United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. HERNDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is indispensable defendants Robert and
Michelle Mayberry's motion to dismiss (Doc. 26).
Specifically, the defendants move for the dismissal of
plaintiff's complaint for declaratory judgment pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 28 U.S.C.
§1332 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Naturally, plaintiff Sentry Select Insurance Company
(hereinafter “Sentry”) opposes the motion (Doc.
29). For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to
dismiss is GRANTED.
March 1, 2016, Sentry filed the pending lawsuit seeking a
declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201,
et seq., and Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
for events arising out of an automobile accident that
occurred on or about June 9, 2015 at the intersection of
Ferguson Avenue and Third Street in Wood River, Illinois.
Sentry argues that this Court has diversity jurisdiction over
this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because the
controversy is between citizens of different states and
exceeds the sum of $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs
Sentry seeks a declaration that it “does not owe a duty
to defend or indemnify defendants with regard to the lawsuit
styled Robert Mayberry and Michelle Mayberry v. Arthur
Heck, Chuck Heck's Repair & Towing, Inc. d/b/a Chuck
Hecks Auto Repair & Tow, and Darlene Heck d/b/a Chuck
Heck's Auto Repair & Towing Inc. and d/b/a Chuck
Hecks Auto Repair & Tow filed under action number
15-L-893 in the Circuit Court of the Third Judicial Circuit,
Madison County, Illinois” (Doc. 1, ¶3). Sentry
goes on to allege that it has “no adequate remedy at
law and, therefore, desires a judicial determination of its
rights and duties in accordance with the Sentry
Policy.” The Mayberrys, as the injured parties from the
accident, filed an action against the Heck defendants in
Madison County Circuit Court on July 16, 2015. Thereafter, on
February 5, 2016, the Mayberrys filed a motion to amend their
complaint in order to add a claim for declaratory judgment
against Sentry in the pending state court action (Doc. 26-2).
The amended complaint was later filed on March 28, 2016 (Doc.
underlying facts of the Madison County lawsuit allege that at
the time of the accident, Robert Mayberry was operating his
motorcycle with Michelle Mayberry riding as his passenger on
the motorcycle. Arthur Heck, acting within the scope of his
employment with Chuck Heck's Auto Repair & Towing,
was operating a tow truck owned by Heck's Auto Repair
& Towing with a vehicle owned by Weber Chevrolet on the
flatbed portion of the truck. The state court complaint
alleges that Arthur Heck was negligent in failing to yield to
a stop sign, and struck the Mayberry's motorcycle as a
result (Doc. 1, ¶21). The Mayberry defendants allege
that the underlying personal injury suit pending in state
court, inclusive of a count for declaratory judgment as to
the liability on the Sentry insurance policy issued to Weber
Granite City Chevrolet, is parallel to Sentry's action
before this Court. Thus, on April 26, 2016, the Mayberry
defendants filed the pending motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction based on the
Wilton/Brillhart abstention doctrine (Doc. 26).
Motion to Dismiss
subject motion is filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1). Rule 12(b)(1) requires dismissal if the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). The Seventh Circuit has stated that although a
plaintiff may easily defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim, the same is not true for a Rule
12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Bastien v. AT & T Wireless Services,
Inc., 205 F.3d 983, 990 (7th Cir. 2000). When a
defendant makes a 12(b)(1) challenge, the plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing jurisdiction. The Court must
“accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations
and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff.” St. John's United Church of Christ
v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir.2007)
(citation omitted). Yet, a court may receive and weigh
evidence outside the allegations in the complaint to
determine if it has subject matter jurisdiction over the
case. Id. In any event, the plaintiff has the burden
of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists.
Id. With this standard in mind, the Court now turns
to defendant's arguments for dismissal.
Doctrine “Under what is known as the
Wilton/Brillhart abstention doctrine, district
courts possess significant discretion to dismiss or stay
claims seeking declaratory relief, even though they have
subject matter jurisdiction over such claims.”
Envision Healthcare, Inc. v. PreferredOne Ins. Co.,
604 F.3d 983 (7th Cir. 2010). Wilton/Brillhart
doctrine applies “in a diversity case where a
declaratory judgment is sought and a parallel state
proceeding also exists.” Envision, 604 F.3d at
986 (citing Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277,
283 (1995); Provident Tradesmens Bk. & Tr. Co. v.
Patterson, 390 U.S. 102, 126 (1968) (noting “we
reaffirm our prior holding that a federal district court
should, in the exercise of discretion, decline to exercise
jurisdiction over a diversity action raising issues of state
law when those same issues are being presented
contemporaneously to state courts.”)); see also
R.R. St. & Co. v. Vulcan Materials Co., 569 F.3d
711(7th Cir. 2009) (“There is no doubt that a court may
dismiss or stay an action under the Wilton/Brillhart
abstention doctrine where solely declaratory relief is
whether abstention is appropriate involves a two-step
inquiry. First, the Court must determine whether the state
and federal cases are parallel. Id. at 716-17. If
the cases are parallel, the Court must then determine whether
the non-declaratory claims are independent of the declaratory
is ‘parallel' “when substantially the same
parties are contemporaneously litigating substantially the
same issues in another forum”. Interstate Material
Corp. v. City of Chicago, 847 F.2d 1285, 1288 (7th
Cir.1988); see also S ...