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State Auto Ins. Cos. v. Summy

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20324
Nos. No. 00-1116, 234 F.3d 131/(3d Cir., 12/01/2000)

The court vacates a district court declaratory judgment stating that a pollution exclusion clause in a landlord's insurance policy precluded coverage against a tenant's lead poisoning claim. The district court issued the judgment during the pendency of a state court action addressing the same issue. The court first holds that the case falls outside the area appropriate for the district court to exercise its jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act. At the time the district court denied the landlord's motion to dismiss the federal case, the tenant's personal injury suit and the landlord's petition for a declaratory judgment were both pending in state court before the same judge, who was presumably already familiar with the insurance policy and the scientific evidence available on lead paint poisoning. Thus, judicial efficiency was not promoted when the district court also considered the evidence, as it inevitably had to do when deciding the federal declaratory judgment action. If the district court had not interfered, the state court would have been able to develop a coordinated schedule of briefing and discovery that would have promoted the efficient resolution of both the declaratory judgment action and the underlying tort action, thereby conserving judicial resources. Further, no federal interests were promoted by deciding this case in the district court.

Counsel for Appellee
Jonathan C. Deisher
Post & Schell
1245 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., Ste. 300, Allentown PA 18103
(610) 433-0193

Counsel for Appellants
John R. Trotman Jr.
Monheit, Monheit, Silverman & Fodera
11 Penn Center
1835 Market St., Ste. 1101, Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 561-2100

Before Barry and Rosenn, JJ.