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Great American Assurance Co. v. Ford

August 12, 2009

GREAT AMERICAN ASSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF
v.
FRANCES FORD, MICHAEL E. FORD, DAKOTA LINES, INC., JOANNE F. SKINNER, PAUL KUGLAR, BETSY ANN KUGLAR, AND KURT GRIGG, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

This is an insurance declaratory judgment action filed by plaintiff Great American Assurance Company ("Great American"). Great American seeks a declaration that it owes no duty to defend or indemnify defendants Frances Ford, Michael E. Ford and Dakota Lines, Inc. in three underlying civil actions brought by Paul Kuglar and Betsy Ann Kuglar, (collectively "the Kuglars"), Joanne Skinner ("Skinner"), and Kurt Grigg ("Grigg"), all of whom are also defendants herein. Presently before the court is the Kuglars' motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 22) and three motions for summary judgment filed by Skinner (Doc. 27), Grigg (Doc. 29), and Great American (Doc. 32). For the reasons that follow, Great American's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 32) will be granted, and the remaining motions will be denied.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

On February 27, 2007, Michael Ford ("Ford") was operating a tractor-trailer loaded with cargo when he was involved in a multi-vehicle collision in which the Kuglars and Grigg sustained injury. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 18-19, 25, 30; Doc. 43 ¶ 7-9.)*fn2

Tragically, James F. Skinner and John Michael Taylor were killed in the accident. (Doc. 1 ¶ 21; Doc. 43 ¶ 8.) Joanne Skinner is the administratrix of both decedents' estates. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20; Doc. 43 ¶ 8.) The Kuglars, Skinner, and Grigg each commenced separate actions*fn3 (hereinafter "the underlying actions"), all of which are presently before this court, alleging that the collision resulted in part from Ford's negligent operation of the tractor. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 20-21, 24-25, 30-31; Doc. 43 ¶ 8 see also, Doc. 32, Exs. E, F, G.)

Ford and his wife, Frances Ford, jointly own the tractor, (Doc. 43 ¶ 2), which Ford was operating pursuant to an independent contractor agreement (hereinafter "the agreement") with Dakota Lines, Inc. ("Dakota") at the time of the collision. (Doc. 32, Ex. D; Doc. 43 ¶¶ 3-4.) Under the agreement, Dakota supplied liability insurance to cover accidents that occurred while Ford was transporting cargo on its behalf. (Doc. 1 ¶ 16; Doc. 32, Ex. D ¶ 6.) The agreement further required Ford to maintain non-trucking liability insurance to cover injuries that occurred when he was operating the tractor without a trailer in tow, a practice known in trucking parlance as "bobtailing." (Doc. 1 ¶ 17; Doc. 32, Ex. D ¶ 6.) Great American underwrote Ford's non-trucking liability policy (hereinafter "the NTL policy"), which was issued in Frances Ford's name and consists of a general liability insurance form along with the following endorsement:

Truckers-Insurance for Non-Trucking Use

LIABILITY COVERAGE... is changed as follows:

1. The following exclusions are added: This insurance does not apply to:

a. A covered auto while used to carry property in any business.

b. A covered auto while used in the business of anyone to whom the auto is rented.

(Doc. 32, Ex. B at TE 2309.)*fn4

Great American contends that it has no duty to defend or indemnity Ford in the underlying actions because this endorsement (hereinafter "the bobtailing endorsement") excludes coverage for collisions that occur while the tractor is hauling freight. Great American commenced the instant suit on July 28, 2008 to ascertain the extent of its obligations under the endorsement. Plaintiffs contend that the bobtailing endorsement was never incorporated into the terms of the NTL policy and that, in the absence of the endorsement, the policy covers the collision at issue in the underlying actions. They alternatively assert that the endorsement is ...


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