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Nicholas v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 20, 2013

Dr. Henry T. NICHOLAS, III, William J. Ruehle, and Dr. Henry Samueli, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, Twin City Fire Insurance Company, XL Specialty Insurance Company, Arch Insurance Company, and Federal Insurance Company, Defendants Below, Appellees.

Submitted: Nov. 13, 2013.

Page 732

Court Below— Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County, C.A. No. N12C-07-311.

Upon appeal from the Superior Court. REVERSED and REMANDED.

Jennifer C. Wasson, Esquire and Michael B. Rush, Esquire, Potter, Anderson & Corroon, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Scott D. Gilbert, Esquire, Miriam M. Smolen, Esquire (argued), Ivan J. Snyder, Esquire and Emily P. Grim, Esquire, Gilbert LLP, Washington, DC, for appellants.

Edward M. McNally, Esquire and Patricia A. Winston, Esquire, Morris James LLP, Wilmington, Delaware and Robert Novack, Esquire, Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C., New Jersey, for appellee, National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA.

John D. Balaguer, Esquire, Christian J. Singewald, Esquire, and Timothy S. Martin, Esquire, White and Williams LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, and Jay Shapiro, Esquire (argued), White and Williams LLP, New York, New York, for appellee, Twin City Fire Insurance Company.

Neal J. Levistsky, Esquire and Seth A. Niederman, Esquire, Fox Rothschild LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, and Michael R. Goodstein, Esquire, Bailey Cavalieri LLC, Columbus, Ohio, for appellee, Arch Insurance Company.

Carmella P. Kenner, Esquire, Rosenthal, Monhait & Goddess, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware, and Wallace A. Christensen, Esquire (argued) and Merril Hirsh, Esquire, Troutman Sanders LLP, Washington, D.C., for appellee, Federal Insurance Company.

Before HOLLAND, BERGER and JACOBS, Justices.

HOLLAND, Justice.

This is an appeal from a final judgment of the Superior Court that dismissed the complaint. The appellants are Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, III, William J. Ruehle, and Dr. Henry Samueli (the " Plaintiffs" ); the appellees are National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburg, PA, Twin City Fire Insurance Company, XL Specialty Insurance Company, Arch Insurance Company, and Federal Insurance Company (collectively, the " Insurers" ). The Superior Court dismissed the complaint based solely upon its determination that a 2011 Settlement Agreement barred the Plaintiffs' claims as constituting an impermissible collateral attack on a 2009 Insurance Agreement. The Superior Court did not address the sufficiency of the Plaintiffs' allegations supporting their claims.

In this appeal, the Plaintiffs contend that the Superior Court should not have dismissed their claims under Superior Court Civil Rule 12(b)(6), because the 2011 Settlement Agreement is reasonably susceptible to the Plaintiffs' interpretation. Therefore, extrinsic evidence of the parties' intent is necessary to resolve any dispute over the 2011 Settlement Agreement's terms. We agree.

We conclude that the Superior Court erred in holding that, as a matter of law, the 2011 Settlement Agreement unambiguously precluded the Plaintiffs from asserting the claims that are at issue in this action. The intent of the parties in negotiating the 2011 Settlement Agreement is a factual question that is inappropriate for resolution on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Therefore, the judgment of the ...


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