United States District Court, S.D. Florida
Sheldon L. Brodsky, Plaintiff,
USAA General Indemnity Company, Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT
N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to
dismiss Count II of the Plaintiff's complaint. (ECF No.
3.) The Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 9) and the
Defendant timely replied. (ECF No. 11.) For the reasons
discussed below, the Court grants the
Defendant's motion to dismiss Count II of the
Plaintiff's complaint. (ECF No. 3.)
Plaintiff in this case purchased homeowner's insurance
from the Defendant to insure his property in Coral Springs,
Florida. (ECF No. 1-2 at 2.) On or about July 8, 2019,
Plaintiff's property was damaged by a wind, water, and/or
a mold event. (Id. at 3.) According to the
Plaintiff, the loss to his property was covered under his
policy with the Defendant. (Id.) The Plaintiff
alleges that the Defendant has failed to acknowledge coverage
for the loss or provide payment of insurance proceeds to
compensate him for his property damage. (Id.) On
October 19, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint
in state court against the Defendant for breach of contract
and declaratory relief. The Defendant removed the case to
federal court on November 18, 2019. (ECF No. 1.) The
Defendant now moves to dismiss the Plaintiff's claim for
declaratory relief (Count II).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all of the
complaint's allegations as true, construing them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v.
McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). A
pleading must only contain “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of a
complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In
assessing the legal sufficiency of a complaint's
allegations, the Court is bound to apply the pleading
standard articulated in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, the complaint
“must . . . contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp.,
605 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp, 550 U.S. at 570). “Dismissal is
therefore permitted when on the basis of a dispositive issue
of law, no construction of the factual allegations will
support the cause of action.” Glover v. Liggett
Grp., Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006)
(internal quotations omitted) (citing Marshall Cnty.
Bd.of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171,
1174 (11th Cir. 1993).
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678.
“The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
Plaintiff's complaint is based only on Chapter 86,
Florida Statutes, which is the state's version of the
Declaratory Judgment Act. See Fla. Stat. §
86.021. Florida Statute Section 86.021 provides for a
declaration of rights or status where a party to an agreement
is in doubt as to his or her rights. City of Hollywood v.
Fla. Power & Light, Co., 624 So.2d 285 (Fla. 4th
Dist. Ct. App. 1993). Florida Statute § 86.101 provides
that it is substantive law. Fla. Stat. § 86.101. The
state statute is, however, a procedural mechanism that
confers subject matter jurisdiction on Florida state courts.
Nirvana Condominium Ass'n, Inc., v. QBE Ins.
Corp., 589 F.Supp.2d 1336, 1343 n. 1 (S.D. Fla. 2008)
(Graham, J.). There is nothing in this particular statutory
provision that confers any substantive rights. Id.
As a practical matter, however, the elements required under
the federal or state declaratory-judgment acts are not
materially different. Compare Malowney v. Federal
Collection Deposit Group, 193 F.3d 1342, 1346 (11th
Cir.1999), with Floyd v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 415
So.2d 103, 104 (Fla. 3d Dist. Ct. App. 1982).
have discretion in deciding whether to allow a declaratory
action to proceed. Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515
U.S. 277, 284 (1995). A court may declare the rights and
other legal relations of any interested party in the case of
an actual controversy within its jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201. The only relevant inquiry in a motion to dismiss
a declaratory-judgment action is whether or not the plaintiff
is entitled to a declaration of rights. Tobon v. Am. Sec.
Ins. Co., No. 06-61912-Civ, 2007 WL 1796250, at *2 (S.D.
Fla. June 20, 2007) (McAliley, Mag. J.) “[A] trial
court should not entertain an action for declaratory judgment
on issues which are properly raised in other counts of the
pleadings and already before the court, through which the
plaintiff will be able to secure full, adequate and complete
relief.” McIntosh v. Harbour Club Villas, 468
So.2d 1075, 1080-81 (Fla. 3d Dist. Ct. App. 1985) (Nesbitt,
J. concurring); see also Taylor v. Cooper, 60 So.2d
534, 535-36 (Fla. 1952).
Defendant argues that the Plaintiff's claim for
declaratory relief should be dismissed because it is
duplicative of the breach of contract claim. (ECF No. 3 at
3.) Declaratory judgment claims may properly coexist with
breach of contract claims when they provide the plaintiff a
form of relief unavailable under the breach of contract
claim. See Kenneth F. Hackett & Assoc., Inc. v. GE
Capital Info. Tech. Solutions, Inc., 744 F.Supp.2d 1305,
1311 (S.D. Fla. 2010) (Altonaga, J.) (finding plaintiff's
declaratory judgment claim could affect future payments or
rate increases under the existing contract and so sought
different relief than the plaintiff's breach of contract
claim). But even so, claims for declaratory judgment must
look forward, rather than backward, as any retrospective
declaratory judgment would be equally solved by resolution of
the breach of contract claim. Id.
determination of the plaintiff's breach of contract claim
involves the same factual dispute as the declaratory judgment
claim, then the “Plaintiff will be able to secure full,
adequate and complete relief through the breach of contract
claim” and consequently “the declaratory action
must be dismissed.” Berkower v. USAA Cas. Ins.
Co., No. 15-23947-Civ, 2016 WL 4574919, at *5 (S.D. Fla.
Sep. 1, 2016) (Goodman, Mag. J.) (quoting Fernando
Grinberg Trust Success Int'l Props., LLC v. Scottsdale
Ins. Co., No. 10-20448-Civ, 2010 WL 2510662, at *1-2
(S.D. Fla. June 21, 2010) (Cooke, J.)). “[T]wo concerns
dominate decisions to dismiss a declaratory relief claim
pleaded with a breach of contract claim: the completeness of
the relief afforded to a party when it prevails on its ...