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Trunzo v. Allstate Insurance Co.

September 25, 2006

PAMELA TRUNZO, INDIVIDUALLY, ROBERT TRUNZO, INDIVIDUALLY, AND GINA TRUNZO, A MINOR, BY PAMELA AND ROBERT TRUNZO, HER PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Introduction

The instant action arises out of an automobile accident involving Micaela DeSouza ("Micaela") in which Pamela Trunzo, one of the plaintiffs, was injured. Pending before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment concerning whether defendant Allstate Insurance Company ("defendant") breached a contractual duty allegedly owed to Micaela by refusing to defend or indemnify her for claims arising from the accident. Defendant contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on the grounds that Micaela was not an "insured person" under Allstate Automobile Insurance Policy Florida AU 109-2 (the "Policy") and that, even if she was, the vehicle that she negligently operated was not an "insured auto" under the Policy. (Doc. No. 32 at 4-16). Pamela Trunzo, Robert Trunzo and Gina Trunzo ("plaintiffs") contend that they are entitled to partial summary judgment regarding the "insured auto" issue and that there is a genuine factual dispute regarding the "insured person" issue, thereby precluding summary judgment as sought by defendant. (Doc. No. 39 at 14-22). The material facts regarding the "insured auto" issue are not in dispute, while the facts regarding the "insured person" issue are disputed in a significant manner. (Doc. Nos. 46-47). This court finds that the factual dispute concerning the "insured person" issue precludes a grant of summary judgment on that issue, and that plaintiffs are entitled to the grant of summary judgment in their favor with regard to the "insured auto" issue. The court will grant plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and deny defendant's motion for summary judgment.

Background

Saulo DeSouza ("Saulo") and Jacira Antonelli ("Antonelli") are both natives and citizens of Brazil. Their daughter, Micaela, was born in the United States and, by virtue of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, is a citizen of the United States. She was born in October 1985, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 35, Ex. A at 17). Her parents were divorced when she was still very young. (Id. at 26). Antonelli lives in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, and Saulo lives in Corral Spring, Florida. (Doc. No. 39, Ex. I at 1). Micaela attended elementary school in the Pittsburgh area, and she graduated from Gateway Junior High School in 1999. (Doc. No. 39, Ex. B at 15). After graduation, she traveled to Brazil for what was supposed to be a summer vacation. (Id. at 16). Upon her arrival in Brazil, Micaela decided to remain there with relatives because of her desire for the "tropical lifestyle." (Id. at 17). She attended school in Brazil from 1999-2002. (Id. at 20). After deciding that she wanted to attend college in the United States, Micaela concluded that it was in her best interest to do her final year of high school in an American school. (Id. at 26). Consequently, she moved in with her mother and Robert Mylnar ("Mylnar"), her mother's boyfriend, in 2002. (Id. at 40). They lived in Monroeville, and Micaela attended Gateway Senior High School ("Gateway H.S."). (Id. at 27). Apparently, Mylnar made it clear to Antonelli that he only wanted Micaela to live with them for the duration of the 2002/2003 school year. (Doc. No. 39, Ex. A at 62, Ex. B at 41, Ex. C at 13). Micaela graduated from Gateway H.S. in early June 2003. (Doc. No. 39, Ex. B at 48).

It is clear that Micaela intended to move to Florida after her graduation. (Id. at 48). Her father wanted her to move in with him, and she visited him on a frequent basis from January to June 2003. (Id. at 42-49). While in high school, Micaela applied for admission to Florida International University, but she was not accepted. (Doc. No. 39, Exhibit B at 75-77). The question whether she had actually moved in with her father as of July 12, 2003, is in dispute. It, however, is undisputed that Micaela traveled to Florida after her graduation and stayed for approximately two weeks. (Doc. No. 46 at 6). She returned to Pennsylvania in late June, apparently because she wanted to attend some of her classmates' graduation parties. (Doc. No. 32, App. F at 26-27). During June and July 2003, Micaela was spending some of her time in Pennsylvania and some of her time in Florida. (Id. at 48). By August 2003, Micaela was clearly living with her father in Florida. (Id.). In September 2003, she started working for Debt Relievers Debt Consolidation in Boca Raton, Florida. (Doc. No. 39, Ex. B at 79).

On July 12, 2003, while in Pennsylvania, Micaela drove Mylnar's car. She did so even though she had no driver's license and was not permitted to drive Mylnar's car. (Doc. No. 32, App. G at 87). Subsequently, an accident occurred which was reported as follows:

On 7-12-03 at approx. 9:20 PM, Pamela Trunzo legally parked her pick-up truck (Unit 2) along the westbound curbline of Broadway Street in Pitcairn. Trunzo (Unit 3) then walked over to a nearby ATM Bank Machine, to complete a banking transaction. Upon completion of this transaction, Trunzo walked along the driver's side of her vehicle. At this same point in time, Unit #1 was traveling westbound along Broadway Street. The operator of Unit 1 failed to keep her vehicle in the proper lane of travel. The right side (passenger side) of Unit 1 then sideswiped the left side (driver's side) of Unit 2. At the time of this collision, Pamela Trunzo was caught between the two motor vehicles. Unit 1 subsequently struck Trunzo. The collision caused life threatening injuries to Pamela Trunzo. (Doc. No. 32, App. D). Micaela was the driver of "Unit 1." Mylnar's vehicle was insured through State Farm, which denied coverage for the accident on the ground that Micaela was not a permissive user of the vehicle and, consequently, did not qualify as an "insured" under the insurance policy. (Doc. No. 39 at 2 n.2). That denial is not at issue in this case.

Ultimately, a $2.4 million judgment was entered against Micaela in the Court of Common Pleas, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, as a result of legal action taken against her by plaintiffs. Defendant is an insurance company from which Micaela's father, Saulo, purchased the Policy. Plaintiffs are the assignees of the rights of Micaela against defendant. Plaintiffs allege that defendant wrongfully, and in bad faith, refused to defend or indemnify Micaela for claims resulting from the accident. The Policy provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Definitions Used Throughout the Policy

The following definitions apply throughout the policy unless otherwise indicated. Defined terms are printed in bold face type.

1. Allstate, we, us, or our means the company shown on the Policy Declarations.

2. Auto means a land motor vehicle designed for use principally upon public roads.

3. Resident or reside means the physical presence in your household with the intention to continue living there. Your unmarried dependent children while temporarily away from home will be considered resident(s), if they intend to continue to live in your household.

4. Utility auto means an auto of the pick-up body, sedan delivery or panel truck type. This auto must have a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or less, according to the manufacturer's specifications.

5. You or your means the policyholder named on the Policy Declarations and that policyholder's resident spouse.

****

Allstate will pay for all damages an insured person is legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury or property damage. Under these coverages, your policy protects an insured person from claims for accidents arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use, loading or unloading of the auto we insure. We will defend an insured person if sued as the result of a covered auto accident. We will defend that person at our own expense, with counsel of our choice and, may settle any claim or suit if we feel this is appropriate. We will not defend an insured person sued for damages which are not covered by this policy. ****

2. Insured auto means: ****

d. A non-owned auto used by you or a resident relative with the owner's permission. This auto must not be available or furnished for the regular use of an insured person; or

****

3. Insured person means:

a. While using your insured auto

(i) you,

(ii) any resident, and

(iii) any other person using it with your ...


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