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Western World Ins. Co. v. Hoey

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 8, 2014

WESTERN WORLD INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BURT HOEY, et al., Defendants, MARY ARMBRUSTER, Defendant-Appellant

Argued: April 29, 2014.

Page 756

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. Nos. 2:12-cv-10220; 2:12-cv-10630-Julian A. Cook, Jr., District Judge.

ARGUED:

Don Ferris, FERRIS & SALTER, P.C., Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Appellant.

Nicolette S. Zachary, WARD, ANDERSON, PORRITT & BRYANT, PLC, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Don Ferris, FERRIS & SALTER, P.C., Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Appellant.

Nicolette S. Zachary, WARD, ANDERSON, PORRITT & BRYANT, PLC, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellee.

Before: GILMAN, GIBBONS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 757

JANE BRANSTETTER STRANCH, Circuit Judge.

Mary Armbruster sued Burt Hoey in Michigan state court for negligence.

Page 758

Western World, Hooey's commercial general-liability insurer, agreed to defend Hoey but reserved the right to deny coverage. All parties then sought a declaratory judgment regarding whether Western World had a duty to defend Hoey and indemnify him if Armbruster won her negligence suit. The district court decided to take jurisdiction and construed the policy to exclude Armbruster's injury from coverage. We AFFIRM.

I. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Hoey, who owns the kind of farmers' market that offers hay rides, pony rides, and pumpkin picking, hired Armbruster to run the hay wagon for eight weekends. Armbruster, who is now a paraplegic because an accident with the wagon crushed her spine, sued Hoey and his daughter Jennifer Lambers for negligence in Michigan state court. Two more lawsuits were initiated on the same day: Armbruster, Hoey, and Lambers filed suit, again in state court, against Western World, Hoey's insurer, seeking a declaratory judgment that Armbruster was covered by Hoey's General Commercial Liability insurance policy; Western World, for its part, sought a declaratory judgment from the Eastern District Court of Michigan that Armbruster was not covered by the insurance policy. Western World eventually removed Armbruster's state declaratory-judgment action to the Eastern District and the two cases were consolidated. As if three lawsuits were not enough, counsel provided by Western World to Hoey filed a workers' compensation claim on the theory that Armbruster was an " employee" and therefore eligible for workers' compensation. The state tort claim has been stayed until the workers' compensation claim is resolved. The major question in the declaratory judgment actions is whether Armbruster was an " employee" as defined by the insurance policy.

The district court decided to take jurisdiction (which is discretionary in a declaratory-judgment action) and held that the insurance ...


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