United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
ROOFING & RECONSTRUCTION CONTRACTORS OF AMERICA LLC a/a/o William Bak, Plaintiff,
METROPOLITAN CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on review of defendant's
Motion to Dismiss Petition (Doc. #14) filed on July 19, 2019.
Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. #15) on August 2, 2019.
Defendant argues that the sole cause of action for
declaratory relief fails because it does not sufficiently
plead a “continuing and substantial controversy”
warranting a declaratory judgment. For the reasons set forth
below, the motion is denied.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a Complaint must
contain a “short and plain statement of the grounds for
the court's jurisdiction”, and a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1), (2). This
obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions,
and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). To
survive dismissal, the factual allegations must be
“plausible” and “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. at 555. See also Edwards v. Prime Inc.,
602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). In deciding a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual
allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light
most favorable to plaintiff, Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89 (2007), but “[l]egal conclusions without
adequate factual support are entitled to no assumption of
truth, ” Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148,
1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).
federal pleading standards govern, plaintiff brings a state
law claim pursuant to the Florida Declaratory Judgment Act,
Fla. Stat. § 86.01 et seq. (Doc. #3,
¶¶ 27, 28, 30.) Federal removal jurisdiction is
premised on diversity of citizenship. (Doc. #1, ¶ 6.)
Thus, Florida substantive law governs, and federal case law
interpreting the federal Declaratory Judgment, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201 et seq. is not applicable in this case.
Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938);
Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. v. Beaver, 466
F.3d 1289, 1291 (11th Cir. 2006).
Petition for Declaratory Relief
Petition alleges that defendant Metropolitan Casualty
Insurance Company (Metropolitan) issued an insurance policy
to William Bak covering certain property in Naples, Florida;
that on or about September 12, 2017, while defendant's
insurance policy was in effect, this property suffered
hurricane damage; that Mr. Bak filed a timely claim with
Metropolitan; and that Metropolitan denied coverage.
Plaintiff Roofing & Reconstruction Contractors of America
LLC rendered roofing services in connection with the
hurricane damage, and became the assignee of Mr. Bak.
assignee, plaintiff asserts that the claim was wholly and
improperly denied and seeks an interpretation and
clarification of certain provisions in the insurance policy.
Plaintiff alleges that the policy provides “all
risk” coverage, that it is unaware of any express
provision preventing coverage, and therefore believes the
claim was wrongfully denied. A copy of the policy is not
attached to the Petition or the motion. Plaintiff argues that
despite its belief of a wrongful denial of coverage, it is
uncertain as to its right to coverage under the policy.
Plaintiff alleges that the relief sought relates to a
present, ascertainable controversy, and seeks the declaration
under Fla. Stat. § 86.021.
Florida Cause of Action
Florida Declaratory Judgment Act is substantive law intended
to be remedial in nature, and is to be liberally administered
and construed. Fla. Stat. § 86.101; Higgins v. State
Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 894 So.2d 5, 10-12 (Fla.
2004). Courts are authorized “to declare rights, status
and other equitable or legal relations, whether or not
further relief is or could be claimed”, and “its
declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and
effect. . . .” Fla. Stat. § 86.011. Courts
“may render declaratory judgments on the existence, or
nonexistence: (1) Of any immunity, power, privilege, or
right; or (2) Of any fact upon which the existence or
nonexistence of such immunity, power, privilege, or right
does or may depend, whether such immunity, power, privilege
or right now exists or will arise in the future.” Fla.
Stat. § 86.011.
declaratory judgment action may be brought by “[a]ny
person claiming to be interested or who may be in doubt about
his or her rights” under a contract “or whose
rights, status, or other equitable or legal relations are
affected” by a contract in order to determine
“any question of construction or validity arising under
such” contract. Fla. Stat. § 86.021. This
“does not limit or restrict the exercise of the general
powers conferred in s. 86.011 in any action where declaratory
relief is sought.” Fla. Stat. § 86.051. “Any
declaratory judgment rendered pursuant to this chapter may be
rendered by way of anticipation with respect to any act not
yet done or any event which has not yet happened, and in such
case the judgment shall have the same binding effect with
respect to that future act or event, and the rights or
liability to arise therefrom, as if that act or event had
already been done or had already happened before the judgment
was rendered.” Fla. Stat. § 86.051.
Florida law, “there must be a bona fide need for such a
declaration based on present, ascertainable facts or the
court lacks jurisdiction to render declaratory relief.”
Martinez v. Scanlan, 582 So.2d 1167, 1170 (Fla.
1991). Additionally, “there still must exist some
justiciable controversy between adverse parties that needs to
be resolved for a court to exercise its jurisdiction.”
Id. at 1171. Where there is no longer a bona fide,
actual, or present need for a declaration, a court lacks
jurisdiction to grant relief under the Florida Declaratory
Judgment Act. Santa Rosa Cnty. v. Administration
Comm'n, Div. of Admin. Hearings, 661 So.2d 1190
(Fla. 1995). The Florida Declaratory Judgment Act authorizes
declaratory judgments as to insurance policy obligations to
defend and provide coverage for indemnity even when it is
necessary to decide issues of fact in order to determine the
declaratory judgment. Higgins v. State Farm Fire and Cas.
Co., 894 So.2d 5, 9 (Fla. 2004).
reviewed the Petition, the Court is satisfied that it meets
the pleading requirements for a cause of action seeking ...