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United States Liability Insurance Co. v. Jenkins

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

June 16, 2015

UNITED STATES LIABILITY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANGELIA JENKINS, Individually, ANGELIA JENKINS d/b/a OMEGA DAY CARE, TRACY D. CARROLL, E.M., a Minor, by her Next Friends and Natural Guardians WENDY HARSY and R. GADSTON MOORE, WENDY HARSEY, Individually, R. GADSTON MOORE, Individually, and ABC INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER

HUGH LAWSON, Senior District Judge.

Defendants Wendy Harsey and R. Gadston Moore initiated a lawsuit in the State Court of Tift County against Angelia Jenkins and Angelia Jenkins d/b/a Omega Day Care[1] on behalf of their minor daughter, E.M., who sustained severe injuries while under the supervision of the day care.[2] Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff United States Liability Insurance Company, which insured Jenkins at the time of the incident involving E.M., filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, alleging that under the terms of the Commercial General Liability policy the insurance company owed Jenkins no duty to defend or indemnify. The case is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. 37). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. FACTS

On March 6, 2013, E.M., a then three year old child, was enrolled at Omega Day Care. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 6). The day care center is owned and operated by Angelia Jenkins. (Id. ¶ 3). On this particular day, Tracy D. Carroll, an employee of Jenkins, removed E.M. from the center without authorization and traveled with the child in her personal vehicle to a convenience store in Omega, Georgia. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8). While at the convenience store, E.M. was struck and injured by Carroll's vehicle. (Id. ¶ 6).

E.M.'s parents, Defendants Wendy Harsey and R. Gadston Moore, filed suit against Jenkins in the State Court of Tift County on October 17, 2013. (Doc. 1-2). In their Complaint, Defendants did not name Carroll as a defendant and, notably, did not state a claim against the day care center under a theory of respondeat superior, admitting that Carroll was not authorized to transport E.M. away from the day care center and was acting outside the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10). Instead, the Complaint sets forth allegations of negligent supervision of day care enrollees, including E.M. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 14, 20-21), negligent entrustment (Id. ¶ 16), and negligent supervision and monitoring of employees. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 20-21). Defendants specifically claim that E.M.'s injuries directly resulted from Jenkins' violation of the duties owed to E.M. as an enrollee at the day care and failure to implement proper procedure and protocol to manage the center's employees and to ensure the safety of the children under the care of the center's employees. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12, 14-17, 20-21).

Plaintiff United States Liability Insurance Company ("USLI") insured Jenkins under a Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policy from April 21, 2012 until April 22, 2013. (Doc. 37-2). USLI claims that based on Defendants' factual admission that Carroll was acting outside the course and scope of her employment at the time E.M. sustained injures, there is no coverage afforded under the applicable insurance policy. USLI further argues that under the plain language of the insurance contract, there is no coverage for punitive or exemplary damages arising from the underlying accident.

II. MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS STANDARD

A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Documents attached to the pleadings become a part of the pleadings and may be considered on a motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). "Judgment on the pleadings is proper when no issues of material fact exist, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts. We accept all the facts in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Interline Brands, Inc., v. Chartis Specialty Ins. Co., 749 F.3d 962, 965 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Cunningham v. Dist. Attorney's Office for Escamba Cnty., 592 F.3d 1237, 1255 (11th Cir. 2010)) (internal quotations omitted).

A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is governed by the same standards as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Strategic Income Fund, LLC v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n. 8 (11th Cir. 2002) (explaining that the standard for either a Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c) motion is "whether the count state[s] a claim for relief"). The court shall accept "all well-pleaded facts... as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n. 1 (11th Cir. 1999). The court must dismiss the complaint if, "on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual allegations will support the cause of action." Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin County, 992 F.2d 1536, 1539 (11th Cir. 1991) and Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)). Accordingly, to avoid dismissal, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff poses the following questions for the Court's consideration:

(1) Whether there is coverage for this "occurrence" causing "bodily injury" under USLI's policy with [Jenkins];
(a) Whether there is coverage because Ms. Carroll was allegedly acting outside the course and ...

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