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Reeves v. The Travelers Companies

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 30, 2017

DOUGLAS REEVES, Plaintiff,
v.
THE TRAVELERS COMPANIES d/b/a TRAVELERS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BAYLSON, J.

         I. Introduction

         On June 25, 2015, Plaintiff Douglas Reeves, a trades helper in the City of Philadelphia Street Lighting Department, was injured in a car accident while a passenger in a city-owned truck. At the time of the accident, he was on his way from a work meeting to that day's job site. After settling a personal injury claim against the driver of the other car, he sought underinsured motorist benefits from Defendant Travelers Companies, which were denied. The Court now GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF 17).

         II. Background

         From 2012 to the date of the accident on June 25, 2015, Plaintiff Douglas Reeves (“Plaintiff”) worked as a “trades helper” assisting electronic technicians in the City of Philadelphia Street Lighting Department (“Department”). (ECF 17-2 at 65). At the time of the accident, Plaintiff lived in Philadelphia with his mother. A 2006 Mercury Mariner was jointly titled in Plaintiff's and his mother's names, insured by Defendant Travelers Companies (“Defendant”) pursuant to Policy No. 984318670 1011 (“the Policy”) (ECF 17-2 at 1). Plaintiff testified that although only his mother was listed on the Policy and paid the premiums, he alone drove the Mariner. (Id. at 59-61).

         On a typical work day, he would drive to the Department offices and maintenance facility at 701 Ramona Street, where a supervisor would pass out a “trouble report” describing an issue with street lighting somewhere in the city of Philadelphia. (Id. at 70-74). After assembling the necessary supplies, such as light bulbs, from a warehouse, he would load a Department truck to travel to the job site. (Id. at 74-75). At the time of the accident in June 2015, the fleet consisted of roughly seventeen vehicles of various types: seven bucket trucks, two utility trucks, two line trucks, and six pickup trucks. (ECF 17-3 at 48). Plaintiff, who did not use the same truck every day, was assigned by one of his superiors to one of these trucks depending on the task to be done. (ECF 17-2 at 77). Plaintiff estimated that he stayed behind at the Ramona Street location only once or twice per month; on all other work days he worked at remote job sites. (Id.). He also estimated that he would drive city-owned trucks “maybe once or twice” a month, or 10% of the time; the remainder of the time he rode as a passenger. (Id. at 83-84). Because he lacked a commercial driver's license, he was unable to drive all but a few of the trucks in the fleet. (Id. at 84-85).

         On the day of the accident, Plaintiff was a passenger in a city-owned truck driven by a co-worker. (Id. at 89). While stopped on JFK Boulevard, the truck in which Plaintiff was traveling was struck by another vehicle, causing a lower back injury and nerve damage to Plaintiff, for which he is still being treated. (ECF at 17-3 at 31). Plaintiff subsequently missed some five weeks of work. (ECF 17-2 at 93).

         Plaintiff settled a tort claim against the driver, and then sought underinsured motorist benefits from Defendant under the terms of the Policy on January 7, 2016 (ECF 17-4 at 3). On February 4, 2016, Defendant denied coverage by letter to Plaintiff, invoking the “regular use exception”:

EXCLUSIONS
B. We do not provide Uninsured Motorists Coverage or Underinsured Motorists Coverage for “bodily injury” sustained:
1. By you while “occupying” or when struck by, any motor vehicle you own or that is furnished or available for your regular use which is not insured for this coverage under this policy. . . .
2. By a “family member”:
a. Who owns an auto while “occupying”, or when struck by, any motor vehicle owned by, or furnished or available for the regular use of, you or any “family member” which is not ...

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