Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Greene v. CSAA Fire & Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 15, 2017

DIANAH GREENE, individually and On behalf of the heirs-at-law of EDWARD GREENE, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
CSAA FIRE & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a AAA Insurance,, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the court on two motions. Defendant CSAA Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, doing business as AAA Insurance (“CSAA”), has filed a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. 14. Defendant Safeco Insurance Company of America (“Safeco”) also has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. 15. All parties have filed responses and replies. For reasons explained below, the court grants Safeco's Motion and denies CSAA's Motion.

         I. Uncontroverted Facts

         The parties have stipulated to the following uncontroverted facts. See Doc. 13.

         On February 18, 2016, Marcos Adan Cruz, Jr. negligently drove his car into a car driven by Jerry Griggs. Edward Greene was riding as a passenger in Mr. Griggs's car. Mr. Cruz ran a red light while evading law enforcement officers, colliding with Mr. Griggs's car. Mr. Cruz carried insurance covering the car he was driving, but his insurance company denied coverage for the accident. Thus, for purposes of this dispute, Mr. Greene was killed in an accident with a negligent uninsured motorist.

         Safeco insured Mr. Greene and his wife, Dianah Greene, under a policy covering a car not involved in the accident. Safeco's uninsured motorist coverage established a limit of $100, 000 per person. This policy provides, “[A]ny insurance we provide with respect to a vehicle you do not own . . . shall be excess over any collectible insurance.” Doc. 13-1 at 53. This coverage is commonly known as an “excess-escape” clause. Safeco's policy also provides that if Safeco provides coverage on a primary basis, then Safeco only will pay “the proportion that our limit of liability bears to the total of all applicable limits of liability for coverage provided on a primary basis.” Id.

         CSAA insured Carol and Mr. Griggs on the car Mr. Griggs was driving at the time of the accident. The uninsured motorist coverage limit under their CSAA policy is $250, 000 per person. The CSAA policy also provides, “[A]ny insurance we provide with respect to a vehicle you do not own . . . shall be excess over any collectible insurance.” Doc. 13-2 at 31. The CSAA policy also provides that if CSAA provides coverage on a primary basis, then CSAA will only pay “the proportion that our limit of liability bears to the total of all applicable limits of liability for coverage provided on a primary basis.” Id. at 31-32. CSAA's policy covers Mr. Greene because he was a passenger in Mr. Griggs's car when the accident occurred. Id. at 27.

         Plaintiff Dianah Greene, individually and on behalf of the heirs-at-law of Mr. Greene, filed this diversity action for the wrongful death of Mr. Greene. Plaintiff brings this suit against both insurance carriers-CSAA and Safeco. Both insurers have filed cross motions for summary judgment to determine how much each insurance company owes plaintiff. Both defendants agree that the maximum amount plaintiff can recover is $250, 000.[1] CSAA argues that both policies are primary and thus the court should divide any award on a pro-rata basis between CSAA and Safeco.[2] Doc. 14 at 3. Safeco argues that it is the excess insurer and not liable for any amount due to plaintiff. Doc. 16 at 7. For reasons stated below, the court holds that Safeco is the excess insurer. The court thus grants Safeco's motion and denies CSAA's motion.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that “no genuine dispute [about] any material fact” exists and that it “is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court applies this same standard to cross motions for summary judgment. Each party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Atl. Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank of Wichita, 226 F.3d 1138, 1148 (10th Cir. 2000). Cross motions for summary judgment “are to be treated separately; the denial of one does not require the grant of another.” Buell Cabinet Co., Inc. v. Sudduth, 608 F.2d 431, 433 (10th Cir. 1979). But where the cross motions overlap, the court may address the legal arguments together. Berges v. Standard Ins. Co., 704 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1155 (D. Kan. 2010) (citation omitted).

         Here, neither party disputes the facts at this stage. The interpretation of an insurance contract is a question of law. Am. Media, Inc. v. Home Indem. Co., 658 P.2d 1015, 1018 (Kan. 1983). Thus, the court must decide which party deserves judgment as a matter of law. See Great Plains Ventures, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 161 F.Supp.3d 970, 976 (D. Kan. 2016).

         III. Applicable Law

         Before addressing defendants' arguments, the court must determine which state's substantive law governs. Rigby v. Clinical Reference Lab., Inc., 995 F.Supp. 1217, 1221 (D. Kan. 1998) (citing Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)). Because the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the court has diversity subject matter jurisdiction over this case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In a diversity case, federal courts apply the choice of law rules of the forum state. See Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496 (1941). Under Kansas law, insurance contracts are governed by the law of the state where the contract was made. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am. v. Allen, 941 P.2d 1365, 1372 (Kan. 1997). Here, the parties agree that Kansas law applies and no evidence suggests that the insurance contracts were made outside Kansas. Therefore, the court interprets the contract according to Kansas substantive law. The substantive law is determined by the state's highest court, although the court may look to lower court decisions as persuasive authority for what the highest court would hold unless evidence suggests otherwise. Etherton v. Owners Ins. Co, 829 F.3d 1209, 1223 (10th Cir. 2016).

         IV. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.