United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
FEDERICO A. MORENO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case stems from a fatal auto accident involving a rental car
being driven by someone other than the person who rented the
vehicle. The question is whether the renter's auto policy
extends coverage for the accident. In cases involving rental
cars the policy extends coverage to policyholders. The policy
at issue does not actually use the term policyholder, but
instead categorizes people as "listed drivers" and
"named insureds." The driver of the rental car is a
"listed driver" under this policy and not a
"named insured." Allstate argues that "named
insured" is synonymous with policyholder, thereby
excluding the accident from coverage. Defendant argues that
the policy is ambiguous and the driver of the rental car, as
a "listed driver, " should be considered a
policyholder. The Court agrees with Allstate and grants
summary judgment in its favor.
case arises out of a tragic automobile accident that occurred
on January 20, 2016, resulting in the death of Tatiana
Sanchez and injuries to Jose E. Gomez. Earlier that evening,
Ms. Sanchez's automobile was struck by another vehicle
owned by Mr. Gomez, a passenger in that vehicle. Ms. Sanchez
and Mr. Gomez exited their respective vehicles after the
accident to inspect the damage, at which point Ms. Sanchez
and Mr. Gomez were struck by Defendant Steven Bruce Waldman.
Mr. Waldman was driving a 2016 Hyundai Sante Fe that had been
rented by Defendant Marlene D. Harmon. Ms. Harmon had rented
the Hyundai from Enterprise Leasing Company of Florida, LLC
and allegedly permitted Mr. Waldman to drive it. Ms. Harmon
and Mr. Waldman are not related and, at the time of the
accident, were not married.
Sanchez's estate subsequently filed a wrongful death
lawsuit against, amongst others, Defendants Waldman and
Harmon in the Circuit Court in and for Miami-Dade County,
Florida (Case No. 2017-009968-CA-01), seeking damages.
Allstate is defending Mr. Waldman in that lawsuit pursuant to
a reservation of rights. Ms. Harmon has not yet been served,
but Allstate anticipates that she will be. Likewise, Mr.
Gomez has not yet filed a related personal injury claim, but
has notified Allstate that he intends to do so. As such, to
avoid incurring unnecessary litigation costs, Allstate seeks
a declaration from this Court as to whether liability
coverage exists for the wrongful death and personal injury
claims arising from the underlying accident. This Court
declares that it does not.
judgment is authorized where there is no genuine issue of
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party seeking summary
judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Adickes v.
S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). The
party opposing the motion for summary judgment may not simply
rest upon mere allegations or denials of the pleadings; the
non-moving party must establish the essential elements of its
case on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986);
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574 (1986). The non-movant must present more than a
scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's .
position. A jury must be able reasonably to find for the
non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 254(1986).
issue is whether the subject auto policy extends coverage to
the auto accident involving Mr. Waldman. In the instant
action, neither Ms. Harmon nor Mr. Waldman has appeared to
contest Allstate's request for declaration, and both have
had defaults entered against them. Instead, Ms. Sanchez's
estate, a third-party claimant, is challenging
Allstate's coverage position.
The Auto Policy
issued the contested auto policy for the policy period
January 13, 2016 to July 13, 2016. The policy carried
liability coverage subject to the terms, conditions,
limitations, and exclusions in the policy. At the time of the
subject accident, the policy listed a 2001 Lexus Rx300 on the
Policy Declarations as the covered vehicle.
insuring obligation and the liability coverage provisions of
the subject policy are found at Part I - Automobile Liability
Insurance Bodily Injury - Coverage AA Property Damages -
Coverage BB, which state, in relevant part:
Allstate will pay for all damages an
insured person is legally obligated to pay
because of bodily injury or property
policy defines "Allstate, " "we, "
"us, " or "our" as "the company
shown on the Policy Declarations;" and "you"
or "your" as "the policyholder named on the
Policy Declarations and that policy holder's
resident spouse." The policy defines
"insured person" to ...