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Cowin v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

May 5, 2015

PAUL H. COWIN, ET AL., Appellants,
v.
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL., Respondents

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI. THE HONORABLE JAMES F. KANATZAR, JUDGE.

James T. Thompson, for Appellants.

William C. Crawford, for Respondents.

Before Division Two: Lisa White Hardwick, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Cynthia L. Martin, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Page 77

VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE

Paul and Doris Cowin brought an equitable garnishment action against Shelter Mutual Insurance Company seeking to satisfy a judgment against its insured, Jonathon Parsons Jr., in their personal injury case arising out of a car accident. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Shelter finding that the Cowins' claim against Mr. Parsons fell outside the coverage of the insurance policy and Shelter owed no duty to pay the claim. On appeal, the Cowins contend that trial court erred in finding no coverage because Mr. Parsons was driving a non-owned auto as defined in the policy. The judgment is affirmed.

Appellate review of the grant of summary judgment is de novo. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). Summary judgment will be upheld on appeal if the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and no genuine issues of material fact exist. Id. at 377. " Summary judgment is frequently used in the context of insurance coverage questions." Assurance Co. of America v. Secura Ins. Co., 384 S.W.3d 224, 230 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012). The facts in this case are not disputed; the issue is one of interpretation of the insurance policy. As with any other contract, the interpretation of an insurance policy, particularly the question of coverage, is a question of law that an appellate court determines de novo. Id.

Paul and Doris Cowin were injured in an automobile accident on February 20, 2009, when a 1987 Western Star log truck owned by Todd Lumber Company and driven by

Page 78

its employee, Jonathon Parsons Jr., struck the rear of the Cowins' automobile. Mr. Parsons was authorized by his employer to use the log truck for business purposes. He did not have authority to use the log truck for personal purposes. He did not need to ask specific permission before using the truck. Mr. Parsons used the log truck for business purposes in excess of 50 times in the nine months prior to the accident without seeking specific permission for those uses. On the day of the accident, Mr. Parsons was using the log truck for business purposes, and he did not seek permission that day to use it. The log truck was insured by an insurance policy through State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company with limits of $100,000 per claim.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Parsons had an automobile insurance policy on his 1999 Ford F250 through Shelter Mutual Insurance Company. The insuring agreement contained in the Shelter policy provided bodily injury coverage of $50,000 each person and $100,000 each accident. It contained the following relevant language:

INSURING AGREEMENT FOR COVERAGES A AND B
Subject to the limits of our liability for these coverages stated in the Declarations, we will pay ...

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