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State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Schaefer

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.

November 12, 2014

STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
KIMBERLY SCHAEFER, Defendant.

ORDER

NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

This is a declaratory judgment action concerning liability coverage under an automobile insurance policy issued by Plaintiff State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company to Carl Winters. Defendant Kimberly Schaefer was injured in a motor vehicle accident involving Craig Winters, who was driving a car insured by a State Farm policy that was issued to his father, Carl Winters. The underlying case between Schaeffer and Craig and Carl Winters settled. As part of the settlement, Schaeffer received $1, 250, 000 from State Farm policies issued to Craig Winters and reserved the right to seek declaratory judgment on whether she is entitled to an additional $100, 000 under the State Farm policy issued to Carl Winters. The sole issue before the Court is whether, under the terms of Carl Winters' insurance policy, his son, Craig Winters, was a "resident relative" at time of the accident. The Parties agree that if Craig Winters was a "resident relative, " then Schaeffer is not entitled to the additional $100, 000 under Carl Winters' policy; if he was not a "resident relative, " then State Farm will pay the additional $100, 000.

The Parties have submitted cross-motions for summary judgment, [Docs. 17, 21], and have stipulated that even if the Court finds that a factual issue exists which would otherwise make summary judgment inappropriate, the issues presented in the crossmotions should be resolved by the Court instead of by a jury. [Doc. 25]. After careful consideration of the Parties' briefs and the deposition testimony of Craig and Carl Winters, the Court finds that Craig Winters was not a "resident relative" of Carl Winters, and therefore, Schaefer is entitled to the additional $100, 000 in liability coverage under Carl Winters' insurance policy. Schaefer's Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. 17], is granted and State Farm's Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. 21], is denied.

I. Undisputed Facts

A. Background

On August 1, 2013, Craig Winters was in a motor vehicle accident with Defendant Kimberly Schaefer in Missouri. At the time of the accident, Craig was driving a vehicle owned by his father, Carl Winters, which was insured in Carl's name by State Farm policy Number 239-2884-D24-16J. The policy provided liability coverage up to $100, 000. Craig was separately insured by State Farm under an automobile policy, Number 101-6654-F29-16, which provided liability coverage up to $250, 000, and under a personal liability umbrella policy, Number 16-BH0S000-1, which provided coverage up to $1, 000, 000.

Following the accident, Schaefer filed a Petition for Damages against Craig and Carl Winters, and the case was settled. See Case No. 2:13-cv-04212-NKL. State Farm made a settlement payment on behalf of Craig and Carl Winters to Schaefer in the amount of $1, 250, 000. The $1, 250, 000 settlement payment was comprised of the $250, 000 limit on Craig's automobile policy and the $1, 000, 000 limit on Craig's personal liability umbrella policy.

As part of the settlement agreement, Schaefer agreed to dismiss the underlying lawsuit against Craig and Carl Winters, but reserved the right to pursue the additional $100, 000 of coverage under Carl's State Farm automobile policy, Number 239-2884-D24-16J, through an action for declaratory judgment.

B. Carl Winters' Policy

The Parties disagree about whether a provision in Carl's policy excludes liability coverage for an accident involving his son, Craig. The provision at issue states, in part:

If Other Liability Coverage Applies

1. If Liability Coverage provided by this policy and one or more other Car Policies issued to you or any resident relative by one or more of the State Farm Companies apply to the same accident, then:
a. the Liability Coverage limits of such policies will not be added together to determine the most that may be paid; and
b. the maximum amount that may be paid from all policies combined is the single highest applicable limit provided by any one of the policies. We may choose one or ...

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