Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JASPER COUNTY Honorable Gayle L.
W. SHEFFIELD, C.J.
Fire & Casualty Company ("United Fire") appeals
from the trial court's summary judgment for Zachary Hall
("Zachary"), Rodney Hall ("Rodney"),
Chase Hall ("Chase"), and Carolyn Hall
("Carolyn") (collectively, "the
Halls"). The summary judgment disposed of a
declaratory judgment action in which United Fire sought a
declaration that two homeowner's policies United Fire
issued to Jeffrey Cox ("Jeffrey") did not provide
coverage for injuries Zachary sustained in a boating
accident. United Fire claims the trial court erred in (1)
granting summary judgment to the Halls because the
owned-watercraft exclusion in the homeowner's liability
insurance policy issued to United Fire's insured was
ambiguous and (2) denying United Fire's own motion for
summary judgment because the injuries arose from the use of
an owned watercraft. The first claim is without merit, and
the second claim is moot. The trial court's judgment is
and Procedural Background
boating accident occurred on July 4, 2014, involving Zachary,
his brother Chase, and Jeffrey's sons, Lucas Cox
("Lucas") and Jared Cox
("Jared").At some point, Lucas started the boat's
engine, and the propeller struck Zachary who was swimming
nearby, severing Zachary's right foot. The Halls filed a
petition against Jeffrey, Lucas, and Jared, alleging numerous
causes of action.
times relevant to the resolution of the issues here, Jeffrey
was the named insured on two homeowner's insurance
policies, one umbrella policy, and one boat and motor
insurance policy, all issued by United Fire. The two
homeowner's insurance policies contained identical
language, including, as relevant to the issues raised on
appeal, an exclusion providing that there was no coverage for
bodily injury or property damage arising out of the
ownership, maintenance, or use of a watercraft
"owned by or rented to an
'insured'."(emphasis added). The Halls and the
Coxes settled for the policy limits of the umbrella insurance
policy and the policy limits of the boat and motor insurance
policy. In consideration of payments received in that
settlement, the Halls released Jeffrey, Lucas, and Jared from
the claims alleged in the petition. The Halls agreed to seek
recovery from United Fire alone under the two homeowner's
Fire thereafter filed a petition for declaratory judgment,
requesting the trial court to enter an order stating there
was no coverage under the two homeowner's policies for
the injuries alleged in the Halls' petition because those
injuries were covered by the owned-watercraft exclusion.
United Fire and the Halls filed cross-motions for summary
judgment in the declaratory judgment action. In addition to
the facts previously stated, United Fire's statement of
uncontroverted material facts included these facts: The boat
involved in the accident was a 26-foot motor craft titled in
the name of the Jeffrey L. Cox Living Trust ("the
trust"). Jeffrey was a grantor, the sole trustee,
and a beneficiary of the trust. Lucas and Jared would become
beneficiaries of the trust upon Jeffrey's death.
trial court found the owned-watercraft exclusion cited by
United Fire was ambiguous, construed the exclusion in the
manner most favorable to the insureds, granted the Halls'
motion for summary judgment, and then denied United
Fire's motion for summary judgment. United Fire appeals.
summary judgment is proper is an issue of law that this Court
reviews de novo." Manner v. Schiermeier, 393
S.W.3d 58, 61-62 (Mo. banc 2013). "The criteria on
appeal for testing the propriety of summary judgment are no
different from those which should be employed by the trial
court to determine the propriety of sustaining the motion
initially." Farmers Ins. Co., Inc. v. Wilson,
424 S.W.3d 487, 491 (Mo. App. S.D. 2014). "Summary
judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Maxam v. American Family Mut. Ins.
Co., 504 S.W.3d 124, 126 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016). "As
the trial court's judgment is founded on the record
submitted and the law, an appellate court need not defer to
the trial court's order granting summary judgment."
Farmers, 424 S.W.3d at 491. "The Court reviews
the record in the light most favorable to the party against
whom judgment was entered without deference to the trial
court's findings, and accords the non-movant 'the
benefit of all reasonable inferences from the
record.'" Manner, 393 S.W.3d at 62 (quoting
ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-America Marine Supply
Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993)).
One: Owned-Watercraft Exclusion
first point, United Fire claims the trial court erred in
granting summary judgment to the Halls because "the
uncontroverted facts established that an insured owned the
watercraft that was involved in the accident[.]" This
argument fails because the term "owned by" as used
in the exclusion was ambiguous.
most recent Missouri Supreme Court case considering the
interpretation of an owned-vehicle exclusion in an insurance
contract is Manner. In that case, the Court began
with the general rule that "[t]he burden of showing that
an exclusion to coverage applies is on the insurer" and
also noted that Missouri "strictly construes
exclusionary clauses against the drafter[.]"
Manner, 393 S.W.3d at 62 (quoting Burns v.
Smith, 303 S.W.3d 505, 510 (Mo. banc 2010)). The Court
also applied the well-known rule that where a term is not
defined in a policy, the term "will be viewed in the
meaning that would ordinarily be understood by the layman who
bought and paid for the policy." Id. (quoting
Krombach v. Mayflower Ins. Co., Ltd., 827 S.W.2d
208, 210 (Mo. banc 1992)). The Court then reasoned that
because there are many dictionary definitions of the terms
"owner" and "owned" the terms were
ambiguous. Id. at 62-63. As a result, the Court
noted the policy did not define the term "owned, "
interpreted the term in favor ...