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Warner v. Stover

March 16, 2007

ARTHUR NEIL WARNER, INDIVIDUALLY; AND ARTHUR NEIL WARNER FOR AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OF THE SURVIVING HEIRS OF PATRICIA ANN WARNER, DECEASED, APPELLANTS,
v.
ROBERT HARRY STOVER; CANAL INSURANCE COMPANY; AND FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLEES.



Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished decision filed June 30, 2006. Appeal from Shawnee district court; TERRY BULLOCK, judge. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is reversed. Judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The trial court is required to resolve all facts and inferences which may reasonably be drawn from the evidence in favor of the party against whom the ruling is sought.

2. When opposing a motion for summary judgment, an adverse party must come forward with evidence to establish a dispute as to a material fact. In order to preclude summary judgment, the facts subject to the dispute must be material to the conclusive issues in the case.

3. An appellate court applies the same summary judgment rules as the district court and where it finds that reasonable minds could differ as to the conclusions drawn from the evidence, summary judgment must be denied.

4. Under the facts of this case, genuine issues of material fact preclude the entry of summary judgment.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nuss, J.

This is a personal injury and wrongful death action arising out of a pickup truck rollover. The district court held that the pickup was personally owned by the driver's son and therefore not covered by the son's corporation's insurance policy issued by Canal Insurance Company (Canal). As a result, the court granted Canal's motion for summary judgment against plaintiff Warner. The Court of Appeals affirmed in Warner v. Stover, No. 94,766, unpublished decision filed June 30, 2006. We granted Warner's petition for review pursuant to K.S.A. 20-3018(b).

The sole issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Canal. We hold that the court so erred; we reverse and remand.

FACTS

On December 25, 2002, Arthur Neil Warner (Warner), his wife Patricia Ann Warner, and Vivian Dunn were passengers in a 2002 Ford F250 pickup truck driven by Robert Harry Stover (Robert). When the pickup was just east of Dalhart, Texas, it hit a patch of ice, slid into a ditch, and rolled twice. Patricia Warner was killed, and Warner suffered injuries.

The pickup's certificate of title and registration listed only Robert's son, Charles Stover (Stover). Farmers Insurance Company (Farmers) provided insurance coverage for the pickup, the only vehicle insured under the Farmers policy. The policy's named insured was Stover. Stover reported the accident to Farmers, which eventually paid its policy limits of $25,000 to Warner for his injuries and $25,000 for his wife's wrongful death.

Stover is also the president and owner of Western Liquid Express, Inc. (Western), of Topeka. Western's trucks transport building materials, farm machinery, and parts. Western's vehicles are covered by insurance with Canal Insurance Company in the amount of $1,000,000 per occurrence.

Warner, individually and on behalf of the surviving heirs of his deceased wife, filed an action against Robert and Canal for his personal injury and her wrongful death. Canal was allegedly a proper party pursuant to K.S.A. 66-1,128 and case law interpretations of the statute. Warner alleged, among other things, that Canal insured Western's vehicles and that Western's policy insured the pickup at the time of the accident. As partial support, Warner alleged that the pickup was being operated pursuant to a Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) permit issued to Western.

At the close of discovery the district court eventually granted Canal's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that Canal's insurance policy only provided coverage for vehicles owned by Western, that the truck was "owned and titled" to Stover personally, and that consequently no Canal coverage existed.

The district court later denied Warner's motion for reconsideration, again specifically addressing the ownership issue: "The bottom line, in the Court's view, is that ownership of the vehicle controls the coverage question and vehicle ownership in Kansas is controlled by title and registration. In the case at bar, that is with the individual defendant alone."

Trial proceeded against Robert and judgment was entered against him in the amount of $607,990.80. On June 30, 2006, our Court of Appeals affirmed ...


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