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Amerisure Mutual Insurance Co. v. Commercial Pool Cleaners, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

December 3, 2019

AMERISURE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMERCIAL POOL CLEANERS, INC. and BELKYS GARCIA DOMINGUEZ, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SUSAN C. BUCKLEW URN RED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause comes before the Court on two motions: (1) Amerisure's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 28), which Defendant Dominguez opposes (Doc. No. 39); and (2) Defendant Dominguez's Motion for Summary Judgment[1] (Doc. No. 32), which Amerisure opposes (Doc. No. 37). As explained below, the Court grants Defendant Dominguez's motion and denies Amerisure's motion.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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 Court must draw all inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and resolve all reasonable doubts in that party's favor. See Porter v. Ray, 461 F.3d 1315, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006)(citation omitted). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the Court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial. See id. (citation omitted). When a moving party has discharged its burden, the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. (citation omitted).

         II. Background

         On May 23, 2017, Defendant Belkys Garcia Dominguez (“Defendant”) was working for Commercial Pool Cleaners (“CPC”) and driving its 2005 Ford Ranger with CPC's permission.[2]On that day, Defendant was involved in a car accident with Steven Shaffer, and Defendant later demanded that Amerisure tender its available uninsured motorists (“UM”) limits to her.

         Amerisure issued commercial automobile policies to CPC that covered the 2005 Ford Ranger from October 2014 through October 2018. The parties do not dispute that Amerisure's insurance policy covered the car accident at issue. Instead, they dispute the amount of UM coverage available under the policy.

         CPC's president, Rick Rinberger, filled out the application for insurance coverage. The application required Rinberger to make a decision regarding the amount of UM coverage he wanted for CPC. The application stated the following:

Florida law requires that automobile liability policies include Uninsured Motorists Coverage at limits equal to the Bodily Injury Liability Coverage (split limits) or Combined Single Limit for Liability Coverage in your policy, unless you select a lower limit offered by the company or reject Uninsured Motorists Coverage entirely.
Please indicate by initialing below whether you entirely reject Uninsured Motorists Coverage, whether you select this coverage at limits lower than the Bodily Injury Liability Limits or Combined Single Limit for Liability Coverage or equal to your Bodily Injury Liability Limits or Combined Single Limit for Liability Coverage of your policy

(Doc. No. 1-3, p. 2). Rinberger placed his initials in two separate, conflicting places and then signed the next page:

         (Image Omitted)

(Doc. No. 1-3, p. 3-4).

         The way that Rinberger initialed the application indicated that he was selecting two conflicting amounts of UM coverage. By initialing the second line on the top left part of the page, he selected UM coverage in an amount equal to his bodily injury limits (which was $1 million). However, by initialing the second line on the right side of the page, he partially selected a lower UM limit of $50, 000.[3]

         Amerisure issued the commercial automobile policies to CPC with a stated $50, 000 UM limit, and CPC paid insurance premiums based on the $50, 000 UM limit. The parties do not dispute that Rinberger wanted the lower $50, 000 UM limit.[4] (Doc. No. 39, p. 4, n.1). However, the parties dispute the ramifications of Rinberger filling out the insurance application in a conflicting manner.

         After the car accident, Defendant asked Amerisure to disclose the available insurance coverage under CPC's policy. Amerisure initially responded on July 17, 2017 that there was $1 million in UM coverage. (Doc. No. 27-4). However, on November 9, 2018, Amerisure changed its response, stating that there was only $50, 000 in UM coverage. (Doc. No. 27-6).

         Defendant did not accept Amerisure's contention that there was only $50, 000 in UM coverage. Therefore, Amerisure filed the instant lawsuit for a declaratory judgment regarding the amount of UM coverage available under CPC's policy.

         III. Motions for Summary Judgment

         Amerisure and Defendant filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of the amount of UM coverage available for the car accident. As explained below, the Court agrees with Defendant that there is $1 million in UM coverage, because Rinberger failed to effectively select a lower limit in writing, as required by Florida Statute § 627.727(1).

         Section 627.727 controls this issue and provides the following. First, § 627.727(2) provides, in relevant part, that “[t]he limits of uninsured motorist coverage shall be not less than the limits of bodily injury liability insurance purchased by the named insured, or such lower limit . . . as may be selected by the named insured.” Furthermore, the statute provides the following:

No motor vehicle liability insurance policy which provides bodily injury liability coverage shall be delivered or issued for delivery in this state . . . unless uninsured motor vehicle coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto . . . . However, the coverage required under this section is not applicable when, or to the extent that, an insured named in the policy makes a written rejection of the coverage on behalf of all insureds under the policy. . . . The rejection or selection of lower limits shall be made on a form approved by the [Office of Insurance Regulation]. . . . If this form is signed by a named ...

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