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Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Timothy Shaw; Timothy Shaw

August 22, 2011

NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF :
v.
TIMOTHY SHAW; TIMOTHY SHAW, D/B/A SHAW BROTHERS DONKEY BALL CO.; AND ROBERT EISENBERRY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court are the parties' motions for summary judgment in this declaratory judgment action. Having been briefed, the matters are ripe for disposition.

Background

This case arises from a dispute over insurance coverage between Plaintiff Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("Nationwide") and Defendants Timothy Shaw, the Shaw Brothers Donkey Ball Company and Robert Eisenberry. On September 4, 2007, Defendant Robert Eisenberry suffered a paralyzing injury while stacking and moving bales of hay at a barn leased by Defendant Thomas Shaw for use in his family's entertainment business, the Shaw Brothers Donkey Ball Co. Eisenberry allegedly fell from a second-floor loft while assisting Shaw and another person move hay bales.

Shaw sought coverage for any liability to Eisenberry under the policy of insurance issued him by Nationwide. On June 19, 2008, Nationwide denied the claim, citing a number of grounds. On August 28, 2009, however, Nationwide agreed to participate in Shaw's defense pursuant to a reservation of rights. Among the reserved rights was a right to disclaim coverage pursuant to the policy's employer's liability exclusion.

On February 19, 2010 plaintiff filed an action in this court seeking a declaratory judgment that Nationwide was not obligated to cover defendants under the policy of insurance in question. After discovery, the parties filed the instant motions for summary judgment, bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

Plaintiff is Ohio corporation with its principal place of business in that State. Defendants are Pennsylvania citizens. The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Because the court is sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Legal Standard

Defendant moves for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims. Granting summary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

Discussion

The court's task here is to interpret the language of an insurance contract. In interpreting an insurance contract the court will give effect to the language of contract when that language is clear and unambiguous. Standard Venetian Blind Co. v. American Empire Ins. Co., 469 A.2d 563, 566 (Pa. 1983). If the language is ambiguous, "the policy provision is to be construed in favor of the insured and against the insurer." Id. Ambiguity exists for a contractual term "'if it is reasonably susceptible of different constructions and capable of being understood in more than one sense.'" Madison Construction Co. v. Harleysville Mut. Ins. Co., 735 A.2d 100, 106 (Pa. 1999) (quoting Hutchinson v. Sunbeam Coal Co., 519 A.2d 385, 390 (Pa. 1986)).

Each party raises various grounds for granting their summary judgment motion. The court will address them in turn, as appropriate.

A. Nationwide's Motion

i. Shaw's Insurable Interest ...


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