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Employers Preferred Insurance Co. v. Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co.

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

September 27, 2017

EMPLOYERS PREFERRED INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTFORD ACCIDENT AND INDEMNITY COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Employers Preferred Insurance Co. (“Employers”) brought this declaratory judgment action against defendant Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co. (“Hartford”) seeking a judgment that Hartford has a duty to contribute an equal share of any liability for the workers' compensation benefits relating to the death of Mike Ernst. Both parties moved for summary judgment (Hartford, #18; Employers, #21). The motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts are undisputed except where indicated. Paul Hoeckele is the president of Hoeckele's Bakery Incorporated (“the Bakery”). Mr. Hoeckele's wife, Angela Hoeckele, is the secretary, bookkeeper, and accountant for the Bakery. In 2013, Mrs. Hoeckele signed an application to renew the Bakery's workers' compensation insurance policy it had with Hartford. Hartford issued a policy (“Hartford Policy”) that provided coverage from July 20, 2013, to July 20, 2014. Mrs. Hoeckele paid the Hartford Policy's premium. Mr. Hoeckele was unaware that she paid the premium.

         A few weeks after Hartford issued its policy, Mr. Hoeckele applied for a workers' compensation policy with Employers. Employers issued a policy (“Employers Policy”) that covered the same period as the Hartford Policy. At this point, Mr. Hoeckele did not realize the Bakery was insured by two policies and thought he cancelled the Hartford Policy by applying with Employers.

         Both policies provide:

A. How This Insurance Applies
This workers compensation insurance applies to bodily injury by accident or bodily injury by disease. Bodily injury includes resulting death.
1. Bodily injury by accident must occur during the policy period.
B. We Will Pay
We will pay promptly when due the benefits required of you by the workers compensation law.

(#1-1 at 28; #1-2 at 50).

         Both policies also include this “Other Insurance” provision:

We will not pay more than our share of benefits and costs covered by this insurance and other insurance or self-insurance. Subject to any limits of liability that may apply, all shares will be equal until the loss is paid. If any insurance or self-insurance is exhausted, the shares of all remaining insurance will be equal until the loss is paid.

(#1-1 at 31; #1-2 at 51).

         The Bakery's employee, Mr. Ernst, was killed in the course of his employment on May 14, 2014-a date covered by both the Hartford Policy and the Employers Policy. A workers' compensation claim was filed against Employers. It agreed to cover and defend the Bakery.

         Later in May 2014, an insurance agent informed Mr. Hoeckele that the Bakery still had coverage under the Hartford Policy. Mr. Hoeckele told the insurance agent he had cancelled the Hartford Policy. The insurance agent explained that the Hartford Policy was still active and that its premium had been paid.

         Because Mr. Hoeckele had not intended to remain covered under the Hartford Policy, the insurance agent said Hartford would return the premium payment. Then, Mr. Hoeckele signed a cancellation form for the Hartford Policy. The parties dispute when Mr. Hoeckele intended for the cancellation to take effect.[1] For this Memorandum and Order, the Court assumes Mr. Hoeckele retroactively ...


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