United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
George Davis and Defendant Farmers Insurance Co., Inc.,
(“Farmers”) move for summary judgment in this
personal injury insurance case. Davis seeks a declaratory
judgment that his insurance policy with Farmers (the
“Policy”) is ambiguous and therefore should be
read to provide underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage for his
motorcycle. He also argues that his Policy allows stacking
and that this conflict is ripe for adjudication. Farmers
argues that the Policy unambiguously denies coverage, that
“anti-stacking” provisions also deny coverage,
and that Davis' case is not ripe. For the reasons below,
I will rule that Davis' claim is ripe, but that he is not
entitled to declaratory relief, and I will dismiss his
April 23, 2016, Davis suffered bodily injuries after being
struck by an automobile while riding his Harley Davidson
motorcycle. (Joint Stipulation of Fact ¶ 2-3, ECF No.
1.) Mary Cleary, the driver of the automobile was deemed at
fault, and her insurance company, Travelers Insurance
(“Travelers”), offered to pay $100, 000, its
liability limit, in exchange for a release from all claims.
Id. at ¶ 5. As a result of the motorcycle
accident, Davis has incurred medical expenses greater than
the $100, 000 policy limit that Travelers offered to pay.
Id. at ¶ 7. As a result, Davis sought
underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage payments he believes he
is owed pursuant to two insurance policies. Foremost
Insurance Company (“Foremost”) insures Davis'
motorcycle and has offered to pay its UIM limits of $25, 000
to him. Id. at ¶ 6. Farmers also provides UIM
coverage for Davis. Id. at ¶ 1. However, Davis
and Farmers disagree about whether his Farmers Policy covers
his motorcycle, because only two personal vehicles, and not a
motorcycle, are listed on the declarations page of the
purpose of deciding summary judgment, the parties stipulate
that Davis has incurred medical expenses from the motorcycle
accident greater than the total insurance limit of $125, 000
offered to him by Travelers and Foremost. Id. at
¶ 7. To cover this gap, Davis notified Farmers on June
9, 2016 that he sought additional UIM coverage from Farmers.
(See Defendant Farmers Insurance Company, Inc.'s
Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts in Support of its
Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶ 26, ECF No. 15-1.) On
June 11, 2016, Farmers sent a letter to Davis, stating that
Farmers was denying UIM coverage under the Policy.
Id. at ¶ 27.
February 3, 2017, Davis filed his Petition for Declaratory
Judgment with the Circuit Court of Saint Louis County,
Missouri. No. 17SL-CC00473 (ECF No. 1-2). Less than thirty
days after being served with or receiving a copy of the
petition, Farmers filed a notice of removal to this court.
Davis and Farmers filed opposing motions for summary
judgment. Davis argues that the UIM policy, owned vehicle
exclusion, and anti-stacking provisions are ambiguous and
that they should be interpreted to provide UIM coverage for
his motorcycle. Farmers argues that the same provisions are
unambiguous, and that they preclude Davis' recovery under
the Policy. Farmers also argues that Davis' petition for
declaratory judgment is not ripe, because Davis has not
accepted payment offered by Travelers and Foremost.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), I only grant a
motion for summary judgment if, based upon the pleadings,
admissions, depositions and affidavits, there exists no
genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a),
(c). “Where parties file cross-motions for summary
judgment, ” I must evaluate “each summary
judgment motion … independently to determine whether a
genuine dispute of material fact exists and whether the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Jaudes v. Progressive Preferred Ins. Co., 11
F.Supp.3d 943, 947 (E.D. Mo. 2014). In this evaluation, I
view all facts and factual inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986). The moving party has the burden of establishing that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving
party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings, but
by affidavit or other evidence, must set forth specific facts
showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1), (e).
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
claim is not ripe, I do not have subject matter jurisdiction
to hear the case. See Wax ‘n Words v. City of St.
Paul, 213 F.3d 1016, 1020 (8th Cir. 2000) (“This
dismissal could more properly have been made pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) because the case is not ripe for
adjudication.”). Ripeness is a constitutional
requirement that serves “to prevent the courts, through
avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling
themselves in abstract disagreements.” Pub. Water
Supply Dist. No. 10 of Cass Cnty., Mo. v. City of
Peculiar, 345 F.3d 570, 572 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148 (1967)).
When determining ripeness, courts should look to “the
fitness of the issues for judicial decision”
and “the hardship to the parties of
withholding court consideration.” Neb. Public Power
Dist. v. MidAmerican Energy Co., 234 F.3d 1032, 38 (8th
Cir. 2000) (emphasis added) (quoting Abbott Labs,
387 U.S. 136, 149).
fitness requirement is designed to “safeguard against
judicial review of hypothetical or speculative
disagreements.” Id. at 1038. “Courts shy
from settling disputes contingent in part on future
possibilities.” Id. If a dispute is
contingent, it still may be ripe “where  an issue is
largely legal in nature,  may be resolved without further
factual development, or  where judicial resolution will
largely settle the parties' dispute.” Id.
(citing Abbott Labs at 149; Pacific Gas &
Elec. Co. v. State Energy Res. Conservation & Dev.
Comm'n, 461 U.S. 190, 203 (1983)). In evaluating the
hardship requirement, courts ask whether delaying review will
cause injury to the parties. Id. Injury includes
“both the traditional concept of actual
damages-pecuniary or otherwise-and also the heightened
uncertainty and resulting behavior modification that may
result from delayed resolution.” Id. (citing
Ohio Forestry Ass'n, Inc. v. Sierra Club, 523
U.S. 726, 733-34 (1998)).
case, defendant Farmers argues that Davis' claims are not
ripe because a clause in the Policy creates an unfulfilled
contingency. The UIM section of the Policy states that
“[Farmers] will pay under this coverage only after the
limits of liability under any applicable bodily injury
liability bonds or policies have been exhausted by payment of
judgments or settlements.” (See Endorsement
Adding Underinsured Motorist Coverage - Missouri (MO025 -
1st Edition), 37, ECF No. 1-3, Exh. B.) Farmers
alleges that Davis has not yet accepted the tortfeasor's
offered settlement of $100, 000. (See Defendant
Farmers Insurance Company, Inc.'s Statement of
Uncontroverted Material Facts in Support of its Motion for
Summary Judgment, ¶ 7-9, ECF No. 15-1.) In Farmers'
view, “a ruling by this Court would … [be]
contingent on future acts of third-parties, ” namely
Davis' acceptance of the settlement amount from Travelers
Insurance. (See Reply to Plaintiff's Memorandum,
p. 7, ECF No. 20.)
reject these arguments and find that Davis' claims are
ripe. His claims meet the “fitness” requirement
because the factual record need not be developed any further.
Davis has been physically injured and has sought recovery
through his Policy. Farmers has denied coverage based on its
reading of the Policy. The only remaining task is contract
interpretation, which is a question of law. See Neb.
Public Power Dist. at 1038. Accordingly, Davis'
claim for declaratory relief is not contingent or
speculative. See id. at 1038. His claim is based on
an actual dispute that needs no further factual development.
claim also meets the “hardship” requirement
because denying review would constitute “significant
harm.” See id. Denying review would subject
Davis to “heightened uncertainty and … behavior
modification.” See Ohio Forestry Ass'n, Inc. v.
Sierra Club, 523 U.S. 726, 733-34. He would be forced to
either accept an insurance settlement with Travelers that
does not fully compensate him for his injuries, or else
abandon his claim against Farmers. Because Davis' claims
meet the “fitness” and “hardship”
requirements, they are ripe and I can rule on this matter.
exercise subject matter jurisdiction over this state law
claim, I must also find that the parties are citizens of
different states and that the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “[A] complaint that
alleges the jurisdictional amount in good faith will suffice
to confer jurisdiction, ” provided there is no apparent
legal certainty to the contrary. Kopp v. Kopp, 280
F.3d 883, 884 (8th Cir. 2002). In support of the notice of
removal, Farmers states on information and belief that Davis
is a citizen of the State of Missouri and that Farmers is a
foreign company existing under the laws of, and with its
principal place of business in, the state of Kansas. Farmers
also claims that the amount in controversy is $500, 000,
which is the coverage limit of Davis' UIM policy. ...