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National Frozen Foods Corp. v. Berkley Assurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 31, 2017

NATIONAL FROZEN FOODS CORPORATION, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION,, Plaintiff,
v.
BERKLEY ASSURANCE COMPANY, an Iowa Corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS OR TRANSFER AND GRANTING MOTION FOR CONFIRMATION OF VENUE

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Berkley Assurance Company (“Berkley”)'s Motion to Dismiss or Transfer Venue, brought on the basis of a forum-selection clause (Dkt. #18) and Plaintiff National Frozen Foods Corporation (“National Frozen”)'s Motion for Confirmation of Venue (Dkt. #28). Berkley argues that a forum selection clause requires this action be transferred to the Southern District of New York. National Frozen argues that the forum selection clause was void ab initio under RCW 48.18.200. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Berkley's Motion and GRANTS National Frozen's Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         National Frozen is a supplier of frozen vegetables and is Washington corporation with its principal place of business in Seattle, Washington. Dkt. 1-1 at ¶ 2. In May 2016, National Frozen purchased a Contaminated Products Insurance Policy from Berkley. Id. at ¶ 6; see also Dkt. #19 at 7.[2] The Policy contains a forum-selection clause, which states:

H. CHOICE OF LAW AND FORUM: The construction, validity and performance of this Policy will be governed by the laws of the United States and the State of New York without giving effect to the provisions regarding choice of law. All claims and disputes will be brought for adjudication either in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in and for the County of New York or in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Dkt. #19 at 21.

         National Frozen suffered a recall during the period Berkley contracted to insure. See Dkt. 1-1 at ¶¶ 17-29 (describing recall of peas contaminated with listeria monocytogenes). Berkley denied coverage for the loss. Id. at ¶¶ 30 - 32.

         On February 2, 2017, National Frozen filed a suit against Berkley in King County Superior Court, and Berkley later removed to this Court. Dkt. #1. In its Complaint, National Frozen seeks a declaration of coverage under the Policy and that the losses sustained as a result of the recall should be paid under the Policy provisions. Dkt. #1-1 at ¶¶ 34 - 35. National Frozen also claims it is entitled to damages for breach of contract, bad faith, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the Washington Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Id. at ¶¶ 37 - 46.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         In making a 12(b)(6) assessment, the court accepts all facts alleged in the complaint as true, and makes all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Baker v. Riverside County Office of Educ., 584 F.3d 821, 824 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). However, the court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 678. This requirement is met when the plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint need not include detailed allegations, but it must have “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Absent facial plausibility, a plaintiff's claims must be dismissed. Id. at 570.

         28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides that “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.”

         B. Berkeley's ...


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