United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
SHERIPOLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant American Zurich Insurance
Company’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4) and Plaintiff Rock
Custom Homes, Inc.’s response in opposition (Doc. 13).
For these reasons, the Court denies the Motion (Doc. 4).
a Hurricane Irma insurance dispute. (Doc. 3). At the time of
the storm, an American Zurich insurance policy (the
“Policy”) covered Rock
Custom. (Doc. 3 at 2). Rock Custom suffered
property damage, but American Zurich denied Rock
Custom’s insurance claim. (Doc. 3 at 2). So Rock Custom
filed this two-count Complaint in state court. The Complaint
seeks a declaration of rights and obligations under the
Florida Declaratory Judgment Act (Count 1) and breach of
contract (Count 2). (Doc. 3 at 3-6). American Zurich removed
here. (Doc. 1).
complaint must recite “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This pleading standard
“does not require ‘detailed factual
allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.’” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A facially plausible
claim allows a “court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. So the pleading must contain
“more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Motion only seeks dismissal of Count 1. (Doc. 4 at 5-7).
American Zurich moves to dismiss on two grounds: failure to
state a claim and Count 1 is duplicative of Count 2.
Failure to State a Claim
American Zurich argues the Complaint fails to state a claim
under Florida law. (Doc. 4 at 3-5). Rock Custom contends this
is a proper declaratory judgment action under state law.
(Doc. 13). While neither party is correct, the Complaint is
enough to withstand this Motion.
a federal court sitting in diversity jurisdiction, we apply
the substantive law of the forum state, in this case Florida,
alongside federal procedural law.” Global Quest,
LLC v. Horizon Yachts, Inc., 849 F.3d 1022, 1027 (11th
Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). “Florida’s
Declaratory Judgment Act, found in Chapter 86 of the Florida
Statutes, is a procedural mechanism that confers subject
matter jurisdiction on Florida’s circuit and county
courts; it does not confer any substantive rights.”
Coccaro v. Geico Gen. Ins., 648 Fed.Appx. 876,
880-81 (11th Cir. 2016) (“[T]he Florida Declaratory
Judgment Act is procedural as opposed to
substantive.”). Because the state law is procedural,
federal law governs here. E.g., Costa Regency, L.L.C. v.
HSBC Card Servs., Inc., No. 8:19-cv-1362-T-33JSS, 2019
WL 2567926, at *3 (M.D. Fla. June 21, 2019) (“Although
the Complaint seeks a declaration under Section 86.011,
Florida Statutes, the case has been removed to federal court,
and so, the federal Declaratory Judgement Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201, governs.”). So the Court will construe
Count 1 as seeking relief under the federal Declaratory
Judgment Act. E.g., CJS Inv’rs, LLC v. Berke,
No. 6:18-cv-374-Orl-31DCI, 2018 WL 6589713, at *3 (M.D. Fla.
Dec. 14, 2018) (“Accordingly, the Court will construe
Count II as though [plaintiff] sought relief under the
federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201,
rather than Florida’s.”).
party makes argument related to the federal Declaratory
Judgment Act, instead focusing on the inapplicable state law.
For that reason alone, the Motion could be dismissed.
Wilmington Sav. Fund Soc’y, FSB v. Bus. Law
Grp., P.A., No. 8:15-cv-2831-T-36TGW, 2016 WL 11491321,
at *4-5 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 30, 2016) (“Because Defendants
have made no argument that the claim should be dismissed
under this [federal] Act, at this juncture, the Court will
deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss.”). But even
looking at the correct law, the Complaint appears sufficient.
“actual controversy” between the parties is
necessary to maintain a declaratory judgment action. Blitz
Telecom Consulting, LLC v. Peerless Network, Inc.,
151 F.Supp. 3d 1294');">151 F.Supp. 3d 1294, 1302 (M.D. Fla. 2015). So courts must
decide “whether the facts alleged, under all the
circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy,
between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient
immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a
declaratory judgment.” MedImmune, Inc. v.
Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 127 (2007) (citation
omitted). A controversy is not enough if it is unripe, moot,
or purely advisory. Blitz, 151 F.Supp. 3d at 1302. The power
to make declaratory judgments is discretionary. Id.
at 1303. And claims should proceed “if declaratory
relief would (1) serve a useful purpose in clarifying and
settling the legal relations in issue, and (2) terminate and
afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and
controversy giving rise to the proceeding.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Count 1 presents a substantial controversy for the Court to
resolve. Rock Custom alleges an adverse legal relationship
along with a live dispute over obligations under the Policy.
This is not a hypothetical disagreement. Policy coverage is
unresolved. So there is a fight over whether American Zurich
must provide coverage for substantial damages to Rock
Custom’s property. Thus, the Complaint alleges an
actual controversy to ...