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Catlin Syndicated Limited v. Ramuji, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

November 29, 2018

RAMUJI, LLC, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the court on a motion for summary judgment filed by a set of parties that the court will refer to as the Underwriters. (Doc. 192). The Underwriters are Plaintiff Catlin Syndicated Limited (“Catlin”) and Third Party Defendants Syndicate 1414 at Lloyd's (“Ascot Underwriting Limited”), Syndicate 5820 at Lloyd's (“ANV Syndicates Limited”), Syndicate 727 at Lloyd's (“S.A. Meacoch & Company Limited”), and Syndicate 1861 at Lloyd's (“ANV Syndicates Limited”). (Doc. 192; see also Doc. 188 at 16).

         This case arises from a fire at a motel owned by Defendant Ramuji, LLC. Peoples Independent Bank (“PIB”) was the mortgagee of the motel, and the Underwriters provided Ramuji's commercial insurance policy. After a fire destroyed the motel, Catlin-one of the Underwriters-filed this lawsuit against Ramuji and PIB, seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment that PIB does not have standing to present a claim under Ramuji's insurance policy (“Catlin's Count Two”). (Doc. 144 at 21-22). PIB filed a counterclaim against Catlin and a third party complaint against Ascot Underwriting Limited, ANV Syndicates Limited, S.A. Meacoch & Company Limited, and ANV Syndicates Limited, seeking a declaratory judgment that it is a third party beneficiary to Ramuji's insurance policy (“PIB's Count One”), and asserting a claim that the Underwriters breached the contract by failing to pay PIB as a third party beneficiary (“PIB's Count Two”).[1] (Doc. 188 at 26-27, 32-35).

         To complicate matters further, before the fire, PIB had obtained a mortgage protection policy from Great American Assurance Company (“Great American”). (See Doc. 29 at 3). The court permitted Great American to intervene (doc. 87), and Great American filed a third party complaint against, among others, the Underwriters, seeking a declaratory judgment that they must cover PIB's claim under Ramuji's policy. (Doc. 93 at 9-10).

         The Underwriters have now jointly moved for summary judgment on Catlin's Count Two and PIB's Counts One and Two. (Doc. 192). Although the motion does not address Great American's third party claim against the Underwriters, Great American has responded in opposition, and PIB has joined its opposition. (Docs. 196, 197). Because PIB has not presented any evidence creating a genuine dispute of material fact about whether the Underwriters and Ramuji intended to make PIB a third party beneficiary of the insurance policy, the court WILL GRANT the Underwriters' motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court “draw[s] all inferences and review[s] all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Hamilton v. Southland Christian Sch., Inc., 680 F.3d 1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks omitted). The court deems the Underwriters' statement of undisputed facts admitted because Great American and PIB did not controvert those facts. (See Doc. 3 at 17; Doc. 192-1 at 6-16; Doc. 196 at 2-4).

         1. Facts

         Ramuji owns a motel located in Boaz, Alabama. (Doc. 192-1 at 7). Since 2004, PIB has been the mortgagee on the property. (Doc. 46 at 27-29). In May 2015, Ramuji applied for a commercial insurance policy from Promont Advisors, LLC (“Promont”), an agent for the Underwriters. (Id. at 10). The application had a box titled “Additional Interest, ” in which an applicant would indicate if there was a mortgagee on the property. (Doc. 90-6 at 8). Ramuji left that box unchecked and did not otherwise disclose the existence of PIB as its mortgagee. (Id.).

         On the Underwriters' behalf, Promont issued a commercial insurance policy to Ramuji, effective from May 9, 2015 to May 9, 2016. (Doc. 192-1 at 10). The policy lists only Ramuji as the named insured. (Doc. 90-7 at 5). It contains a “Mortgage Clause, ” which provides:

Loss or damage shall be payable to the mortgagee (or trustee) named in the Declarations or by endorsement, as interest may appear under all present or future mortgages upon the property herein described, in order of precedence of said mortgages. This insurance, as to the interest of the mortgagee (or trustee) only, shall not be invalidated by:
a. Any act of neglect of the mortgagor or owner of the herein described property . . . .

(Id. at 34). The declarations page did not name PIB as a mortgagee (see Id. at 5-6; Doc. 192-1 at 11), and PIB was not named in an endorsement to the policy until after the motel was damaged in a fire on April 2, 2016 (doc. 90-7 at 60-61; Doc. 192-1 at 11).

         Ramuji made a fire loss claim under its policy (see doc. 144 at 15), and on April 25, 2016, almost three weeks after the fire, it requested that Promont retroactively add PIB to the insurance policy as a mortgagee (doc. 192-1 at 11). Promont informed Ramuji that it could not retroactively add PIB as a mortgagee, but it added the bank by endorsement effective April 25, 2016. (Id.; Doc. 90-7 at 60-61). ...

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