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Selective Way Insurance Co. v. Gingrich

October 27, 2010

SELECTIVE WAY INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF
v.
CINDY GINGRICH, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (Doc. No. 13.) This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 14, 2007, Defendant's husband, Randy Gingrich, was operating a vehicle insured by Plaintiff Selective Way Insurance Company. (Doc. No. 1-9, Ex. I, at 15 (hereinafter "Garthwaite Complaint").) While operating the vehicle, he collided with another automobile causing the death of Patricia Garthwaite. (Id.) The decedent's husband initiated a wrongful death and survival action against Randy Gingrich in the Court of Common Pleas for Lebanon County in January 2008. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 22.) Plaintiff filed a motion for declaratory judgment with this Court, seeking a declaration that it did not owe a duty to defend or indemnify pursuant to Selective Way Policy Number S1588689's Named Driver Exclusion, which excluded any claims arising from accidents occurring while Randy Gingrich was operating the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 24.) Following Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion and upheld the validity of the Named Driver Exclusion. Selective Way Ins. Co. v. Gingrich, Doc. No. 1:08-cv-994, Order and Memorandum Opinion, at 9, June 3, 2010.

Decedent's husband subsequently filed suit against Defendant Cindy Gingrich alleging negligent entrustment of the vehicle to Randy Gingrich. (Garthwaite Complaint, at 15-16.) Decedent's husband alleges that Defendant was negligent in: (1) permitting Randy Gingrich to operate a vehicle for which he was an excluded driver; (2) permitting Randy Gingrich to operate a vehicle when she knew or should have known he was under the influence of alcohol; (3) permitting Randy Gingrich to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in violation of 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3731(a)(1); (4) permitting Randy Gingrich to operate a vehicle on a suspended license in violation of 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1501; (5) permitting Randy Gingrich to operate a vehicle when she knew he was an habitual drinker; and (6) permitting Randy Gingrich to operate a vehicle on a suspended license when he was an excluded driver in violation of 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1574. (Garthwaite Complaint, at 15-16.)

Following the filing of the Garthwaite Complaint, Plaintiff Selective Way Insurance filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment with this Court seeking confirmation that it owes no duty to defend or indemnify Defendant Cindy Gingrich under Selective Way Policy Number S1588689 for damages arising from the July 14, 2007, motor vehicle accident. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 33.) In her Answer, Defendant admits Randy Gingrich was an excluded driver under the policy. (Doc. No. 3 ¶ 13; 15; 17.) In her Answer Defendant further admits "that if she were determined to have negligently entrusted the vehicle to Randy Gingrich said policy would preclude her indemnification." (Id. ¶ 53.)

At the close of the pleadings, Plaintiff moved for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. No. 13.) Defendant opposed Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. No. 19.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

At any time after the pleadings close and so as not to delay trial, a party may move for a judgment on the pleadings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). In reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court must accept the non-movant's allegations as true and view all facts and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005). A motion for judgment on the pleadings will not be granted unless the moving party clearly establishes that there are no material issues of fact, and he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. DiCarlo v. St. Mary Hosp., 530 F.3d 255, 259 (3d Cir. 2008).

III. DISCUSSION

When considering a declaratory judgment action concerning insurance coverage, this Court must first determine the scope of the policy's coverage. Lucker Mfg.. Home Ins. Co., 23 F.3d 808, 813-14 (3d Cir. 1994). After determining the scope of the policy, the Court will consider whether the facts alleged in the complaint may potentially trigger coverage. Id. at 814. "The question is not as to the truth or falsity of a claim, but whether it is covered by the policy; if it is, the Company must defend it; if it is not, its truth or falsity is wholly immaterial." Gen. Accident Ins. Co. of Am. v. Allen, 692 A.2d 1089, 1094 (Pa. 1997) (quoting Wilson v. Maryland Cas. Co., 105 A.2d 304, 306 (1954)). An insurer "is not required to defend if it would not be bound to indemnify the insured even though the claim against him should prevail in that action." Id. (quoting Wilson, 105 A.2d at 307).

A. Scope of Selective Way Coverage

Under Pennsylvania law, an insurance company is entitled to issue a policy that insures a motor vehicle but excludes certain drivers from coverage even when driving a covered vehicle. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1718(c); Donegal Mut. Ins. Co. v. Fackler, 835 A.2d 712, 716 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2003); State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. v. Keenan, 953 F. Supp. 103, 108 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (releasing insurance company from liability to third-party accident victim after finding exclusion of husband, who was driving during the accident, from insurance policy covering wife's car was valid and enforceable). This so-called "named driver exclusion" has been upheld by Pennsylvania courts as consistent with the public policy embodied in the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. Donegal, 835 A.2d at 716 (citing Progressive No. Ins. Co. v. Schneck, 813 A.2d 828, 831-32 (Pa. 2002)).

The named driver exclusion in the Selective Policy's Business Auto Form states: "It is agreed that the insurance afforded by the coverage form listed above shall not apply with respect to any claim arising from accidents which occur while any automobile is being operated by: Randy Gingrich." (Doc. No. 1, Ex. C, at 55 (emphasis added)). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stated that "[w]ords in an insurance policy must be given a reasonable and normal interpretation," and "[w]here the language of a policy is clear and unambiguous, a court is required to give effect to that language." Progressive, 813 A.2d at 831 (citing ...


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