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Lee v. Campbell

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

June 21, 2017

JOHNNY R. LEE, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Joshua Richard Lee and as Trustee for the Statutory Beneficiaries of Joshua Richard Lee, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT HENRY CAMPBELL, LADONNA CAMPBELL, and STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND AND GRANTING DEFENDANT STATE FARM'S MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Johnny R. Lee, as the personal representative of the estate of Joshua Richard Lee (Joshua) and as the trustee for the statutory beneficiaries of Joshua, deceased, filed this case as an insurance declaratory action. Pending before the Court are (1) Plaintiff's motion to remand and (2) Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's (State Farm) motion to consolidate this case with State Farm Fire & Casualty Insurance Company v. Horace Mills Sproull, III Pers. Representative of the Estate of Horace Mills Sproull, IV et al., Civil Action No. 7:16-3998-MGL (D.S.C) (collectively, the two actions). Having carefully considered the motions, the responses, the record, the reply, and the applicable law, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to remand and grant State Farm's motion to consolidate.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Court draws the relevant facts from Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. Plaintiff is, and Joshua was, a resident of South Carolina.

         On October 11, 2015, Joshua, along with fellow passengers Horace Mills Sproull, IV, and Sarah VandeBerg, died after the driver of the car they were in (the car), James Robert Campbell (James), also deceased, lost control of the car and crashed (the accident). Another passenger, Felicia Ahlborg, survived. Defendants Robert Henry Campbell (Robert) and LaDonna Campbell (LaDonna) (collectively, the Campbells), the grandparents of James and the owners of the car, are also residents of South Carolina.

         State Farm is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Illinois with its principal place of business there. It issued an automobile liability policy to LaDonna, which covered the car involved in the accident. Additionally, State Farm issued a Personal Liability Umbrella Policy (PLUP S.C. Policy) to the Campbells.

         On November 22, 2016, a state court judge signed the Settlement Order as it relates to Plaintiff's claims of wrongful death and survival against the Campbells. This settlement concerned the automobile liability policy State Farm issued to LaDonna. In regards to the PLUP S.C. Policy, the Settlement Order noted a separate declaratory judgment would determine if additional coverage would be available.

         Plaintiff signed a COVENANT NOT TO EXECUTE (the Covenant) on December 15, 2016, in favor of the Campbells in connection with the automobile accident. The Covenant relieved the Campbells from any additional personal liability regarding the accident.

         On December 27, 2017, Plaintiff brought a suit against the Campbells and State Farm in the Court of Common Pleas of Spartanburg County, asserting claims of negligent entrustment and liability under the Family Purpose Doctrine concerning the PLUP S.C. Policy.

         On the same day, State Farm filed a declaratory judgment action in this Court concerning claims arising out of the accident for the insurance proceeds of the PLUP S.C. Policy. State Farm seeks declaratory relief, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, to determine the rights, status, and other legal relationship concerning claims of negligent entrustment and liability under the Family Purpose Doctrine made by Felicia Ahlborg, Plaintiff, Horace Mills Sproull, IV, and Sarah VandeBerg.

         State Farm subsequently removed Plaintiffs state court matter to this Court. Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion to remand, to which State Farm filed a response. Also, State Farm filed a motion to consolidate, Plaintiff filed his response, and State Farm filed a reply. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to adjudicate both motions.

         III. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

         A. ...


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