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Colorado Casualty Insurance Co. v. Candelaria Corp.

March 31, 2010

COLORADO CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, A COLORADO CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CANDELARIA CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VIRGINIA A. Phillips United States District Judge

[Motions filed on February 12, 2010]

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff Colorado Casualty Insurance Company ("Plaintiff") filed this action seeking a judicial declaration that it is not obligated to indemnify its insureds, Defendants Candelaria Corporation, EPC Corporation (the "Candelaria Defendants"), and David N. Goff,*fn1 for any punitive damages that may be awarded to Defendants Somlux Lebsack and John Lebsack ("Lebsacks" and, together with Goff and the Candelaria Defendants, "Defendants") in an action currently pending in California Superior Court, Riverside County. The Candelaria Defendants moved to transfer this case to the District of Arizona, and Plaintiff moved for summary judgment. These motions came before the Court for a hearing on March 22, 2010. After reviewing and considering all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, the motions, the Court DENIES the Candelaria Defendants' motion to transfer and GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action on November 13, 2009. Plaintiff seeks a judicial declaration that it has no duty to indemnify the Candelaria Defendants or Mr. Goff for any punitive damage award that may be entered against them in the case entitled Lebsack, et al. v. Goff, et al., Case No. RIC472471, pending in the California Superior Court for Riverside County (the "Underlying Action"). Plaintiff also seeks a declaration that it has no duty to pay to the Lebsacks any punitive damages they may be awarded in the Underlying Action.

On February 12, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on both claims, and noticed a hearing on the summary judgment motion for March 15, 2010. The Candelaria Defendants filed an ex parte application seeking to continue the hearing date to May 3, 2010, which the Court granted in part, continuing the hearing until March 22, 2010. The Lebsacks' and Candelaria Defendants' Oppositions were filed timely, as was Plaintiff's Reply.

Also on February 12, 2010, the Candelaria Defendants filed a motion to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. Plaintiff's Opposition and the Candelaria Defendants' Reply were filed timely.

Both the motion to transfer and the motion for summary judgment The Court now considers both the motion to transfer and the motion for summary judgment.

B. Uncontroverted Facts

The following material facts are supported adequately by admissible evidence and are uncontroverted. They are "admitted to exist without controversy" for the purposes of this Motion. See Local Rule 56-3.

Defendants Candelaria Corporation ("Candelaria") and EPC Corporation ("EPC") are Arizona corporations with their principal places of business in Glendale, Arizona. (Candelaria Defs.' Stmt. of Genuine Issues ("SGI") at 6:9--12; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs.' SGI ¶ 1.) Mr. Goff, a resident of Tucson, Arizona, worked as a construction superintendent for Candelaria. (Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 6:16--19; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs.' SGI ¶ 2.) Candelaria provided Mr. Goff with a company vehicle. (Id.)

Plaintiff's home office is in Centennial, Colorado, and it is authorized to do business as an insurer in Arizona. (Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 8:10--13; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs.' SGI ¶ 8.)

The Candelaria Defendants purchased business insurance from Plaintiff in the form of a "Commercial Package Policy" and a policy of umbrella coverage, (collectively, the "Policy"), which were in effect from May 2006 to May 2007.*fn2 (Pl.'s Stmt. of Uncontroverted Facts ("SUF") ¶ 6; Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 3:24--4:4; Lebsacks' SGI at 3:15--20.) The Candelaria Defendants obtained the Policy by working with an Arizona insurance agency known as Sun Insurance Group. (Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 7:18--21; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs.' SGI ¶ 6.) The company vehicle provided to Mr. Goff was covered under the Policy. (Pl.'s SUF ¶ 7; Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 4:5--8; Lebsacks' SGI at 3:21--24.)

Mr. Goff began working on a construction project for Candelaria in San Pedro, California in November, 2006. (Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 10:18--20; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs.' ¶ 18--20.) In January 2007,*fn3 Mr. Goff was involved in an automobile accident while driving the Candelaria-provided vehicle in Banning, California. (Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 11:10--13; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs' SGI ¶ 22.) Defendant Somlux Lebsack was driving the other vehicle involved in that accident. (Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 11:14--18; Pl.'s Reply to Candelaria Defs' SGI ¶ 23.) Ms. Lebsack later filed the Underlying Action against Mr. Goff, Candelaria and EPC in connection with that accident. (Id.) Ms. Lebsack seeks, inter alia, punitive damages in the Underlying Action. The Candelaria Defendants tendered defense of the Underlying Action to Plaintiff. (Pl.'s SUF ¶ 10; Candelaria Defs.' SGI at 5:11--13.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Transfer

A district court, "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice,... may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In determining whether a transfer of venue is appropriate in a given case, courts may consider: "(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two fora, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease of access to sources of proof." Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498--99 (9th Cir. 2000). Courts also consider as significant factors the presence of a forum selection clause and the public policy of the forum state, if any. Id. at 499. "The defendant must make a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the plaintiff's choice of forum." Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The moving party must show that "under the governing law, there ...


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