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State Automobile Mutual v. Ralph Angellilli

January 29, 2013

STATE AUTOMOBILE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RALPH ANGELLILLI, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Goldberg, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case presents the question as to whether defense and indemnification insurance coverage should be provided for a funeral director who has been convicted of crimes involving the unlawful taking and sale of body parts.

Plaintiff, State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company, has filed this declaratory judgment action, arguing that it is not required to provide coverageto its insureds, Gerald Garzone and the Garzone Funeral Home ("Garzone Defendants"), regarding lawsuits filed against them in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.*fn1 The underlying claims pertain to alleged damages suffered by family members of decedents in the Garzone Defendants' care in connection with an organ and tissue harvesting scheme. As a result of this scheme, on September 2, 2008, Garzone pled guilty to multiple criminal violations including criminal conspiracy, 244 counts of theft by unlawful taking and abuse of a corpse, among others.

Currently before this Court is Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Because we conclude that the complaints filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County do not allege an "occurrence" which took place during the period of State Auto's insurance policy and because none of the alleged damages meet the definitions of "bodily injury" or "property damage," Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted and declaratory judgment will be entered in favor of the Plaintiff.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn2

Gerald Garzone was a licenced funeral home director and co-owner of Liberty Crematorium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 62, Ex. 2.) As alleged in the underlying complaints, beginning in 2004, Garzone and Liberty's other co-owners agreed to provide corpses to Michael Mastromarino, the president of Biomedical Tissue Services, so that he could remove and sell the corpses' organs and tissues without the consent of the deceased or their families. (Id.) These organs and tissues were removed without regard to proper safety protocols and any records or samples were falsified in order to sell the organs and tissues to hospitals worldwide. (Id.) Over the course of this scheme, approximately 244 bodies were used in exchange for nearly $250,000. (Id.)

On September 2, 2008, Garzone pled guilty in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, to multiple criminal charges arising out of this scheme, including corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, 244 counts of theft by unlawful taking, abuse of corpse, and fraudulently obtaining food stamps or other public assistance. (See Doc. No. 62, Ex. 23.) Garzone was sentenced to eight to twenty years in prison. (Doc. No. 62, Ex. 2.)

In addition to the criminal charges brought against Garzone and his co-conspirators, a civil action was also filed against Garzone and the Garzone Funeral Home in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, by families of the decedents whose tissues and organs were illegally harvested. (See Underlying Complaints, Doc. No. 62, Exs. 2-22.) The families seek compensation for injuries suffered when they learned that the bodies of their deceased loved ones had been desecrated. (Id.) They allege they suffered "severe pain, suffering, severe emotional distress, mental anguish and harm, financial or economic loss, including, but not limited to, present and future lost wages, and other damages." (See, e.g., Doc. No. 62, Ex. 2, ¶ 39.) These damages are alleged to be the result of the intentional, or alternatively, the negligent actions of Garzone and the Garzone Funeral Home. (Id. at ¶¶ 41-42.)

State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company ("State Auto") has filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that they have no duty to defend or indemnify the Garzone Defendants and thus are not liable for compensating the family members in the underlying complaints.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A party moving for summary judgment must show that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that judgment is appropriate as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could rule in favor of the non-moving party based on the evidence presented. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006).

The non-moving party cannot avert summary judgment with speculation or conclusory allegations, such as those found in the pleadings, but rather, must present evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in its favor by citing to the record. Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. for M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court considers the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS*fn3

A. State Auto's ...


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