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Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Jacobsen

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke.

July 10, 2015



DAVID A. FABER, Senior District Judge.

Pending before the court are Craig Jacobsen's motion for leave to intervene, (Doc. No. 35), and defendant's motion for leave to amend her counterclaim. (Doc. No. 36). For the reasons that follow, both motions are GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

The instant dispute arises out of an automobile accident that occurred on December 8, 2013. On that date, defendant was riding in a Hyundai Elantra driven by Krista Crennan in Arlington County, Virginia. (Doc. No. 1 at Exh. 5). In snowy conditions, a car driven by Gerald Deshunn Newsome crossed the median and struck Crennan's Elantra head-on. Id . Defendant sustained multiple injuries in the accident, including sacral fractures, a right elbow fracture, and a right collarbone fracture. Id.

Months earlier, in February 2013, defendant's father, Craig Jacobsen, contracted with Nationwide agents to purchase automobile insurance and umbrella insurance coverage for his family. (Doc. No. 12.) The insurance coverage afforded no fewer than five hundred thousand dollars ($500, 000.00) in coverage, which included expenses for medical payments as well as uninsured and underinsured motorist (hereinafter "UM/UIM") coverage. (Doc. No. 1).

In June 2014, defendant initiated litigation in the Eastern District of Virginia against Newsome to recover damages as a result of the accident. (Case No. 1:14-cv-67). In connection with the litigation, defendant sought UM/UIM coverage from plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 1). As a result, plaintiffs filed the instant suit, seeking a declaratory judgment ordering that plaintiffs have no obligation to provide insurance coverage or benefits to defendant. (Doc. No. 1). Defendant counterclaims for a declaratory judgment, as well, seeking an order that she is entitled to UM/UIM coverage and medical expense benefits. (Doc. No. 12).

II. Motion for Leave to Intervene

Defendant's father, Craig Jacobsen, moves the court for leave to intervene in this action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b). Jacobsen argues that his intervention is appropriate because the court will determine the existence of UM/UIM coverage on one or more policies of insurance issued to him and other members of his family. (Doc. No. 35 at 1). Plaintiffs oppose the intervention and argue that the only issue before the court is whether defendant, rather than Jacobsen, may claim coverage. (Doc. No. 39 at 1-2).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 governs intervention and provides for both mandatory and permissive intervention. Under Rule 24(a), a court must permit intervention where federal statute gives a party the unconditional right to intervene or where a party "claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest." (2015). In this case, Jacobsen has not cited a federal statute providing him with an unconditional right to intervene, nor does he claim that his interest is so situated that disposing of the instant suit might impair his ability to protect his interest. As a result, mandatory intervention under Rule 24(a) is unwarranted.

Rule 24(b) governs permissive intervention and allows the court, "at its discretion, to permit anyone to intervene who has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.'" Linkous v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp., Civil Action No. 7:11-cv-278, 2011 WL 4894233, at *3 (W.D. Va. Oct. 13, 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(1)(B)). "In this context, a claim or defense generally refers to the kinds of claims or defenses that can be raised in courts of law as part of an actual or impending law suit." Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 76-7 (1986) (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Furthermore, courts must analyze the timeliness of a party's proposed intervention under Rule 24, which explicitly requires a timely motion. Our Court of Appeals has outlined three factors that govern the question of timely intervention: "first, how far the underlying suit has progressed; second, the prejudice any resulting delay might cause the other parties; and third, why the movant was tardy in filing its motion." Alt v. United States E.P.A., 758 F.3d 588, 591 (4th Cir. 2014). At its core, the timeliness requirement prevents "a tardy intervenor from derailing a lawsuit within sight of the terminal." Id . (internal citations omitted).

Having examined Jacobsen's motion to intervene, the court concludes that his intervention is appropriate because he presents a claim before the court sharing common questions of law or fact as those presented by defendant. Jacobsen himself negotiated purchase of the insurance policies at issue in this case. When he did so, he sought policies that would provide UM/UIM coverage for himself, his wife, and their four children, including defendant. Defendant and Jacobsen are named together on at least two of the policies: policy numbers 5345V644637 and 5345V644638. Plaintiffs claim that defendant was not a named insured under the policies at issue and request a judgment that they have no obligation to provide UM/UIM coverage for defendant. Any judgment the court renders will almost certainly affect Jacobsen's rights as well, as he is also named under these policies. Therefore, his intervention is appropriate.

The court further finds that Jacobsen's intervention is timely. The litigation has not progressed to the point where Jacobsen's intervention would derail the process or prejudice plaintiffs. The parties have not yet concluded discovery nor have they filed dispositive motions. The court notes that Jacobsen has not provided a reason for his delay in moving to intervene, but finds that the factors in ...

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