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Grange Property & Casualty Insurance Company v. Smith

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division

August 23, 2019

STEVEN SMITH, et al., Defendants.



         This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff Grange Property & Casualty Insurance Company's (“Grange”) Motion for Summary Judgment [29] and Defendant Gary Smith's Motion for Summary Judgment [30]. Also before the Court is Grange's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Brief [43].

         As a preliminary matter, the Motion for Leave is GRANTED. The Court has read Grange's supplemental brief and considered the arguments therein.[1]

         As for the remaining motions, after reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.


         The facts of this declaratory judgment case are largely undisputed. It stems from a motor vehicle accident on April 25, 2015. (Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“Pl.'s SOF”), Dkt. [29-1] ¶ 1.) Steven Smith was driving his grandfather's 2006 Chrysler Town & Country at the time. (Id.) He crossed the center line and struck a vehicle driven by Gary Smith;[2] Corey Dyer was sitting in Gary's passenger seat. (Id.) Gary and Corey suffered injuries from the accident, and both of them filed lawsuits against Steven in state court.[3] (Id. ¶ 2.)

         Gary and Corey each believe the claims they have asserted in those lawsuits are covered under a personal automobile insurance policy that Grange issued to Steven's parents, Randall and Angela Smith, (Ex. A, Pl.'s MSJ (“Insurance Policy”), Dkt. [29-3]).[4] Although that policy names only two insureds-Randall and Angela-it also extends coverage to their “family member[s], ” subject to certain restrictions.[5] (Id. at 4, 20, 22.) The policy defines a “family member” as someone related to Randall and Angela who shares the same “principal residence” as them. (Id. at 20.)

         Randall and Angela live at 7629 Fish Hook Lane-the only address listed in the policy's declarations. (Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [29-1] ¶ 9; Insurance Policy, Dkt. [29-3] at 4.) Up until 2012, Steven lived there too. But, sometime after Steven married, in 2012, he moved to a home in a different city with his former wife. (Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [29-1] ¶ 21; Gary's Resp. to Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [34-2] ¶ 21.) When he did, Steven changed his driver's license to reflect the change in address. (Ex. 3, Gary's MSJ (“Steven Dep.”), Dkt. [30-5] at 23.)[6] In 2014, however, Steven and his former wife separated. (Steven Dep., Dkt. [30-5] at 18.) According to Steven, he then moved in with his grandfather whose house is next door to Steven's parents'. (Id.; Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [29-1] ¶ 20.) Steven, though, did not change his driver's license to reflect his living situation. (Steven Dep., Dkt. [30-5] at 23-24.) Instead, he changed it to include his parents' address. (Id.) Likewise, 7629 Fish Hook Lane appears on a number of other documents associated with Steven, including those on file with the IRS. (Def. Gary Smith's Statement of Material Facts (“Gary's SOF”), Dkt. [30-2] ¶ 16.) Steven, too, indicated to his employer, personal insurance provider, bank, and credit card companies that he lived with his parents. (Id. ¶¶ 12-15; Pl.'s Resp. to Gary's SOF, Dkt. [36] ¶ 7.) And finally, in a parenting plan he filed with his former wife in October of 2014, Steven represented that, at the time of filing, he “is located at 7629 Fish Hook Lane[.]” (Id. at 92.)

         On September 27, 2017, Grange filed the instant action for declaratory relief, see 28 U.S.C. § 2201, to clarify what duties it owes Steven in the underlying lawsuits filed by Gary and Corey. Specifically, Grange seeks a declaration (1) that the policy does not cover any of the claims raised in the underlying lawsuits, (2) that Grange does not have a duty to defend any party in the underlying lawsuits, [7]and (3) that the policy does not afford coverage “for any claims for punitive damages” asserted in the underlying lawsuits. (Compl., Dkt. [1] ¶ 71.) Grange has now moved for summary judgment, (Dkt. [29]), as has Gary, (Dkt. [30]).


         I. Legal Standard - Motions for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “The moving party bears ‘the initial responsibility of informing the . . . court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986).

         The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249-50.

         In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But, the court is bound only to draw those inferences that are reasonable. “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (once the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”).

         II. Analysis

         The present motions for summary judgment raise two primary issues: (1) whether Steven was covered under his parents' insurance policy on the date of the accident; and (2) whether Grange waived its right to challenge punitive damages under a provision in the policy excluding such damages. The Court takes each issue in turn.

         A. Coverage

         Grange seeks a declaration from the Court that the policy does not extend coverage to Steven. Grange's position is, in fact, two-fold: Grange asserts, first, that the policy does not cover any of the claims asserted against Steven in the underlying lawsuits, and second, that it has no duty to defend Steven in those cases. In essence, then, Grange argues that it is not required to provide a defense to Steven and that, in the event Steven is found liable in the underlying cases, Grange has no duty to indemnify him. Because in Georgia[8] “an insurer's duty to pay and its duty to defend are ...

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