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Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois v. Tremblay

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

August 1, 2018




         Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiffs Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois (“Safeco Illinois”) and Safeco Insurance Company of America (“Safeco America”). (Doc. 78). Only Defendant Cody James Morrison opposes their motion (Doc. 82), to which Plaintiffs have replied (Doc. 85).[3] For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs' motion.


         Plaintiffs bring this declaratory judgment suit to resolve an insurance coverage dispute. The facts are largely undisputed. In July 2015, Defendant Joseph Tremblay leased a Nissan Rogue for Defendant Julie Lippson. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 5). About nine months later, on April 16, 2016, Julie's husband was driving the Rogue when he allegedly caused an accident that injured Morrison. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 7). Morrison sued Tremblay and Julie's husband for negligence in state court.[4] (Doc. 78-13). That underlying suit remains ongoing.

         Before the accident, Safeco Illinois issued Tremblay two car insurance policies that covered specific cars he owned and named Tremblay and Louise Wilcox as the rated drivers. (Doc. 78 at ¶¶ 1-2; Doc. 78-2; Doc. 78-3). It also issued Tremblay a motorcycle insurance policy for specific motorcycles he owned and named him as the only rated driver. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 3; Doc. 78-4). In addition to the car and motorcycle policies, Safeco America issued Tremblay an umbrella insurance policy that, among other things, required him to provide underlying liability insurance for all motor vehicles he owned, leased, or used. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 4; Doc. 78-4 at 6). The above insurance policies were in effect at the time of the April 2016 accident. Important here, Tremblay never added the Rogue to any policy. Nor did he tell Safeco Illinois and Safeco America about the leased Rogue until about two weeks after the accident. (Doc. 78 at ¶ 6).

         Plaintiffs bring this three-count action under the Declaratory Judgment Act (the “Act”), 28 U.S.C. § 2201. (Doc. 59). In Counts I and II, Safeco Illinois seeks a declaration that Tremblay's car and motorcycle policies do not cover claims from the April 2016 accident, and thus it has no duty to defend or indemnify Tremblay or any defendant. (Doc. 59 at ¶¶ 44-80). In Count III, Safeco America requests a declaration that (1) it has no duty to defend/indemnify Julie or Seth Lippson because they are not “insureds” under the umbrella policy; and (2) the umbrella policy provides limited indemnity coverage only for Tremblay's liability from the accident. It also wants the Court to declare, “Safeco's (and Tremblay's) payment obligations will be limited because Florida's financial responsibility law caps the vicarious liability claims against Tremblay” to specific amounts. (Doc. 78 at 2; Doc. 59 at ¶¶ 81-99).

         Plaintiffs now move for summary judgment on all counts. Morrison opposes the motion, focusing solely on Safeco America's duty to indemnify Tremblay under the umbrella policy.


         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issues of material fact remain. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To defeat summary judgment, the non-movant must “go beyond the pleadings, and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists.” Porter v. Ray, 461 F.3d 1315, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. See Battle v. Bd. of Regents, 468 F.3d 755, 759 (11th Cir. 2006). But “[a] court need not permit a case to go to a jury . . . when the inferences that are drawn from the evidence, and upon which the non-movant relies, are ‘implausible.'” Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 743 (11th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).


         A. Car and Motorcycle Policies (Counts I and II)

         Safeco Illinois argues it has no duty to defend Tremblay (and the Lippsons) in Morrison's underlying state suit because Tremblay's car and motorcycle policies do not cover bodily injury or property damage claims arising from the April 2016 accident. According to Safeco Illinois, no coverage exists because Tremblay never insured the Rogue under the policies and the Lippsons are not “insureds.” (Doc. 78 at 6-11). No. Defendant, including Morrison, challenges Safeco Illinois' arguments on Counts I and II. (Doc. 82 at 5-6).

         After careful review of the insurances policies and applicable law, the Court finds Safeco Illinois to be right. The car and motorcycle policies issued to Tremblay do not cover any claims arising from the April 2016 accident. (Doc. 78-2,Doc. 78-3,Doc. 78-4). Consequently, Safeco Illinois has no duty to defend Tremblay, the Lippsons, or anyone else under these policies. And because there is no duty to defend, there is no duty to indemnify. SeeNorthern Assurance Co. of Am. v. Custom Docks by Seamaster, Inc., No. 8:10-cv-1869-T-27MAP, 2011 WL 117046, at *2 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (“If it is determined that [an insurer] has no duty to defend its ...

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