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AETNA LIFE & CAS. CO. v. BARTHELEMY

October 19, 1993

AETNA LIFE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff
v.
PETER M. BARTHELEMY, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES F. MCCLURE, JR.

 October 19, 1993

 BACKGROUND

 This declaratory judgment action *fn1" was initiated by a complaint filed by plaintiff Aetna Life and Casualty Company (Aetna) against defendants Peter M. Barthelemy, Carolyn M. Barthelemy, Michael Barthelemy, and Vicki McSparran. This action involves a dispute over coverage under a homeowner's insurance policy (policy no. 233 SQ 30353658 PCS) *fn2" issued by Aetna to Peter and Carolyn Barthelemy. The Barthelemys assert an obligation on the part of Aetna to defend and indemnify their son, Michael, in a tort action filed against him by McSparran in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Pennsylvania. *fn3" McSparran alleges in the underlying action that Michael Barthelemy induced her to drink alcohol and raped her while she was under the influence of alcohol. The alleged sexual assault took place in Barthelemy's dormitory room at Pennsylvania State University (PSU), State College, Pennsylvania, where both he and McSparran were students at the time.

 Before the court are five motions: 1) a motion by McSparran to clarify the court's order dated May 21, 1992; 2) a motion by Aetna to strike McSparran's objections to interrogatories and requests for production of documents propounded by Aetna and to compel responses; 3) a motion by the Barthelemys to compel discovery responses from McSparran; 4) a motion for summary judgment filed by Aetna; and 5) a motion for summary judgment filed by McSparran.

 For the reasons which follow, we will enter an order: 1) granting McSparran's motion to clarify *fn4" and clarifying the order dated May 21, 1992 to indicate that both Aetna's duty to defend and its duty to indemnify will be decided in this action; 2) denying as moot Aetna's motion to strike *fn5" McSparran's objections to interrogatories and requests for production of documents propounded by Aetna; 3) denying as moot the motion by the Barthelemys to compel discovery *fn6" from McSparran; 4) granting Aetna's motion for summary judgment; *fn7" and 5) denying the motion for summary judgment filed by McSparran. *fn8"

 DISCUSSION

 Motion to clarify

 McSparran seeks clarification of the court's order dated May 21, 1993 on the issues to be decided in this action. McSparran argues that the court intended to, and should, limit the issues in this action to the question of whether Aetna has a duty to defend Michael Barthelemy in the underlying state court action and leave to another day, the question of its duty to indemnify Barthelemy. She contends that the indemnity issue is not ripe for adjudication until a judgment has been entered against Barthelemy and that any decision on that issue by this court prior to final disposition of her claims against Barthelemy in state court would be improper since it would require this court to decide factual issues to be tried before a jury in state court. She is wrong on both counts.

 Both issues will be decided by this action. The central issue before this court is the duty owed by Aetna to its insureds under the terms of the policy. Resolution of that question turns on the language of the policy, the claims asserted against Barthelemy, and the nature of his alleged conduct, not on the truth or falsity of the claims asserted. Determining coverage does not require this court to decide factual issues yet to be decided by a jury in state court. There is, therefore, no incompatibility with and no deterrent against this court deciding the issues before it independent of disposition of the issues raised in state court.

 Discovery motions

 McSparran has refused to respond to any discovery request propounded by Aetna or the Barthelemys on the ground that the information sought is irrelevant since this action pertains only to Aetna's duty to defend Michael Barthelemy, and that issue turns solely on the allegations of her complaint in the state court action and on the terms of the Barthelemys' policy. We have rejected those contentions. As stated above, Aetna's alleged duty to indemnify is also at issue in this case. However, no additional information will have any bearing on the court's decision on the summary judgment motions. In view of the decision in favor of Aetna, both discovery motions will be denied as moot.

 Motion for summary judgment standard

 Both McSparran and Aetna have moved for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)

 Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).

 The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motions and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. He or she can discharge that burden by "showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. at 323 and 325.

 Issues of fact are "'genuine' only if a reasonable jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the non-moving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3rd Cir. 1988), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Material facts are those which will affect the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson, supra, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must consider all ...


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