Kelly v. Maxum Specialty Insurance Group

Kelly was in a collision a drunk driver, who had been drinking at Princeton Tavern. Princeton's dram shop liability policy was issued by State National. Kelly sued Princeton in state court, obtained a default judgment, and settled for $5 million. When that lawsuit was filed, Princeton requested that its broker, Carman, notify State of its obligation to defend and indemnify. Carman did not do so. Lacking notice, State refused to cover Princeton’s liability. Princeton assigned its rights to sue Carman; Kelly sued Carman in state court for negligence and breach of contract and filed a separate state-court action, seeking a declaratory judgment that Carmen's insurer, Maxum, was obligated to defend and indemnify. Maxum removed the Declaratory Action to federal district court, asserting diversity jurisdiction. Kelly and Carman are Pennsylvania citizens. Maxum (a Georgia company) argued that the two are together interested in securing Maxum’s coverage so that diversity of citizenship would exist once Carman was realigned to join Kelly as a plaintiff. The district court remanded to state court, reasoning that the state tort action constituted a parallel proceeding. The Third Circuit reversed. Contemporaneous state and federal proceedings are parallel under the Declaratory Judgment Action when they are substantially similar; the proceedings here were not. The nonexistence of a parallel state proceeding weighed significantly in favor of the district court entertaining the Declaratory Action but did not require it. Considerations of practicality and wise judicial administration counseled against abstention. View "Kelly v. Maxum Specialty Insurance Group" on Justia Law