United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
D. WHITTEMORE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT are Plaintiffs Motion for Final Summary
Judgment (Dkt. 24), Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition
(Dkt 35), Defendant's Notice of Supplemental Authorities
(Dkt. 36), and Plaintiffs Reply (Dkt. 41). Upon
consideration, the motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 24) is
Marine Insurance Company issued a marine insurance policy
covering Defendant's vessel on March 13, 2016. (Dkt. 1 at
pp. 14-35). The vessel suffered damage from inclement
weather, consisting of lightning and strong winds, on June
17, 2016 while docked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Dkt. 24-9
at ¶ 6). GEICO filed a Complaint seeking declaratory
judgment that the policy does not cover the loss because of
Defendant's breach of a navigational warranty in the
policy (Count I), his breach of the implied warranty of
seaworthiness (Count II), and his breach of the maritime duty
of uberrimae fidei (utmost good faith) (Count III).
judgment is appropriate where "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).
"A genuine factual dispute exists only if a reasonable
fact-finder 'could find by a preponderance of the
evidence that the [non-movant] is entitled to a verdict.'
" Kernel Records Oy v. Mosley, 694 F.3d 1294,
1300 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). A fact is material if
it may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.
Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th
Cir. 1997). All facts are viewed and all reasonable
inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. See Scott v, Harris, 550
U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there
are no genuine disputes of material fact. Hickson Corp.
v. Northern Crossarm Co., Inc., 351 F.3d 1256, 1260
(11thCir. 2004) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the moving party demonstrates
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the
nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings through the use
of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file to designate facts showing a genuine issue
fortrial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. The
nonmoving party's evidence "cannot consist of
conclusory allegations or legal conclusions."
Avirgan v. Hull, 932 F.2d 1572, 1577 (11th Cir.
1991). The Court will not weigh the evidence or make findings
of fact. Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 924
(11th Cir. 2003). Rather, the Court's role is limited to
deciding whether there is sufficient evidence upon which a
reasonable finder of fact could find for the nonmoving party.
is not entitled to summary judgment because it has not met
its burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact with respect to the three breaches it alleges.
The Policy's Terms Governing Navigational Areas Are
Ambiguous and the Ambiguity Must Be Resolved Against
asserts in Count I that the policy does not cover the loss
because the vessel was located "outside of the agreed
upon navigational area when the loss occurred." (Dkt. 1
at ¶ 40). GEICO issued the policy of marine insurance,
on a liability only basis, to Defendant on March 13, 2016.
The "General Conditions" section of the policy
Coverage is provided:
A. While the boat is afloat within the navigational area
shown on the Declarations Page; and B. While the boat or its
equipment is ashore or being transported by land conveyance
in the United States or Canada.
Dkt. 1 at p. 32). The Declarations Page attached to the
policy at the time of issuance includes a section titled
"Cruising Limits" that provides "the boat must
be north of Cape Hatteras, NC from June 1 until November 1
annually." (Id. at p. 14). It is undisputed
that the vessel was south of Cape Hatteras when the loss
Geico's contention seems straightforward because the
vessel was outside the navigational area prescribed by the
Declarations Page when the loss occurred, a careful analysis
of the policy and its endorsements reveal an ambiguity with
respect to whether the "cruising limits" in the
Declarations Page applied at the time of loss of were
modified by the endorsements.
issued a March 14, 2016 endorsement that amended coverage to
"Port Risk Ashore, " which "provides no
coverage for navigation, and coverage will only apply to the
insured vessel while the boat is out of the water, " and
added hull coverage of $264, 000. (Id. at p. 15).
The "Navigation Area" section at the bottom of the
endorsement is blank. (Id.). The Cruising Limits
section of the Declarations Page issued with the March 14,
2016 endorsement provides that coverage is "Port Risk
Ashore." (Id. at p. 16).
issued a May 27, 2016 endorsement that "[r]emoved the
Port Risk Ashore restriction, " but left the
"Navigation Area" section blank. (Id. at
p. 18). GEICO did not issue a declarations page with the May
27, 2016 endorsement. See generally
Defendant requested removal of the port risk ashore
restriction from the policy via e-mails dated May 26, 2016
for the purpose of sailing the vessel from the west coast of
Florida to Fort Lauderdale, where it would undergo repairs,
that same week. See (E-mails dated May 26, 2016 and
attached documents, Dkt. 35-2 at pp. 122-151). He provided a
marine survey report prepared by Rich Parrey and an addendum
to a marine survey report prepared by Steven Berlin in
support of his request. See (Id.). Defendant
commenced the voyage to Fort Lauderdale at the end of May
2016, and successfully completed that voyage. (Complaint,
Dkt. 1 at ¶ 28); (Answer, Dkt. 5 at ¶ 28);
(Defendant's declaration, Dkt. 35-1 at ¶ 14). As
noted, the loss occurred in Fort Lauderdale in June 2016.
argues that the navigational limit in the March 13
Declarations Page controls, and Defendant, therefore,
breached the navigational warranty. Defendant argues that the
May 27 endorsement that removed the port risk ashore
restriction without providing a navigational limitation
controls over the inconsistent Declarations Page, and that
ambiguities must be construed against GEICO as the drafter of
the policy. Defendant primarily ...