Wood man's breach suit against insurer dismissed

By Lawrence Smith | Nov 20, 2009

PARKERSBURG - A related suit Jeff Corra filed against his homeowner's insurer resulting from the circumstances that happened on Aug. 6, 2006 has been dismissed.

In addition to the legal malpractice suit filed against George Cosenza, Corra filed a breach of contract suit against American Modern Home Insurance Company in Wood Circuit Court. However, the suit on Oct. 2 was moved to U.S. District Court in Parkersburg following a motion filed by AMHIC's attorneys Al Emch, and Gary W. Hart.

Records show Emch and Hart, with the Charleston office of Jackson Kelly, made the motion on the grounds of diversity of jurisdiction between the parties, and the potential sum in controversy was greater than $75,000.

In his complaint, Corra alleges no sooner was he was indicted in Sept. 2006, than did the administrators of Joshua Tucker's and Matthew Humphrey's estates, and Morgan Brown's parents serve notice on Corra they intended to file a claim with AMHIC. On Dec. 4, 2006, AMHIC filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking a declaration it had no duty to defend or indemnify Corra against the claims.

Tucker and Humphreys were killed, and Brown was injured following a single-vehicle accident caused by Courtney McDonough, the driver of the vehicle, who consumed alcohol while visiting with Corra's daughter, Ashley.

Also, AMHIC filed a motion for summary judgment that under the terms and conditions of his policy, Tucker's and Brown's deaths, and Brown's injuries were not caused by an "occurrence." On Dec. 15, 2008, two months before it overturned his conviction on charges of furnishing alcoholic liquors to minors, the state Supreme Court, in response to a certified question submitted by the U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, ruled the deaths and injuries did not constitute an occurrence.

In his suit against AMHIC, Corra maintains they eventually provided him with a defense to at least one of the wrongful death suits in September 2008. Though it is unclear which one, records show the Tucker and Humphreys wrongful death, and the Brown personal injury suits were eventually consolidated in July, and are pending before Wood Circuit Judge Jeffrey B. Reed.

Nevertheless, Corra maintains AMHIC was negligent in attempting to relieve itself from any claims stemming from accident. Similar to the allegations he made in his legal malpractice suit, Corra alleges AMHIC's inactions caused him to needlessly spend money defending himself.

In their motion for dismissal filed on Oct. 9, Emch and Hart argue AMHIC's motion for declaratory judgment was in no way an attempt to deny Corra coverage under his policy. Instead, AMHIC exercised its option to have a court decide what rights and duties AMHIC had in the pending claims against Corra.

"It is not a sign of bad faith for an insurer to pursue this course of action, but an indication that it is taking the appropriate course by seeking a decision from a court, thus assuring full protection of the rights of all interested parties," Emch and Hart wrote.

Also, since AMHIC provided Corra coverage once the suits were filed, they argue he's failed to state a claim on how he's been damaged.

On Nov. 13, Goodwin, who coincidently was assigned the case, agreed with Emch's and Hart's arguments, and dismissed the case.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 09-cv-1074

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