United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Hucks Pool Company,
Inc.'s [ECF No. 7] motion to dismiss. For the reasons
stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part
Hucks Pool Company's motion to dismiss.
and Procedural Background
issued Hucks Pool Company a Commercial General Liability
Policy for the period of June 21, 2016 through June 21, 2017.
On or about July 11, 2016, Defendant Jeffrey Mann
("Mann") was allegedly injured at the Hucks Pool
Company facility when a Hucks Pool Company employee or
associate activated a pressurized gun and shot Mann in the
ear with a bleach solution. Following the incident, Mann
letter dated November 23, 2016, Mann's counsel placed
Hucks Pool Company on notice of Mann's claim. The letter,
addressed to Hucks Pool Company, stated:
As you know, on July 11, 2016 Mr. Jeffrey Mann was at your
facility when one of your associates activated a pressurized
gun and shot him in the ear with a bleach solution. Due to
this incident my client had to seek medical attention and may
possibly sustain permanent hearing loss. Given the accident
was due to the negligent operation of equipment by one of
your employees we are placing you on notice that we are
representing client for this incident and shall submit our
demand package accordingly. Please contact me and provide me
with the information regarding who your general liability
insurance carrier is.
[ECF No. 14-1]. Mann has not yet filed a lawsuit based on
31, 2017, Colony filed the instant declaratory judgment
action seeking a declaration as to: 1) whether Colony's
policy provides coverage for the July 11, 2016 incident
involving Jeffrey Mann; 2) whether Colony has a duty to
indemnify Hucks Pool Company for the July 11, 2016 incident;
and 3) whether Colony has a duty to defend Hucks Pool Company
for the July 11, 2016 incident. [Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 4].
Pool Company filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 7] arguing
that this matter is not ripe for adjudication because Mann
has not yet filed a complaint related to the underlying
claim. Hucks Pool Company also argues the amount in
controversy is not met for purposes of diversity jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
III of the United States Constitution limits the exercise of
judicial power to “cases” and
“controversies.” U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2,
cl. 1. In accordance with this constitutional mandate, the
Federal Declaratory Judgment Act provides that, “[i]n a
case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction...any
court of the United States...may declare the rights and other
legal relations of any interested party seeking such
declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be
sought.” 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a).
court's discretion to grant declaratory relief
“should be liberally exercised to effectuate the
purposes of the [Declaratory Judgment Act] and thereby afford
relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to
rights, status and other legal relations.” Aetna
Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d 321, 324 (4th
Cir.1937). The Supreme Court has stated that the case or
controversy requirement will be met where "the facts
alleged, under all the circumstances, show that there is a
substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal
interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the
issuance of a declaratory judgment." Medimmune, Inc.
v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 127 (2007). "[A]
declaratory judgment action is appropriate when the judgment
will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the
legal relations in issue, and...when it will terminate and
afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and
controversy giving rise to the proceeding."
Penn-America Ins. Co. v. Coffey, 368 F.3d 409, 412
on Union Ins. Co. v. Soleil Group, Inc., 465
F.Supp.2d 567 (D.S.C. 2006), Hucks Pool Company argues that
this case is not ripe for adjudication because no complaint
has been filed on behalf of Jeffrey Mann against Hucks Pool
Union Ins. Co. v. Soleil Group, Inc., the court
dismissed a declaratory judgment action for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction on ripeness grounds. 465 F.Supp.2d at
574-75. First, the court noted that in South Carolina
"an insurer's duty to defend is determined by the
allegations of the underlying complaint." Id.
at 572. The court then held the duty to defend issue was not
ripe because no complaint had been filed against the Soleil
Group and with no complaint, the court could not
"compare the allegations in the complaint to the policy
language in order to determine whether Plaintiff has a duty
to defend the Soleil Group." Id. at 574. As to
the duty to indemnify, the court noted that the duty to
indemnify is "based on evidence found by the
factfinder" in ...