United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
PENN TANK LINES, INC., and, GREAT WEST CAS. CO., Plaintiffs,
PATRICK SHAWN JACKSON, Defendant.
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Penn Tank Lines, Inc., and Great West Casualty Company seek a
declaratory judgment holding that non-party decedent Valerie
Allen would be immune from a negligence lawsuit contemplated
by Defendant Patrick Jackson. Plaintiffs indicate they will
have to indemnify Ms. Allen's estate under various
contractual agreements with her.
allege that, while training Mr. Jackson as a truck driver,
Ms. Allen may have negligently caused an accident that
injured Mr. Jackson. Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Jackson, a
Penn employee, applied for and received workers'
compensation benefits from them. But now, Plaintiffs allege,
Mr. Jackson might bring a lawsuit against Ms.
Allen's estate in which he might allege that Ms.
Allen negligently caused his injuries while training him.
Plaintiffs want to know whether Ms. Allen would be immune
from suit under a defense provided by the Alabama
Workers' Compensation Act.
court finds that Plaintiffs lack standing because, under
these circumstances, the mere threatened or potential filing
of a lawsuit against Ms. Allen's estate does not harm
Plaintiffs' legally protected interests. Rather,
Plaintiffs seek an advisory opinion about the viability of
the claimed affirmative defense in a suit that has yet to be
always has a duty to inquire into its own jurisdiction, and a
court must do so at the earliest possible stage of litigation
before taking action on a case. Having made such an inquiry,
on its own motion, the court will DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE
the complaint for LACK OF JURISDICTION because
Plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment in truth
requests an advisory opinion on the viability of an
affirmative defense in advance of a threatened lawsuit;
i.e., Plaintiffs' assertion of their affirmative
defense in this declaratory judgment action is premature.
Jackson's “Motion to Dismiss, ” (doc. 5)
which does not raise any jurisdictional issue, is MOOT.
Plaintiffs' “Motion for Leave to Amend Their
Complaint For Declaratory Judgment By Interlineation”
(doc. 8) is likewise MOOT because it would not correct the
if the court had jurisdiction, the court, exercising its
discretion under the Declaratory Judgment Act, would decline
to hear this case.
court takes the allegations in the complaint as true for
purposes of examining its jurisdiction. See Lawrence v.
Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990).
Allen was a truck driver. In 2011, Ms. Allen and Penn entered
into a contractual relationship. Essentially, the contracts
contemplated that Ms. Allen would lease her truck to Penn and
then drive it “in furtherance of [Penn's] primary
business.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 8).
contracts included an insurance provision in which Penn
would, at its own expense, provide public liability insurance
to protect Ms. Allen and Penn from potential suits
“arising out of the operation of equipment
covered” by the agreements. To comply with this
provision, Penn acquired a policy with Great West. That
policy insured Penn and Ms. Allen for injuries “to a
member of the general motoring public that resulted”
from Ms. Allen's use of the truck “in furtherance
of” Penn's shipping business. (Doc. 1 ¶ 11).
Patrick Jackson wanted to be a truck driver. In 2016, Penn
hired Mr. Jackson as a driver-in-training. Penn paid Mr.
Jackson hourly wages and covered Mr. Jackson pursuant to
Alabama's workers' compensation plan.
contracted with Ms. Allen to train Mr. Jackson. Ms. Allen
trained Mr. Jackson for “approximately three
weeks” until March 30, 2016. On that afternoon, Ms.
Allen using her truck, with Mr. Jackson observing as a
passenger, was to deliver a “commercial bulk petroleum
tanker containing more than 8, 000 gallons of motor
fuel” to a gas station serviced by Penn.
way, they had a wreck. Ms. Allen died. Mr. Jackson survived,
but suffered several injuries in the crash, including road
rash, “a possible rotator cuff injury, ...