United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, [Doc. No.'s 11 and 14]. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motions are granted.
3, 2014, Defendants Scheibler and Jamerson were in an
automobile accident. Scheibler claims Jamerson was at fault
for the accident and she sustained injuries as a result of
has an Excess Insurance Policy in effect that potentially
insured Jamerson for the bodily injury damages allegedly
sustained by Scheibler on July 3, 2014. Plaintiff has sent a
denial of insurance coverage to Scheibler.
and Jamerson entered into an agreement to arbitrate
Scheibler's claims against Jamerson pursuant to RSMo
§ 537.065. The arbitration was held on April 18, 2016.
The arbitrator found in favor of Scheibler and against
Jamerson. The Arbitration Award was confirmed by the Circuit
Court of Jackson County on May 6, 2016.
filed this action on April 27, 2016 seeking a declaratory
judgment from this Court that its insurance policy contains
valid and enforceable conditions precedent to coverage; that
certain conditions have been breached by Defendant Jamerson,
and that it is relieved of any obligation to defend or
indemnify her for any claims made or suits brought by
Defendant Scheibler; and that Defendant Jamerson and
Defendant Scheibler's actions have deprived Plaintiff of
its rights under Article I §§ 10, 14 and 22A of the
Scheibler filed an equitable garnishment proceeding against
Plaintiff Empire and Defendant Jamerson on June 6, 2016 in
the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri on June 6,
2016, Cause Number 1616-CV-13492.
the Declaratory Judgment Act, a court “may declare the
rights...of any interested party seeking such
declaration.” 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) (emphasis
added). “[D]istrict courts possess discretion in
determining whether and when to entertain an action under the
Declaratory Judgment Act, even when the suit otherwise
satisfies subject matter jurisdictional prerequisites.”
Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 282 (1995).
“The question for a district court presented with a
suit under the Declaratory Judgment Act... is ‘whether
the questions in controversy between the parties to the
federal suit, and which are not foreclosed under the
applicable substantive law, can better be settled in the
proceeding pending in the state court.'”
Id. (quoting Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co. of
Am., 316 U.S. 491, 495 (1942)). “If a district
court, in the sound exercise of its judgment, determines
after a complaint is filed that a declaratory judgment will
serve no useful purpose, it cannot be incumbent upon that
court to proceed to the merits before staying or dismissing
the action.” Id. at 288.
Eighth Circuit has instructed that a district court's
“key consideration...is ‘to ascertain whether the
issues in the controversy between the parties to the federal
action...can be better settled by the state court' in
light of the ‘scope and nature of the pending state
court proceeding.' ” Evanston Ins. Co. v.
Johns, 530 F.3d 710, 713 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Capitol Indem. Corp. v. Haverfied, 218 F.3d 872, 874
(8th Cir. 2000)). If the issues would be better settled in
the state court proceeding, “the district court must
dismiss the federal action because ‘it would be
uneconomical as well as vexatious for a federal court to
proceed in a declaratory judgment suit where another suit is
pending in a state court presenting the same issues, not
governed by federal law, between the same parties.'
” Capitol Indem., 218 F.3d at 874-75
(quoting Brillhart, 316 U.S. at 495)); see also
Evanston Ins. Co., 530 F.3d at 713.
case is similar to Capitol Indemnity Corporation v.
Haverfield. After suit was filed against the insureds,
Capitol Indemnity filed a declaratory judgment action in
federal court contending the claims against the insureds were
excluded from coverage. 218 F.3d at 873-74. While the
declaratory judgment action was pending, the state court
entered judgment against the insureds, and the state court
plaintiffs filed a garnishment action against Capitol
Indemnity. Id. at 874. The Eighth Circuit determined
the district court abused its discretion by failing to
dismiss or stay the declaratory judgment action. Id.
at 875 (remanding the case to the district court with
instructions that the case be dismissed). The Eighth Circuit
noted the state and federal actions involved the same
parties, the same issue, the same insurance policies, and the
same arguments. Id.
considering the pending motion to dismiss, the Court has
weighed several factors. First, this proceeding and the state
court proceeding are parallel. The same issues are being
litigated by the same parties in different forums.
Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. Detco Indus., Inc., 426 F.3d
994, 997 (8th Cir. 2005) (stating that suits are parallel if
“substantially the same parties litigate substantially
the same issues in different forums.”) (citation
omitted). The same insurance policy is at stake, and the
parties are asserting the same arguments.
the garnishment action, although filed after this case
commenced, is further along. A review of the docket in
Missouri Casenet confirms that the parties have been notified
of a case management conference scheduled for December 19,
2016. In this matter, the parties do not have to conduct
their Rule 26 conference or submit their proposed scheduling