National Trust Insurance Co. v. Southern Heating and Cooling Inc., No. 20-11292 (11th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing National Trust's federal declaratory judgment action without prejudice. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against Southern Heating and others in Alabama state court after his parents died from carbon monoxide poisoning. National Trust, Southern Heating's insurer, filed suit in federal court seeking a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Southern Heating because there is no coverage under its policy. The district court found that the Alabama state court action was parallel to the federal declaratory judgment action and that the non-exhaustive guideposts set out in Ameritas Variable Life Ins. Co. v. Roach, 411 F.3d 1328, 1331 (11th Cir. 2005), weighed in favor of not hearing National Trust's action.
The court concluded that, when relevant, the degree of similarity between concurrent state and federal proceedings is a significant consideration in deciding whether to entertain an action under the Declaratory Judgment Act. In this case, the district court properly took into account that similarity in its consideration of the Ameritas guideposts. The court explained that the district court's perspective may not be the only way to view the two proceedings at issue, but it is a permissible way to look at them, and that is enough to constitute a reasonable exercise of discretion.