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Canal Insurance Co. v. Moore Freight Service, Inc

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

June 16, 2015

CANAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
MOORE FREIGHT SERVICES, INC., et al.. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Thomas A. Varlan CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This declaratory judgment action is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 68]. Defendants TA Operating LLC and Treston Harris, filed a response indicating no opposition [Doc. 69].[1] Defendant Patty Wilson, individually and as administrator for the Estate of Jerry Wilson, filed a response in opposition [Doc. 70], to which plaintiff replied [Doc. 71]. After careful consideration of the record and relevant law, and for the reasons set forth herein, the Court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

This declaratory judgment action arises out of tort litigation filed by Patty C. Wilson ("Mrs. Wilson"), individually and as administrator of the Estate of Jerry Wilson, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, civil action number 2:13-cv-01093 (the "underlying tort action") [Doc. 27 ΒΆ113]. The underlying tort action arises from the alleged personal injury and wrongful death of Jerry Wilson (“Mr. Wilson”) on or about October 17, 2011 [Id. ¶ 16].

According to the allegations in the underlying tort action, Moore Freight Service Inc. (“Moore Freight”) hired Mr. Wilson to haul glass [Id. ¶ 17]. Moore Freight provided Mr. Wilson with trailer #211857 TN Reg #U256293 to transport the glass [Id.]. Mr. Wilson “was using the trailer . . . in the course and scope of occupation” [Doc. 27-2 ¶ 38].

On October 27, 2011, Mr. Wilson allegedly noticed that “the braking system of his trailer started smoking and/or caught fire” [Id. ¶ 30]. Mr. Wilson “pulled to the side of the road, got out of his vehicle and while responding to the stressful emergency his heart stopped beating and he died” [Id.].

Prior to October 27, 2011, plaintiff Canal Insurance Company issued a commercial automobile policy, policy number PIA0639650, to defendant Moore Freight (the “Policy”) [Doc. 27 ¶ 20]. The Policy is the subject of this motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff asserts that, under two exclusions in the Policy, it has no duty to defend or indemnify Moore Freight in the underlying tort action.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is proper “if 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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986); Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339 (6th Cir. 1993). All facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 301 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). Yet, “[o]nce the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a motion under Rule 56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations.” Curtis Through Curtis v. Universal Match Corp., 778 F.Supp. 1421, 1423 (E.D. Tenn. 1991) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the nonmoving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable finder of fact 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 Court’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 question for the factfinder. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The Court does not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter. Id. at 249. Nor does the Court search the record “to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479–80 (6th Cir. 1989). Thus, “the inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for a 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.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

III. Analysis

Plaintiff argues it has no duty to defend or indemnify in the underlying tort action because the Policy’s employee-indemnification exclusion excludes coverage for injuries sustained by an employee of Moore Freight, and Mr. Wilson was an employee of Moore Freight. Plaintiff also argues it has no duty to defend or indemnify in the underlying tort action because the Policy’s workers’ compensation exclusion excludes coverage for injuries eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, and Mr. Wilson’s injuries were so eligible.

A. Choice of Law Analysis

Before the Court addresses the Policy, the Court must examine what law governs this dispute. Plaintiff advocates for Tennessee law, while Mrs. ...


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