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Wyland v. Hartford Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 27, 2016

BARBARA WYLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTFORD LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Hartford Life Insurance Company's Renewed[1]Motion for Summary Judgment, filed August 30, 2016. (ECF No. 29). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 25, 2013, Roland Linneman (“Linneman”) was driving his Ford F-150 at approximately 1:30 p.m., on a dry, straight, level, concrete divided highway, when his vehicle went into the median dividing the highway. (Defendant's Renewed Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (“Hartford's Facts”), ¶ 6). The vehicle flipped, and Linneman was ejected from the vehicle. (Id.). Linneman died at the scene of the accident on June 25, 2013. (Id., ¶ 7).

         The Missouri State Highway Patrol completed a four-page Missouri Uniform Crash Report (“Crash Report”) regarding the June 25, 2013, incident. (Hartford's Facts, ¶ 8; ECF No. 29-1, PP. 15-18). The Crash Report listed Alcohol as a “probable contributing circumstance” to the accident. (ECF No. 29-1, P. 17).[2] The Missouri State Highway Patrol also prepared a Q Lab Toxicology Certified Report, which stated that Linneman's blood alcohol content (“BAC”) was 0.284%. (ECF No. 29-1, P. 19).[3] Linneman's Certification of Death listed “blunt force trauma to upper body” as the underlying cause of death. (ECF No. 35-1).

         At the time of his accident, Linneman was insured under Policy Number ADD-9866 (“Policy”), issued by Defendant Hartford Life Insurance Company (“Hartford”). (Hartford's Facts, ¶ 1). The Policy provides that “[i]f [the Covered Person's] Injury results in any of the following losses within 365 days after the date of accident[4], [Hartford] will pay the sum shown opposite the Loss in the Loss Table shown below.” (ECF No. 29-1, P. 7). “Injury” is defined as “bodily injury resulting directly from accident and independently of all other causes which occurs while [the Covered Person is] covered under the policy.” (Id.). The Policy further contains the following exclusion: “The policy does not cover any loss resulting from:….Injury sustained while operating a motor vehicle while legally intoxicated from the use of alcohol.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff Barbara Wyland was designated as Linneman's beneficiary under the Policy. (Petition (hereinafter “Complaint”), ¶ 4). Plaintiff submitted a claim for benefits under the Policy, which Hartford denied. (Id., ¶ 6). Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies with Hartford by filing an appeal of the denial, which was also denied. (Id., ¶¶ 7, 8).

         On or about January 7, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Complaint in the Circuit Court of Lincoln County, Missouri. (ECF No. 4). Plaintiff originally named Hartford and Direct Response Insurance Administrative Services, Inc. as Defendants, but later voluntarily dismissed Direct Response. (Id.; ECF Nos. 8, 9). As noted above, Hartford filed the instant Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment on August 30, 2016, claiming the Policy excludes coverage for injuries sustained in the manner at issue here. (ECF No. 29).

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if, “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The substantive law determines which facts are critical and which are irrelevant. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome will properly preclude summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Summary judgment is not proper if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         A moving party always bears the burden of informing the Court of the basis of its motion. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact, not the “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247. The nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.

         In passing on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The Court's function is not to weigh the evidence, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 249.

         DISCUSSION

         In its Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment, Hartford notes that for purposes of the instant motion, the finding of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory that Linneman had a BAC level of 0.284% at the time of his death is uncontested. (Defendant's Renewed Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (“Hartford's Memo in Support”), P. 1). Hartford further asserts that under Missouri law, anyone with a blood alcohol level above 0.08% is intoxicated. (Id.; see also Mo.Rev.Stat. ยง 577.012). Thus, according to Hartford, the sole issue to be decided is whether the applicable ...


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