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State Auto Mutual Insurance Co. v. McCutcheon

January 6, 2009

STATE AUTO MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF(S),
v.
J. ROBERT MCCUTCHEON D/B/A BOB'S TOWING AND AUTO REPAIR, WILLIAM ALEXANDER, AND JOYCE STEINER 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, is a motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of plaintiff, State Auto Mutual Insurance Company ("State Auto"). State Auto issued a contract of insurance to Robert McCutcheon ("McCutcheon") t/d/b/a Bob's Towing. On May 17, 2008, a motor vehicle accident occurred between a vehicle owned by Bob's Towing and driven by William Alexander ("Alexander"), who was an employee of Bob's Towing, resulting in injuries to defendant Joyce Steiner ("Steiner"). Steiner then filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County against McCutcheon, Bob's Towing and Alexander. This action followed.

After careful consideration of the motion for summary judgment, the responses thereto, and in opposition thereto, the Court finds that the policy language and undisputed facts establish that there is no coverage for the underlying lawsuit. Therefore, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment filed by State Auto (doc. no. 30).

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

The facts may be fairly summarized as follows.

Alexander was employed by McCutcheon at Bob's Towing, which is primarily involved in towing automobiles and occasionally performing minor repairs on vehicles. Prior to May 17, 2004, McCutcheon obtained possession of a 1997 Plymouth Voyager which had been abandoned by the owner after it was towed to Bob's Towing. At the request of McCutcheon, Alexander installed a new motor in the van in order to make it operable.

The parties dispute the date on which McCutcheon found out that Alexander did not possess a valid driver's license. While Steiner argues that the facts indicate that McCutcheon learned that information approximately three (3) weeks prior to the accident which forms the basis of this action, McCuthcheon and Alexander claim that McCuthcheon ...


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