The opinion of the court was delivered by: KATZ
In this action, plaintiff State Farm seeks a declaration that it is not obligated to defend and/or indemnify Kathleen Watson in a pending state court lawsuit. In the complaint in the underlying state court action, Kenneth Sternberg alleges that on or about December 8, 1995, while he was visiting Kathleen Watson at a residence owned by defendant Robert Platt, she shot him with a firearm she owned. See Pl. Mot. Ex. A. At the time of the shooting, defendant Platt had homeowner's insurance with plaintiff State Farm. See Pl. Mot. Ex. B. Platt was not living at the residence at the time Watson shot Sternberg; he was incarcerated at a state prison in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, for an unrelated shooting. See id. Ex. J. Watson had moved into and out of the residence prior to Platt's arrest, but she remained in the house after Platt's arrest. See Pl. Mot. Ex. I; Def. Sternberg Resp. Ex. 2. At all times relevant to this action, Platt was insured with a State Farm Policy which provides the following liability coverage:
If a Claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, caused by an occurrence, we will: 1) pay up to our limit of liability for which the insured is legally liable; and 2) provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice. . . . Our obligation to defend any claim or suit ends when the amount we pay for damages, to effect settlement or satisfy a judgment resulting from the occurrence, equals our limit of liability. Pl. Mot. Ex. B at 14.
The Policy also provides the following definitions with respect to the identity of a covered person under the Policy: "'You' and 'your' mean the named insured shown in the Declarations. Your spouse is included if a resident of your household." Id. Ex. B at 1. The Policy defines "insured" as the policyholder, any relatives who are residents of the household, and any person under the age of 21 who is in those persons' care. See id. Ex. B. at 1. Watson claims that she qualifies as a spouse under the Policy, as she is Platt's common law wife, and is therefore entitled to liability coverage.
By all accounts, including their own, Kathleen Watson and Robert Platt had a rather stormy relationship. See Def. Resp. Exs. 1, 2. Watson and Platt met while he was married to Debbie Sue Platt. See Pl. Mot. Ex. J; Def. Resp. Ex. 2. On July 5, 1989, Kathleen Watson gave birth to her only child with Platt, Kristina, while Platt was still married. See Pl. Mot. Exs. I, D. Watson claims that she and Platt exchanged informal wedding vows in private after Kristina's birth in 1989, and that they considered themselves married after that point in time, and that their friends and other persons in the community considered them to be married. See id. Ex. I; Def. Resp. Ex. 2. Sternberg claims that the two had an official marriage ceremony, akin to an "elopement," that had occurred a few years before Platt's incarceration. See Pl. Mot. Ex. M; Def. Resp. Ex. 14. Watson's testimony differs, however; she claims that she and Platt told her mother in 1989 that they had exchanged words, and that they were planning on getting married:
We just exchanged words to each other and someday we will get married. And then every time we wanted to get married, we had a fight, so -- but she knew how he was my husband. He would call her mom and everything was 'Mom." . . . And all of our friends knew. I mean, they'd be like, "That's Bob's wife."
Q: Why did you want to get married?
A. I just wanted to have a wedding.
Q: You wanted to have a wedding?
A: Well, why didn't we just stay that way or why did we want the--
Q: Well, you said you were planning to get married in the summer of 1996.
Q: Why did you make those plans?
A: Because Robert was the love of my life. Everything was Robert. And I ...