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Toner v. Geico Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 20, 2018





         This action, alleging breach of an insurance contract, warrants federal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff Robert W. Toner (“Plaintiff”) commenced this action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on January 16, 2017. Complaint, Exhibit A. On January 30, 2017, defendant GEICO Insurance Company (“GEICO”) removed the action to this court based on diversity jurisdiction. Civil Docket Report, Exhibit B. GEICO moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Exhibit B, doc no. 3. GEICO also argued that the insurance policy at issue specifically excludes the coverage sought by Plaintiff. Id. On July 6, 2017, the Honorable Joel H. Slomsky entered an Order and Opinion granting in part and denying in part GEICO's motion. Exhibit B, doc. nos. 6 and 7. Specifically, Plaintiff's bad faith claim was dismissed, but the breach of contract claim survived. Id.

         On July 18, 2017, GEICO filed an Answer with Affirmative Defenses to Plaintiff's Complaint. Answer, Exhibit C. On October 16, 2017, upon consent of the parties, Judge Slomsky referred this matter to the undersigned “to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of final judgment.” Exhibit B, doc. no. 11. On November 2, 2017, this court entered an order bifurcating the issue of coverage under the GEICO policy from the issue of Plaintiff's alleged damages, and setting a deadline for the filing of GEICO's motion for summary judgment at issue herein. Exhibit B, doc. no. 13; Order, Exhibit E. Plaintiff responded to the motion, and on February 2, 2018, oral argument was held. The motion is now ripe for decision. As set forth herein, the record establishes that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact related to GEICO's assertion that Plaintiff's claim is specifically excluded by the language of the policy, and the applicable exclusion requires that judgment be entered in GEICO's favor as a matter of law.


         A. Background

         Plaintiff's claims arise out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred on March 25, 2015 in Palm Beach County, Florida. Exhibit A. At that time, Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle that was struck by another vehicle. Police Report, Exhibit F. As a result of the accident, Plaintiff submitted a claim for underinsured motorist benefits under a policy of insurance issued by GEICO to his parents, Robert and Diann Toner. Exhibit A. At all relevant times, Plaintiff was not a Named Insured on the policy in question. GEICO Policy, Exhibit D. Although Plaintiff's brother, Kevin M. Toner, was listed as an Additional Driver on the policy, Plaintiff was not. Id.

         B. Coverage Under the Policy

         The Automobile Policy Amendment applicable to Underinsured Motorist Coverage provided under the policy at issue provides, in pertinent part:

Under this coverage, we will pay damages for bodily injury caused by an accident which the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of that motor vehicle.

         Exhibit D, at 30 (emphasis in original).

         The Amendment expressly defines relevant terms:

2. Insured means:
(a) You;
(b) A household member;
(c) Any other person while occupying an owned auto;
(d) Any person who is entitled to recover damages because of bodily injury sustained by an insured under (a), (b) and (c) above.

Id. (emphasis in original).

         The policy defines “you” as “the policyholder named in the declarations and his or her spouse if a resident of the same household.” Id., at 5. As noted, Plaintiff was not named as a policyholder on the declarations sheet of the policy. Id., at 1. He is not the spouse of either of the policyholders named on the declarations sheet, who are his parents. Therefore, it is undisputed that Plaintiff does not qualify as an insured on the policy as “you.”

         The policy defines “owned auto” as follows:

(a) a vehicle described in the policy for which a premium is shown for these coverages;
(b) a trailer owned by you;
(c) a private passenger, farm or utility auto which you acquire ownership of during the policy period or for which you enter into a lease for a term of six months or more during the policy period if,
(i) it replaces an owned auto as defined in (a) above; or (ii) we insure all private passenger, farm and utility autos owned or leased by you on the date of the acquisition, and you ask us to add it to the policy no more than 30 days later;
(d) a temporary substitute auto.

         Exhibit D, at 5 (emphasis in original). The motorcycle that Plaintiff was operating at the time of the accident was not listed as a vehicle to which the policy applies, see Exhibit D, at 1, and cannot otherwise be considered an “owned auto” as that term is defined in the policy. Therefore, Plaintiff does not qualify as an insured under the policy by virtue of having occupied an “owned auto” at the time of the accident.

         The Amendment defines “household member” as follows:

1. Household Member means a person residing in your household who is:
(a) Your spouse; or
(b) A relative; or
(c) A minor in your custody or the custody of a relative.

         Exhibit D, at 30 (emphasis in original). Thus, the parties agree that, in order to qualify as an insured household member under the policy, Plaintiff must establish that he was residing at his parents' home in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania at the time of the accident.

         C. Facts Pertaining to Plaintiff's Residence at the ...

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