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Trent v. Bierlen

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

January 9, 2014

JAMES TRENT, Plaintiff,
v.
ROGER BIERLEN, ET AL., Defendants. and ZURICH AMERICAN INS. CO., Intervenor Plaintiff,

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN, District Judge.

This matter came before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 46) and Defendant Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania's cross motion for summary judgment (Doc. 52). The Court, finding oral argument unnecessary, hereby issues the following memorandum opinion and order.

For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grants in part and denies in part Defendant Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania's cross motion for summary judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This dispute involves six parties: Plaintiff James Trent ("Trent") and Intervening Plaintiff Zurich American Insurance Company ("Zurich"); Defendants Roger Bierlen ("Bierlen"), Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania ("Penn Insurance"), KCI Insurance Agency Inc. ("KCI"), and State Farm Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm").

On or about November 5, 2010, Bierlen's tractor trailer rear-ended Trent's semi-tractor trailer. See Doc. 46-1, pp. 1-2. Trent seeks to recover against Bierlen, against KCI and State Farm based on insurance coverage, and against Penn Insurance based on its insurance policy issued to Medallion Transport ("Medallion"). (Exh. A, pp. 3-4). The Court previously granted KCI's motion for summary judgment and Trent has settled his claims against Bierlen. See Doc. 41; Doc. 55. Accordingly, Trent's only claims remaining are those against State Farm and Penn Insurance.[1]

"Several months" before the accident, Trent leased the semi-truck from Great American Leasing ("GAL") in a lease-purchase agreement. See Doc. 26-2 at p. 1; Doc. 36, pp. 2. On June 14, 2010, Trent then leased his interest in the truck to Medallion. See Doc. 52-3.

Medallion is a certified motor carrier and Trent entered in this agreement so that he could operate the semi-truck as Medallion's independent contractor. Id. The lease agreement states that "DOT regulations require that for the protection of the public, [Medallion] have exclusive possession, control and use of leased motor vehicle equipment." Id. at ¶ 2. The lease agreement also states that "[p]rovisions in this agreement that relate to control of the use of the Equipment are for the sole purpose of compliance with applicable DOT regulations...." Id. at ¶ 9.

Further, in the lease agreement, Medallion agreed to maintain "public liability and property damage insurance covering the operation of the [semi-truck] while it is engaged in performing Transportation Services." Id. at ¶ 10. Pursuant to that agreement, Medallion purchased a policy from Penn Insurance covering the semi-truck. See Doc. 51 at p. 2, Ex. C.

Additionally, at the time of the accident, Trent had an insurance policy with State Farm which covered Trent's 2004 Chevrolet pick-up truck. See Doc. 26-2 at Ex. B. The policy State Farm issued on Trent's Chevrolet pick-up excludes basic reparation benefits[2] ("BRB") coverage for bodily injury to any insured "while occupying or through being struck by a motor vehicle owned by such insured if it is not insured for basic reparation benefits."[3] Id. at Ex. C, p. 15.

Previously, State Farm moved for partial summary judgment against Trent, arguing that it did not owe Trent any basic reparations benefits because Trent's policy with State Farm covered the 2004 Chevrolet truck, not the semi-truck involved in the accident.[4] See Doc. 26. Trent countered, arguing that State Farm's motion was premature because discovery still had to be completed on the issues of ownership regarding the semi-truck and whether Trent was entitled to BRB coverage from the Penn Insurance policy. See Doc. 36. After oral argument, the Court denied State Farm's motion for summary judgment without prejudice and ordered the parties to continue discovery, with a deadline of February 15, 2014. See Doc. 43.

Nonetheless, both Trent and Penn Insurance have moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether Medallion's policy through Penn Insurance covered Trent for basic reparation benefits.[5] See Docs. 46, 52.

ANALYSIS

A. The Policy

Defendant Penn Insurance does not dispute that its policy provided for public liability and property damage coverage for the semi-truck. However, Penn Insurance asserts that its policy only provides BRB coverage for vehicles owned by Medallion. See Doc. 52-1 at p. 3.

In fact, Penn Insurance points to the Declarations Page for the Medallion policy which provides that BRB coverage, or equivalent No-Fault coverage, is only provided to "those autos' you own that are required to have No-Fault benefits in the state where they are licensed or principally garaged." See Doc. 52-4 at pp. 2, 7. Penn Insurance asserts that, "Because Medallion did not own Trent's Truck, the Policy did not provide any BRB coverage for the Truck." See Doc. 52-1 at p. 5.

Trent's argument that he is entitled to BRB coverage under the actual Penn Insurance policy language could, at best, be considered perfunctory. In fact, Trent's entire argument regarding BRB coverage under the actual policy language is: "By examining the policy itself, it is evident that PIP benefits were included." See Doc. 46-1 at pp. 3-4. Additionally, after Penn Insurance argued that the policy language only provides BRB coverage for those autos owned by Medallion, Trent abandons that argument in his reply brief. Rather, Trent focuses his argument on his assertion that the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Reparations Act ("MVRA") requires Penn Insurance to provide BRB coverage regardless of the policy language. Id. ; see also Doc. 54.

Nonetheless, after examining the Trent-Medallion lease agreement and the Penn Insurance policy, the Court concludes that Trent is entitled to BRB coverage under the actual language of the policy.

Paragraph 2 of the Trent-Medallion lease agreement states, in part:

[Department of Transportation] regulations require that for the protection of the public, [Medallion] have exclusive possession, control and use of leased motor vehicle equipment for the duration of the Agreement. [Trent] hereby grants to [Medallion] such possession, control and use of the ...

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