeco America has a duty to defend/indemnify Julie or Seth Lippson under the umbrella policy. (Doc. 97 at 2). However, Morrison argues that the Court should deny reconsideration as to Tremblay because the Court correctly found it lacked jurisdiction to decide Safeco America's duty to indemnify Tremblay. (Id. at 5-7). The Court will discuss Safeco America's two arguments below.

         A. Duty to Defend/Indemnify Lippsons Under the Umbrella Policy

         Safeco America and Morrison agree that the Court should decide whether Safeco America has a duty to defend and indemnify Julie or Seth Lippson under the umbrella policy issued to Tremblay. (Docs. 96 at 1-2; 97 at 1-2). Safeco America also argues the Court's failure to do so in its prior Opinion and Order was clear error. Because the parties agree to a declaration on this matter, the Court will provide one here.

         To start, the Court has jurisdiction to decide whether Safeco America has a duty to defend Julie and Seth Lippson under the umbrella policy even though the underlying state action is ongoing. SeeColony Ins. Co. v. Montecito Renaissance, Inc., No. 8:09-CV-1469-T-30MAP, 2011 WL 4529948, at *14 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 30, 2011) (“In Florida, at least where the declaratory judgment action will not decide facts that will be decided in the underlying case, courts should decide an insurer's duty to defend before the resolution of the underlying case as it is an ‘irreparable injury' for an insurer to defend a case when no duty to defend exists.” (citations omitted)); see alsoHartford Fire Ins. Co. v. Peninsula Logistics, Inc., No. 6:14-cv-00154-GAP-GJK, 2014 WL 1416339, *2 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 11, 2014) (“An insurer is irreparably injured if it is required to defend a case without a contractual ...


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