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State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Hartman

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

November 18, 2013

STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DALLAS N. HARTMAN, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KATHRYN H. VRATIL, District Judge.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company brought suit against Dallas N. Hartman, Charles C. Conner, III, Branlyn Finnell as natural guardian and next friend of minor C. M., Jamie N. Bell, Jared M. Wilkinson and The Pantry, Inc. seeking a declaratory judgment that it owes no coverage arising out of an accident and/or no duty to defend its insured, Kenneth Keen. In her responsive pleading, Jamie N. Bell ("Bell") brought cross-claims against the other defendants and a third-party action against Kenneth Keen. The State Farm claims have been resolved with respect to all defendants except C. M.[1] This matter is before the Court on State Farm's Motion For Summary Judgment As To C. M., A Minor, And The Pantry, Inc. (Doc. #132) filed August 21, 2013. Because State Farm and The Pantry have stipulated to dismiss the State Farm claims against The Pantry, the Court overrules as moot plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to The Pantry. See Stipulation Of Dismissal (Doc. #139) filed September 11, 2013. For the reasons set forth below, the Court sustains plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to C. M.

Legal Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Vitkus v. Beatrice Co. , 11 F.3d 1535, 1538-39 (10th Cir. 1993). A "genuine" factual dispute is one "on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff, " and requires more than a mere scintilla of evidence. Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. at 252. A factual dispute is "material" only if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id. at 248.

The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Justice v. Crown Cork & Seal Co. , 527 F.3d 1080, 1085 (10th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that a genuine issue remains for trial with respect to the dispositive matters for which she carries the burden of proof. Nat'l Am. Ins. Co. v. Am. Re-Ins. Co. , 358 F.3d 736, 739 (10th Cir. 2004); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). As to these matters, the nonmoving party may not rest on her pleadings but must set forth specific facts. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2); Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 586-87; Justice , 527 F.3d at 1085. Conclusory allegations not supported by evidence are insufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Jarvis v. Potter , 500 F.3d 1113, 1120 (10th Cir. 2007); see Kidd v. Taos Ski Valley, Inc. , 88 F.3d 848, 853 (10th Cir. 1996).

When applying this standard, the Court must view the factual record in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment. Duvall v. Ga.-Pac. Consumer Prods., L.P. , 607 F.3d 1255, 1260 (10th Cir. 2010); see Ricci v. DeStefano , 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009). Summary judgment may be granted if the nonmoving party's evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative. Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. at 250-51. Essentially, the inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52.

Facts

The Court deems the following facts admitted because C. M. has not responded to plaintiff's motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) ("If a party fails to properly... address another party's assertion of fact..., the court may consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion.").[2]

On or about September 6, 2011, Keen, in preparation for an extended out-of-town trip for work, asked his neighbor Conner to keep the tires of his 1999 Mercedes ML320 ("vehicle") inflated and the battery charged while he was away. Keen did not tell Conner that he could use the vehicle in any manner other than to keep the tires inflated and the battery charged while he was away. Keen did not give anyone permission to use his vehicle while he was on his trip, or tell Conner that he could let others use it. Keen has never allowed Hartman or C. M. to use any of his vehicles. Keen would never, and has not, agreed to let an unlicensed driver operate his vehicle.

On September 18, 2011, without Keen's knowledge or express permission, Conner let Hartman, his friend, use the vehicle to get cigarettes. Hartman was not using the vehicle to benefit Keen. Furthermore, instead of driving, Hartman allowed C. M., an unlicensed minor, to drive. C. M. was operating the vehicle when an accident occurred that caused bodily injury and/or property damage to Bell, The Pantry, Inc. and Wilkinson. At the time of the accident, neither C. M. nor Hartman had Keen's permission to use or operate his vehicle.

Neither Keen nor Conner were in the vehicle when the accident occurred. At the time of the accident, Conner was not using the vehicle. Keen has never allowed Conner unrestricted use of any of his vehicles but instead has always provided Conner with only limited specific permission to use any of his vehicles. Prior to the accident, Conner had never allowed another person to use Keen's vehicles, nor had Keen ever asked Conner to keep up the battery and tires on any of his vehicles.

At the time of the accident, Keen was the named insured on an automobile insurance policy listing the vehicle issued by State Farm, policy number 0755157F2016A ("policy"). The policy contains the following language:

LIABILITY COVERAGE
* * *
Insuring Agreement
1. We will pay damages an insured becomes legally liable to ...

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