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William Morgan Fussell v. Amco Insurance Company

January 8, 2013

WILLIAM MORGAN FUSSELL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMCO INSURANCE COMPANY, A CORPORATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

TENTATIVE RULING ISSUED IN ADVANCE OF JANUARY 22, 2013 HEARING

Defendant AMCO Insurance Company ("Defendant" or "AMCO") seeks summary judgment in this declaratory relief action, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. This action is comprised of Plaintiff's request for a judicial declaration that Defendant is obligated to pay Plaintiff's uninsured motorist bodily injury claim for injuries Plaintiff allegedly sustained when he was a passenger in his spouse's automobile. Germane to the parties' insurance coverage dispute is the issue of whether an exclusionary clause in Plaintiff's insurance policy excludes Plaintiff's claim since he was married when the accident occurred. The clause prevents recovery for injuries incurred in a spouse's automobile unless that automobile is listed in the policy; Plaintiff was single at the inception of the policy, married his spouse during the policy period, and was married at the time of the accident. Plaintiff argues he should be considered to have been unmarried when the accident occurred since he did not inform AMCO about his marriage, and that he should only be treated as being married after the policy ends.

Since the Court conducted independent research on this dispute and found authority not cited by either party, this tentative ruling issues, and each party is provided an opportunity to address the tentative ruling in supplemental briefs.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "A fact is 'material' when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case." Thrifty Oil Co. v. Bank of Am. Nat'l Trust & Sav. Ass'n, 322 F.3d 1039, 1046 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). An issue of material fact is "genuine" when "'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). To meet this burden, the movant must "inform[] the district court of the basis for its motion, and identify[] those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (internal quotation marks omitted).

If the movant satisfies its "initial burden," "the nonmoving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The nonmoving party "cannot 'rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading' but must instead produce evidence that 'set[s] forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Estate of Tucker ex rel. Tucker v. Interscope Records, Inc., 515 F.3d 1019, 1030 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). In evaluating the motion under Rule 56, "evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of that party." Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Todd, 642 F.3d 1207, 1215 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Johnson v. Paradise Valley Unified Sch. Dist., 251 F.3d 1222, 1227 (9th Cir. 2001)).

Further, Local Rule 260(b) requires: Any party opposing a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication [must] reproduce the itemized facts in the [moving party's] Statement of Undisputed Facts and admit those facts that are undisputed and deny those that are disputed, including with each denial a citation to the particular portions of any pleading, affidavit, deposition, interrogatory answer, admission, or other document relied upon in support of that denial.

E.D. Cal. L. R. 260(b). If the non-movant does not "specifically . . . [controvert duly supported] facts identified in the [movant's] statement of undisputed facts," the non-movant "is deemed to have admitted the validity of the facts contained in the [movant's] statement." Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 527 (2006).

II. BACKGROUND AND UNDISPUTED FACTS

Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he acquired a one-year auto liability insurance policy ("Policy I") from AMCO on or about October 7, 2009. (Complaint ¶ 5, ECF No. 1, Ex. A.) Plaintiff also alleges Policy I was in full force and effect on or about June 27, 2010, when he was injured in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist, at which time has was a passenger in a vehicle owned and driven by his wife, Guadalupe Perez ("Perez"). (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges that Policy I covers him for the injuries he sustained in that accident that have not already been covered by Perez's separate auto liability insurance policy ("Policy II"). (See id. ¶¶ 9--14.)

The following uncontroverted facts exist under Local Rule 260. "AMCO issued personal auto policy number PPA 0025867044-0 [Policy I] to [P]laintiff William Morgan Fussell ("Fussell") for the policy period of October 7, 2009 through October 7, 2010 . . . ." (Def.'s Sep. Stmt. of Undisputed Facts in Support of Mot. for Summ. Judg. ("Def.'s SUF") # 1, ECF No. 9, Ex. 4; Pl.'s Response in Opp'n to Def.'s SUF ("Pl.'s SUF") 1, ECF No. 10, Ex. 2.) "Policy [I] includes coverage for Uninsured Motorists Bodily Injury with limits of $500,000.00 per person and $500,000.00 per accident." (Def.'s SUF # 2; Pl.'s SUF # 2.) "[Plaintiff] is the only 'Insured Driver' listed on . . . Policy [I]'s Declarations, while the only 'Insured Vehicle' is a '2006 Ford Explorer X.'" (Def.'s SUF # 3; Pl.'s SUF # 3.)

Plaintiff married Perez on December 31, 2009. (Def.'s SUF # 9; Pl.'s SUF # 9.) "On June 27, 2010, [Plaintiff] was a passenger in a 2008 BMW 328i (the "BMW")[,] . . . owned . . . sole[ly] . . . by Perez . . .[, when t]he BMW was involved in a two-car motor vehicle accident [(the "June 27 accident")]." (Def.'s SUF # 10--12, 14; Pl.'s SUF # 10--12, 14.) "At the time of the [June 27 accident], [Plaintiff] and Perez shared a residence at 4178 Arenzano Way, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762." (Def.'s SUF # 13; Pl.'s SUF # 13.) "At the time of the [June 27 accident], Perez was insured under a separate policy of insurance issued by AMCO [(Policy II)] that had uninsured motorist coverage limits of $100,000.00 per person." (Def.'s SUF # 15; Pl.'s SUF # 15.) The "BMW was never listed as a covered vehicle under [Policy I]." (Def.'s SUF # 16; Pl.'s SUF # 16.)

"On or about April 6, 2011, [Plaintiff] presented a claim for uninsured motorists benefits under [Policy I]." (Def.'s SUF # 17; Pl.'s SUF # 17.)

AMCO investigated and eventually denied the claim on April 21, 2011 based on the terms of the exclusion for "[U]ninsured Motorists Coverage for 'bodily injury' sustained by any 'insured' . . . [w]hile 'occupying' . . . [a]ny motor vehicle . . . owned by you or any 'family member' which is not insured for this coverage under this policy . . ." since AMCO's investigation revealed that at the time of the [June 27] accident, [Plaintiff] was married to Perez, shared a residence with Perez and occupied the BMW . . . that was not listed as a covered vehicle [under] Policy [I]. (Def.'s SUF # 18--19; Pl.'s SUF # 18--19.)

III. RELEVANT POLICY PROVISIONS

Policy I "Declarations . . . identify various 'Forms and Endorsements' that are a part of . . . Policy [I] including the 'Personal Auto Policy' form and 'Uninsured Motorists Coverage - California' endorsement." (Def.'s SUF # 4; Pl.'s SUF # 4.) Policy I also contains the following language:

A. Throughout this policy, "you" and "your" refer to: 1. Any "named insured" shown in the Declarations; and 2. Any spouse if a resident of the same household.

B. "We", "us" and "our" refer to the Company providing this insurance. . . .

Other words and phrases are defined. They are in quotation marks when used.

D. "Bodily injury" means bodily harm, sickness or disease, including death that results. . . .

J. "Your covered auto" means:

1. Any vehicle shown in the Declarations.

(Personal Auto Policy AA 0001 ("Policy I"), at page 2 of 15, ECF No. 1, Ex. A, as amended by Amendment of Policy Provisions - California AA 0169 ("Policy Amendment"), at page 1 of 4, ECF No. 1, Ex. A.)*fn1 Policy I's ...


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