United States District Court, D. Colorado
NATIONAL FARMERS UNION PROPERTY AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
JOHN WILLARD, DANA WILLARD, CHANCE WILLARD, ESTATE OF JASON TORRES, and PERLA CRYSTAL TORRES, Defendants.
ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS TO DISMISS
William J. Martínez United States District Judge
case arises out of an accident on October 25, 2016 in which
Jason Torres was fatally hit by a vehicle driven by Defendant
Chance Willard. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 20-22.) At the time
of the accident, the vehicle driven by Chance Willard was
listed as an insured vehicle under a policy issued by
Plaintiff National Farmers Union Property and Casualty
Company (“NFU”). (Id. ¶¶ 11,
20.) NFU alleges that Chance Willard was listed as an
“excluded driver” under the subject policy, such
that any claims related to the October 25, 2016 accident are
not covered. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 28.) Accordingly,
NFU asserts that it owes no duty to defend or indemnify.
(Id. ¶ 29.)
the Court are two motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1): one motion filed by Defendants
John, Dana, and Chance Willard (the “Willard
Defendants”), and the other filed by Defendant Perla
Crystal Torres (“Torres”). (See ECF Nos.
13, 25.) For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants'
respective motions are granted.
8:30 a.m. on October 25, 2016, Chance Willard was driving the
Willard family pickup in Weld County, Colorado, when he
collided with the rear of Jason Torres' vehicle. (ECF No.
13 at 2; ECF No. 29 at 1; ECF No. 29-1 at 2.) Tragically, Jason
Torres “died at the scene as a result of injuries
suffered in the collision.” (ECF No. 29 at 1.)
According to NFU, the Willard Defendants have sought coverage
under the subject policy for claims arising from the
accident. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 27.) However, neither the spouse
of Jason Torres, nor his estate, have filed an underlying
tort action against the Willard Defendants. (ECF No. 13 at 2;
ECF No. 29 at 3.)
December 2012-almost four years before the accident-Chance
Willard was “charged with driving under the influence,
[which resulted] in his driver's license being
revoked.” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 14.) As a result, in April
2013, “Dana Willard contacted the insurance agent . . .
and asked to have Chance Willard excluded from the
policy.” (Id. ¶ 15.) “The policy
renewal for the period April 23, 2013 to October 23, 2013 was
issued with declarations listing Chance Willard as
‘EXCLUDED.'” (Id. ¶ 18
(capitalization in the original).) Each policy renewal,
including the renewal for the period October 23, 2016 through
April 23, 2017 “lists Chance Willard as
‘EXCLUDED' in the declarations[.]”
(Id. ¶ 19.) Thus, Chance Willard was listed as
an excluded driver at the time he collided with Jason Torres.
December 23, 2016, NFU filed the instant action seeking a
declaratory judgment that states: (1) “Chance Willard
was an excluded driver under the Policy”; (2)
“the Policy provides no coverage for any claims related
to the October 25, 2016 accident”; and (3) “NFU
has no duty to defend or indemnify the Willards.”
(Id. at 6.)
January 25, 2017, the Willard Defendants filed their motion
to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1), stating that “[t]his case must be dismissed
for failure to comply with the most basic
tenant[sic] of federal court jurisdiction: it does
not present an actual case or controversy which is ripe for
adjudication.” (ECF No. 13 at 1.) On February 22, 2017,
Torres filed her motion to dismiss adopting “all
arguments of law contained in the Willard Defendants'
motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” (ECF
No. 25 at 1.) Shortly thereafter, on February 23, 2017, NFU
responded (ECF No. 29), and the Willard Defendants replied on
March 9, 2017 (ECF No. 35).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may
move to dismiss a case by asserting that the Court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in the operative
complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).
“District courts have limited subject matter
jurisdiction and may hear cases when empowered to do so by
the Constitution and by act of Congress.” Randil v.
Sanborn W. Camps, Inc., 384 F.3d 1220, 1225 (10th Cir.
2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A court
lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss
the case at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes
apparent that jurisdiction is lacking.” Basso v.
Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909
(10th Cir. 1974).
12(b)(1) motions generally take one of two forms: a facial
attack or a factual attack. When reviewing a facial attack on
a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the Court accepts the
allegations of the complaint as true. Holt v. United
States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995). A factual
attack does not permit the court to presume the
complaint's factual allegations are true, although the
court does have “wide discretion to allow affidavits,
other documents, and a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve
disputed jurisdictional facts under Rule 12(b)(1).”
Id. In such circumstances, the court's reference
to evidence beyond the pleadings will not convert the motion
to one under Rules 56 or 12(b)(6), unless the jurisdictional
question is intertwined with the merits of the case.
Id. Here, the parties have offered declarations and
other documents in connection with their respective motions
to dismiss, creating a factual attack on the Court's
subject matter jurisdiction.
party seeking to invoke federal jurisdiction bears the burden
of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See
Lindstrom v. United States, 510 F.3d 1191, 1193 (10th
Cir. 2007) (“The litigant asserting jurisdiction must
carry the burden of proving it by a preponderance of the
evidence.”). In addressing this burden, NFU asserts
that this action is properly before the Court because
“[t]his action presents an actual controversy
appropriate for a Declaratory Judgment.” (ECF No. 29 at
Federal Declaratory Judgment Act provides that “[i]n a
case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction, . . . any
court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate
pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of
any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not
further relief is or could be sought.” 28 U.S.C. §
2201(a). “The phrase ‘case of actual
controversy' in the Act refers to the type of
‘Cases' or “Controversies' that are
justiciable under Article III of the United States
Constitution.” Columbian Fin. Corp. v. BancInsure,
Inc., 650 F.3d 1372, 1376 (10th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). The Tenth Circuit has cautioned that “Article
III has long been interpreted as forbidding federal courts
from rendering advisory opinions.” Id.
“It is not the role of federal courts to resolve
abstract issues of law. Rather, they are to review disputes
arising out of specific facts when the resolution of the
dispute will have practical consequences to the conduct of
the parties.” Id. The central question in
deciding whether a declaratory judgment action satisfies the
case or controversy ...