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Countryway Insurance Co. v. Slaugenhoup

February 22, 2008

COUNTRYWAY INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF(S),
v.
WALTER P. SLAUGENHOUP, WALTER C. SLAUGENHOUP, DUSTIN C. SAMS AN INCAPACITATED PERSON, JULIE L. RAYBUCK HIS GUARDIAN, DEFENDANT(S).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

Before the Court in this declaratory judgment action, brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, are cross-motions for summary judgment filed on behalf of plaintiff, Countryway Insurance Company ("Countryway" or "insurer"), defendant Dustin Sams (the "victim"), and defendants Walter P. Slaughenhoup ("insured", "son" or "insured son") and Walter C. Slaughenhoup ("father"). Countryway, who issued a farmowner's insurance policy to the insured son, seeks a declaration that it not be required to defend and indemnify the insured son for a negligence action which brought against him (as well as the father).

After careful consideration of the cross motions for summary judgment, the responses thereto, the supporting briefs, and the materials submitted in support of summary judgment, the Court finds that the policy language at issue is ambiguous, and therefore, must be construed in favor of coverage. Accordingly, Countryway has a duty to defend and indemnify the insured son in the suit brought by the victim. Therefore, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment brought by Sams (the victim) (doc. no. 28), will grant the motion for summary judgment brought by the Slaugenhoups (insured son and father) (doc. no. 31), and will deny the motion for summary judgment brought by Countryway (doc. no. 18).

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Woodside v. School Dist. of Philadelphia Bd. of Educ., 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001), quoting Foehl v. United States, 238 F.3d 474, 477 (3d Cir.2001) (citations omitted). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must "view the evidence ... through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden" to determine "whether a jury could reasonably find either that the plaintiff proved his case by the quality and quantity of the evidence required by the governing law or that he did not." Anderson v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 297 F.3d 242, 247 (3d Cir. 2002), quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986).

When the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party's burden can be "discharged by 'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the District Court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the moving party has carried this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party who cannot rest on the allegations of the pleadings and must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., 998 F.2d 1224, 1230 (3d Cir. 1993). Thus the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings, but instead must go beyond the pleadings and present "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), and cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir.1989) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325 (1986)). The non-moving party must respond "by pointing to sufficient cognizable evidence to create material issues of fact concerning every element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. Of Sterling, Inc., 142 F. 3d 639, 643 n. 3 (3d Cir. 1998), quoting Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 n. 1 (3d Cir. 1994).

"In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence 'is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.' Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004.) See also Doe v. County of Centre, PA, 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001) (court must view facts in the light most favorable, draw all reasonable inferences, and resolve all doubts, in favor of the nonmoving party).

III. Material Facts

There are no genuine issues of material fact, only issues about the appropriate inferences and legal consequences of the undisputed material facts, and unless noted, the following facts are not disputed.

Background

On the morning of July 17, 2006, father and son, who were farmers and were the joint owners of a combine, had determined that the combine had a flat tire. Son jacked up the combine, removed the tire, and placed the tire in the bed of a pickup truck owned by father. After placing the tire in the pickup truck, son exclaimed, "There you are, Pap, go get her fixed." Father, the owner and driver of the pickup truck, was 93 years old, had a history of glaucoma, and was not wearing his glasses despite a driver's license requirement that he wear corrective lenses when operating a motor vehicle. Father was driving his pickup truck to get the tire fixed on July 17, 2006, when his car collided with the victim on Route 58 in front of father's home in Clarion County, Pennsylvania, causing the victim severe injuries.

On October 22, 2007, the victim (through his guardian, Julie L Raybuck) filed a two count amended complaint*fn1 against both the father and the son in the Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County alleging (1) a claim for negligent operation of the motor vehicle against the father; and (2) a negligence ...


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