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Geico Indemnity Co. v. Crawford

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

February 10, 2014

GEICO INDEMNITY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ZACHARY I. CRAWFORD, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of Plaintiff GEICO Indemnity Company's motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. [Record No. 14] GEICO argues that the policy in issue does not provide a defense or indemnity to Defendant Zachary Crawford ("Crawford"). [Record No. 14-1, p. 3] Conversely, Defendants Crawford, Devan Wiedeman, Gregory Collins, and Hamilton Mutual Insurance Company contend that, under Kentucky law, GEICO must provide coverage to Zachary Crawford. [Record No. 16, p. 13; Record No. 17, pp.4-5; Record No. 18, p. 6] For the reasons discussed below the Court will grant GEICO's motion.

I.

This action arises out of an automobile accident occurring in Madison County, Kentucky. [Record No. 1, p. 5] At the time of the accident, Defendant Crawford was driving a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited ("Jeep") owned by Defendant Linda Bellaw. Defendant Wiedeman was a passenger in the Jeep. Defendant Collins was driving another automobile involved in the accident. [Record No. 16, pp. 3-4; Record No. 20-1] The accident resulted in serious injuries to Defendants Wiedeman and Collins. [Record No. 15-2, p. 2; Record No. 19-2, p. 2] Wiedeman and Collins sued Crawford in state court alleging that Crawford caused the accident and their resulting injuries. [Record Nos. 15-3, 19-2] At the time of the accident, Crawford was insured by Defendant Hamilton Mutual Insurance Company ("Hamilton"). [Record No 1, p. 7] Defendant Bellaw, an Ohio resident, was the named insured on a policy issued by GEICO. [Record No. 1-1, pp. 3, 5]

The policy contains an escape clause allowing coverage for permissive users. The clause provides:

[A]ny other person who is using the auto with your permission [will be covered] but only if such a person is not insured by any other vehicle liability insurance policy, a self-insurance liability program, or a liability bond while using the auto.

[ Id., p. 4] The policy also contains a choice-of-law provision stating that"[t]he policy and any amendment(s) and endorsement(s) are to be interpreted pursuant to the laws of the state of Ohio." [Record No. 1-1, p. 16] Linda Bellaw's daughter, Defendant Jennifer Bellaw, was listed as an additional driver and the Jeep is listed as a covered vehicle in the policy. [ Id., p. 5] The defendants contend that Jennifer Bellaw was a resident of Kentucky for five years and that the Jeep was principally located in Kentucky during that period. [Record No. 16, p. 3; Record No. 17, p. 7]

GEICO initiated this action by seeking declaratory judgment under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2201. [Record No. 1] It seeks a declaration of rights, finding that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Crawford for any claims against him arising from the accident. [Record No. 1, p. 8] Conversely, the defendants seek a judgment declaring that the GEICO policy provides coverage to Crawford and that the coverage is primary to the Hamilton policy. [Record No. 18, p. 3]

II.

The Court may grant judgment on the pleadings when the moving party "is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rawe v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 462 F.3d 521, 526 (6th Cir. 2006). The Court must take all the "well pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party" as true. Id. Further, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court may look only to the pleadings themselves and exhibits incorporated by reference into the complaint. Weiner v. Klais & Co., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997). The Court is explicitly limited to the facts alleged within the pleadings.

Summary judgment is required when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). A dispute over a material fact is not "genuine" unless a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists. CenTra, Inc. v. Estrin, 538 F.3d 402, 412 (6th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party has met its burden of production, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Sigler v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 532 F.3d 469, 483 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). Instead, the nonmoving party must present "significant probative evidence" of a genuine dispute in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Chao, 285 F.3d at 424. The nonmoving party cannot simply rely upon the assertions in its pleadings; instead, it must come forward with probative evidence, such as sworn affidavits, to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

III.

GEICO argues that Ohio law governs the interpretation and application of the policy. It contends that, under Ohio law, it is not required to provide coverage to Crawford. Further, GEICO asserts that even if Kentucky law applies, the policy would not provide coverage. [ See Record No. 14-1.] In response, the defendants assert that Kentucky ...


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