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State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Ruby

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 2, 2017

STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY
v.
TIM RUBY and JACQUELYN ANDRIETTA

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Savage, J.

         State Farm Fire and Casualty Company seeks a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify its insured, Tim Ruby, in a personal injury action brought against him in state court. State Farm contends that the business pursuits exclusion in Ruby's homeowner's policy excuses it from covering him. It moves for judgment on the pleadings or for summary judgment.

         It is disputed whether Ruby was engaged in a business pursuit as State Farm alleges or was a volunteer as Ruby contends. Therefore, given this disputed material fact, we shall deny State Farm's motion.

         Background

         The plaintiff in the underlying action, Cornelius Jones, alleges that he was injured when he was ejected from a golf cart operated by Ruby.[1] The incident occurred at a wedding hosted by Michael and Jane Stolper, who hired Kim Rosen Events as the wedding coordinator and King Limousine to provide transportation services.[2] Jones, an employee of King Limousine, claims that as he attempted to sit in the golf cart, it “suddenly and unexpectedly took off, ” causing him to be “thrown into the air” and injured.[3]

         Jones filed a personal injury action in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, naming the Stolpers, Kim Rosen Events, and Ruby as defendants.[4] Jones alleged that Ruby, while acting as an “agent, servant and/or workman for the Stolpers and/or Rosen, or . . . working on his own behalf, ” was careless and negligent in operating the golf cart.[5]

         At the time of the incident, Ruby was covered by a homeowner's policy issued by State Farm to Ruby's wife, Jacquelyn Andrietta.[6] Ruby is covered as Andrietta's spouse.[7] Ruby requested that State Farm defend and indemnify him in the state court action.[8]

         State Farm brought this action under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, seeking a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Ruby in the state court action. Claiming Ruby was engaged in a business pursuit while operating the golf cart, State Farm contends that the business pursuits exclusion in the policy excuses it from covering the claim in the underlying lawsuit. Ruby counters that he was not engaged in any business pursuit, but rather “was simply a volunteer at the event.”[9] He claims that his presence at the wedding was “a way to spend some time with his wife” while she worked “at a big fancy wedding”.[10]

         Standard of Review

         In deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings made pursuant to Rule 12(c), we consider only the facts alleged in the pleadings and documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) (instrument attached as an exhibit is part of a pleading for all purposes); Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. Ill. Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 335 (6th Cir. 2007); cf. Steinhardt Grp. Inc. v. Citicorp, 126 F.3d 144, 145 & n.1 (3d Cir. 1997) (in Rule 12(b)(6) context). The well-pleaded factual assertions in the nonmovant's pleadings are accepted as true and all contravening allegations in the movant's pleadings are assumed to be false. 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1368 (3d ed., Apr. 2016) (citing Allah v. Al-Hafeez, 226 F.3d 247, 249-50 (3d Cir. 2000)).

         The movant must establish that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir. 1988); Shelly v. Johns-Manville Corp., 798 F.2d 93, 97 n.4 (3d Cir. 1986). If a material issue of fact arises from the pleadings, the motion cannot be granted. Inst. for Sci. Info., Inc. v. Gordon & Breach, Sci. Publishers, Inc., 931 F.2d 1002, 1005 n.3 (3d Cir. 1991) (citing Jablonski, 863 F.2d at 290-91). The motion can be granted only if the nonmovant cannot prevail under any set of facts. Green v. Fund Asset Mgmt., L.P., 245 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2001); Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991) (“We can affirm the district court only if no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved.”).

         Interpretation of Insurance Contracts

         The interpretation of an insurance contract is a question of law. Am. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Murray, 658 F.3d 311, 320 (3d Cir. 2011). Whether a claim is within a policy's coverage or barred by an exclusion may be determined on a motion for judgment on the pleadings or a motion for summary judgment. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Hymes, 29 A.3d 1169, 1171 (Pa. Super. 2011); Bishops, Inc. v. Penn Nat'l Ins., 984 A.2d 982, 989 (Pa. Super. 2009).

         A court must give effect to the plain language of the insurance contract read in its entirety. Am. Auto. Ins. Co., 658 F.3d at 320. When the policy language is ambiguous, the provision is construed in favor of the insured. Ramara, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 814 F.3d 660, 673-74 (3d Cir. 2016); Pa. Nat'l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. St. John, 106 A.3d 1, 14 (Pa. 2014). Contract language is ambiguous if it is capable of more than one construction and meaning. Pa. Nat'l, 106 A.3d at 14. However, policy language may not be stretched beyond its plain meaning ...


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