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AUTOMOBILE INS. CO. v. CURRAN

February 9, 1998

THE AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT
v.
JAMES J. CURRAN, JR., ET. AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 February 9, 1998

 Plaintiff, The Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut ("AICHC) instituted this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify Defendant James J. Curran, Jr. for an accident involving a 1979 Mercedes 6.9 sedan. Defendant Curran, in turn, counter-claimed for declaratory relief in the form of an order decreeing that AICHC is so obligated. Following Judge Gawthrop's denial of the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, this matter was heard non-jury before the undersigned on March 11, 1997 and based upon the evidence presented, we now make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Plaintiff AICHC is a Connecticut corporation with its principal place of business located in Hartford, Connecticut. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P1).

 2. Defendant James J. Curran, Jr. is an adult individual residing at 1402 Oak Road, Pottsville, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P2; Curran Deposition Excerpts, Exhibit "H").

 3. Defendants Frank C. Williams, Jr. and Margaret A. Williams are adult individuals residing at Route 2, Box 97, Morgantown, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P3).

 4. Defendant Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc. and Daimler-Benz North America Corporation are both Delaware corporations with their principal places of business located in states other than Connecticut and with places of business respectively located at 1633 Broadway, New York, New York and 1501 Lebanon Church Road, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P4).

 5. Defendant, Carson-Pettit, Inc. is a Pennsylvania Corporation with its principal place of business at 214 West Lancaster Avenue, Devon, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P5).

 6. Defendant Reading Anthracite Company is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business located at 200 Mahantongo Street, Pottsville, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P6).

 7. Defendant Theresa Ogrodnick is an adult individual residing at 15 Back Road, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P7).

 8. Defendant Tom Masano, Inc. is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business at 420 Gregg Road, Reading, Pennsylvania. (Plaintiff's Complaint and Defendants' Answers thereto, at P8).

 9. Defendant James J. Curran, Jr. ("Curran") is a licensed Pennsylvania attorney and was Vice-President of Reading Anthracite Company from February 1, 1961 until January 1, 1985. From January 1, 1985 until February 23, 1989, Curran was the Chief Executive Officer of Reading Anthracite. Since February 23, 1989, Curran has been the President of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. (Curran Deposition Excerpts, Exhibits "A," "B," "H," and "J").

 10. Reading Anthracite Company had a practice of purchasing company cars to be used by its officers, directors, accounting and sales personnel. (Curran Dep. Excrpt., Exhibit "E"). In 1979, Reading Anthracite Company purchased a 1979 Mercedes 6.9 litre sedan for Curran's use. (Curran Dep.Excrpt., Exhibits "C" through "G").

 11. In 1989, when Reading Anthracite was deaccessing some its cars, Curran purchased the Mercedes 6.9 from the company for his daughter, Caitlin and the car was thereafter titled in Caitlin Curran's name at her father's address at 1402 Oak Road, Pottsville, PA. (N.T. 9-15, 17-18; Exhibit P-1).

 12. Although the Mercedes 6.9 was titled in her name, Caitlin Curran, who had been residing in Philadelphia since 1988, did not make any of the loan payments on nor did she take possession of the car. Instead, at her father's request, she left the vehicle at her grandparents' residence at 1401 Oak Road in Pottsville, PA so that the car could be used to chauffeur her grandfather on his daily or weekly outings. (N.T. 8, 16-22).

 13. Defendant Curran's parents, James J. Curran, Sr. and Frances Curran resided across the street from his home on Oak Road in Pottsville and the Mercedes 6.9 was parked there from at least 1989 until May 11, 1992. (N.T. 38-41, 52-55, 61, Curran Dep. Excrpt., Exhibits "I," "V" "W").

 14. From at least 1989 until May 11, 1992, although the Mercedes 6.9 was primarily used by the nurses and gardener/handyman working for Frances and James Curran, Sr. to chauffeur the elder Currans, the vehicle was available to anyone in the Curran family for use including Defendant James Curran, Jr. A key to the Mercedes was kept on a keyboard in the elder Currans' home. (N.T. 15-20, 36-48, 52-59; Curran Dep. Excrpt., Exhibits "J,"N," "P," "S," "T," "U," "W").

 15. After taking title to the Mercedes 6.9, Caitlin Curran never drove the car, did not have a set of keys to the vehicle, did not pay for its insurance and did not pay for any maintenance, oil or gasoline. (N.T. 12-13, 15-16, 18-20).

 16. James Curran, Jr. made the loan payments on and paid for the maintenance, gas, oil and insurance on the Mercedes 6.9 from 1989 until May 11, 1992. Defendant Curran also kept a key to the vehicle in a brass box in his home. (N.T. 9-10, 12-14, 19-20, 40; Curran Dep. Excrpt., Exhibits "O," "Q," "R," "U," "V").

 17. Defendant Curran drove the Mercedes 6.9 on only a few occasions between 1989 and May, 1992, primarily to determine whether it was in proper operating condition. On none of those occasions did he ask his daughter Caitlin for permission to drive ...


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