Motion to Dismiss • Attorney Fee Recovery • Insurance

Feingold v. Goddard, PICS Case No. 14-0086 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 16, 2014) O’Neill, J. (5 pages).

Where an underlying assigned claim against a third-party defendant is dismissed, a third-party complaint is rendered moot because damages are not recoverable from the third-party defendant. Motion to dismiss third-party complaint granted.

Plaintiff Allen Feingold, a disbarred attorney, sued his former client, Phillip Goddard, for outstanding legal fees and partial assignment of Goddard’s claim against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company resulting from an automobile accident claim. Goddard filed a third-party complaint against State Farm, alleging that if he was liable to Feingold then State Farm was liable to Goddard by way of indemnity and/or contribution, or liable to Feingold alone because the debt alleged by Feingold was accrued as a result of State Farm’s actions.

State Farm motioned to dismiss Goddard’s third-party action for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court dismissed Goddard’s tort claim against State Farm. It also found that State Farm could not be liable for the assignment because it had previously found the assignment void and dismissed the claim. As a result, Goddard no longer had an assignable interest in a claim against State Farm, nor was Feingold entitled to any right of recovery from the void assignment.

The court also found State Farm not liable under the theory of indemnification. The court noted that indemnity was a right for a person or entity who had been compelled to pay damages, for which he or she was secondarily liable, due to the negligence of another. However, the court found that State Farm need not indemnify Goddard since the relationship between Goddard and State Farm did not trigger an obligation of indemnity, nor was Goddard liable to Feingold due to premature termination of representation.

Nor was State Farm liable under the theory of contribution, as Pennsylvania law only provides for contribution among joint tortfeasors, which was not the case between Goddard and State Farm.