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Slusher v. Mountain Laurel Assurance Co.

July 30, 2007

CARLENE SLUSHER, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF DONALD SLUSHER, DECEASED, ESTATE OF DONALD J. SLUSHER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MOUNTAIN LAUREL ASSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge

(VARLAN/SHIRLEY)

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil action is before the Court on defendant Mountain Laurel Assurance Company's ("Defendant's") Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 7]. Plaintiff Estate of Donald J. Slusher ("Plaintiff") has filed a brief [Doc. 9] in opposition to Defendant's and the matter is now ripe for adjudication.

The Court has carefully considered the pending motion, along with the parties' briefs, affidavits, and other relevant pleadings. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 7] will be granted.

I. Relevant Facts

On or about August 19, 2005, Donald Slusher ("Slusher"), an employee of James Long Trucking, was killed when a parked coal truck crashed into a building occupied by Slusher. Several employees, including Slusher and Arlie Napier ("Napier"), were hauling coal refuse on the property of Bell County Coal. They took a lunch break in a pump house near the refuse site. [Doc. 8 at p. 2] Napier parked his Mack RD8 truck (the "Truck") on the hill above the pump house and walked down to join the other employees for lunch. [Id. at p. 3] While the employees were eating lunch, the Truck rolled down the hill and struck the pump house. [Id.] Slusher and another employee were killed instantly, while a third employee suffered a broken leg. [Id.]

The Truck, owned by James Long Trucking, was covered by an insurance policy ("Policy") issued by Defendant. [Id., Attachment 5] The Truck was listed as a scheduled auto on the Declarations page of the Policy. [Id.] The Policy provided uninsured motorists coverage with limits of liability in the amount of $750,000 for "each person" and $750,000 for "each accident." [Id.] Plaintiff contends that since worker's compensation coverage and benefits are not available, and the Truck belonged to Napier, an uninsured driver, Plaintiff is entitled to uninsured coverage under the Policy.

II. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact lies upon the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986). The court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the non-moving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The judge's function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question, and not to weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, and determine the truth of the matter. Id. at 249. Thus, "[t]he inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party. Id. at 250.

B. The Court Shall Apply Tennessee Law to the Transaction at Issue

Defendant argues that Tennessee law applies, while Plaintiff urges that Kentucky law applies. A federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction must apply the law of the forum state, including that state's choice of law principles. Miller v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., 87 F.3d 822, 824 (6th Cir.1996). The Policy was formed in Tennessee and issued by a Tennessee agent. The Restatement (Second) of Conflicts Section 188 provides that, in the absence of an effective choice of law by the parties, the rights and duties of the parties under the contract are determined by the law of the state that has "the most significant relationship to the transaction and the parties." Jamhour v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 211 F. Supp. 2d 941, 949 (S.D. Ohio 2002). To assist in determining which state has the most significant relationship to the parties to a contract, Section 188(2) of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts sets forth the following factors to be taken into account to determine the law applicable to an issue:

(a) the place of contracting; (b) the place of negotiations of the contract; (c) the place of performance; (d) the location of the subject matter of the contract; and (e) the domicile, residence, nationality, place ...


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