United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
insurance dispute comes before the court on
Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant Haman, Inc.'s motion to
dismiss Defendant/Counterclaim Plaintiff Chubb Custom
Insurance Company's counterclaim. (Doc. 15). In its
counterclaim, Chubb seeks two declaratory judgments regarding
appraisal of Haman's insurance claims. The court will
GRANT the motion to dismiss because Chubb has not alleged a
justiciable controversy to invoke the court's
jurisdiction over Chubb's requests for a declaratory
STANDARD OF REVIEW
counterclaim must satisfy the same pleading requirements as a
complaint, so courts review a motion to dismiss a
counterclaim under the same standard as a motion to dismiss a
complaint. Byrd v. Williams, 2016 WL 362404, at *1
n.2 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 29, 2016).
complaint, a counterclaim must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). If the
counterclaim fails to meet this requirement, the plaintiff
may move to dismiss the counterclaim for “failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court will grant the motion to
dismiss if the well-pled factual allegations in the
counterclaim, which the court accepts as true, fail to state
a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
the motion to dismiss does not challenge the well-pled
quality of Chubb's factual allegations. Instead, it
asserts that the court cannot provide any relief based on the
facts in the counterclaim. For the following reasons, the
issued a commercial property insurance policy that provided
coverage for damage to Haman's motel. Haman first
submitted a claim to Chubb for fire damage to the motel on or
about April 10, 2014. Haman and Chubb agreed on the total
amount of loss from the fire, and Chubb paid Haman that
amount under the policy. (Doc. 6 at ¶¶ 5-8)
(citations refer to paragraph numbers in the counterclaim
section of Chubb's responsive pleading, pages 30-40).
Haman retained Charles Howarth to appraise the fire loss. Mr.
Howarth submitted a repair estimate for the fire loss in an
amount much larger than what Chubb paid for the fire loss.
(Doc. 6 at ¶ 10).
Howarth, on behalf of Haman, demanded appraisal of the fire
loss pursuant to the appraisal provision of the insurance
policy. The policy's appraisal provision provided that if
the parties disagreed as to the amount of loss, either party
could make a demand to the other for an appraisal of the
loss. Then, each party would select a competent and impartial
appraiser, the two appraisers would select an umpire, the two
appraisers would state separately the amount of loss, and
then if the appraisers failed to agree, they would submit
their differences to the umpire. (Doc. 6 at ¶ 24).
objected to Mr. Howarth serving as Haman's appraiser
because, according to Chubb, Mr. Howarth “possesses a
direct financial interest in the outcome of the appraisal
under the contingency fee agreement between his company . . .
and Haman, which sets [his] compensation as a fee based on a
percentage of the insurance funds recovered for the
claim.” (Doc. 6 at ¶¶ 14, 26).
also submitted a claim for windstorm damage to the
motel's roof and interior on or about March 26, 2015.
Haman claimed that the windstorm damaged the interior of the
motel because of water seepage. Chubb paid Haman only for the
damage to the roof; Chubb did not pay for the interior water
damage because its expert determined that improper
installation and deterioration, which are excluded causes of
loss under the insurance policy, damaged the interior. (Doc.
6 at ¶¶ 15- 16, 21).
Howarth demanded appraisal of the wind loss. Chubb objected
to appraisal because the policy did not cover the interior
damages that Haman supposedly wanted to appraise. Chubb then
denied Haman's claim for the interior damages. (Doc. 6 at