United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on cross Motions for Summary
Judgment filed by Plaintiff Acuity, a Mutual Insurance
Company's ("Acuity") and Defendants Kelly Marie
and Scott Simler. (Docs. 61, 62.) Dubuque Paint, Gartner,
State Farm, and Guy have joined the Simlers' motion.
(Docs. 65, 73, 77, 79.) Also pending is Plaintiffs Motion to
Deposit Funds. (Doc. 34.)
alleges the following: On September 6, 2016, Defendant Kim
Ross, an employee of Defendant Dubuque Paint Equipment, Inc.
("Dubuque Paint"), was involved in a motor vehicle
accident on Interstate 70 in Montgomery County, Missouri
("the Collision"). (Doc. 40 at ¶ 20.) Also
involved in the Collision were Defendants Kelly and Scott
Simler, Linda Gartner, and Terrell Guy. (Id. at
¶¶ 21-23.) At the time, Dubuque Paint was covered
under a business auto policy ("the Auto Policy")
and a commercial excess policy ("the Excess
Policy") (together, "the Policies").
(Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.) The Simlers, Gartner,
and Guy all filed claims against the proceeds of those
policies. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-23.) The Simlers
and Gartner also filed suit against Ross and Dubuque Paint.
(Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.)
light of the Defendants' multiple competing claims and
lawsuits, Plaintiff filed this action, advancing two counts:
a declaratory judgment count seeking a court order declaring
that Plaintiffs liability is limited to $2 million ($1
million per "Accident" or "Occurrence, "
per policy); and an interpleader count allowing it to deposit
the $2 million with the Court and be discharged from further
obligations. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-38.) Also named
as defendants are LM General Insurance Company ("LM
General"), which insured Kelly Simler at the time of the
Collision; State Farm Fire & Casualty Company
("State Farm"), which insured Gartner at the time
of the Collision; Progressive Casualty Insurance Company
("Progressive"), which insured Guy at the time of
the Collision; and Hartford Insurance ("Hartford"),
which provided workers' compensation benefits to Kelly
Simler following the Collision. (Id. at ¶¶
the defendants filed individual answers, except for Ross and
Progressive. (Docs. 41, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59.) In their
answers, the Simlers and Guy each advanced a counterclaim for
declaratory judgement, seeking a court order declaring that
Plaintiffs liability limit is $1 million per person,
per policy. (Docs. 51, 10.) Gartner and State Farm assert in
their answers that the liability limit is $1 million per
vehicle, per policy, though neither advances a
formal counter-claim. (Docs. 55, 56.) LM General, Hartford,
and Dubuque Paint each deny Plaintiffs $l-million-per-
Accident liability limitation assertion but offer no express
alternative. (Docs. 41, 50, 54.)
filed a Motion to Deposit Funds, seeking to place in the
Court's registry $2 million. (Doc. 34.) Meanwhile, the
Simlers filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on their
counter-claim for declaratory judgment. (Doc. 61.) In
response, Plaintiff filed its own Motion for Summary Judgment
on its declaratory judgment count. (Doc. 62.) Because the
Court believes that the amount deposited by Plaintiff caps
the Court's jurisdiction over the interpleader count, it
deferred ruling on the Motion to Deposit Funds pending its
resolution of the cross motions for summary judgment. (Doc.
72.) Since then, Dubuque Paint, Gartner, State Farm, and Guy
have joined the Simlers' motion. (Docs. 65, 73, 77, 79.)
LM General and Hartford have filed with the court memoranda
neither supporting nor opposing either motion. (Docs. 75,
judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no
genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648,
654 (8th Cir. 2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
Summary judgment is not appropriate if there are factual
disputes that may affect the outcome of the case under the
applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material
fact is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id.
"The basic inquiry is whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law." Diesel Machinery, Inc. v. B.R. Lee
Industries, Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832 (8th Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The moving
party has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact. City of Mt. Pleasant,
Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273
(8th Cir. 1988). If the movant does so, the burden then
shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth
affirmative evidence and specific facts showing a genuine
dispute on that issue. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
determining whether summary judgment is appropriate in a
particular case, the Court reviews the facts in a light most
favorable to the party opposing the motion and gives that
party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be
drawn from those facts. The Court is required to resolve all
conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party.
Osborn v. KF. Hutton & Co., Inc., 853 F.2d 616,
619 (8th Cir. 1988). In considering a motion for summary
judgment, the Court may not make credibility determinations,
weigh the evidence, or draw inferences from the facts.
Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042
(8th Cir. 2011).
The Court need not decide the choice-of-law issue at this
time because the law of Wisconsin and Iowa do not
initial matter, the Court must address which state's laws
govern the interpretation of the Policies. The Policies
contain no choice-of-law provision. (See generally,
Docs. 62-1, 62-2.) In the absence of an express choice-of-law
provision, federal district courts sitting in diversity
jurisdiction apply the forum state's choice-of-law rules.
Whirlpool Corp. v. Ritter, 929 F.2d 1318, 1320 (8th
Cir. 1991) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Co.,
313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 1021-22, 85 L.Ed. 1477
(1941)). "In insurance contract disputes, Missouri
follows Sections 188 and 193 of the Restatement (Second) of
Conflict of Laws." St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins.
Co. v. Bldg. Const. Enterprises, Inc., 484 F.Supp.2d
1004, 1006 (W.D. Mo. 2007), affd, 526 F.3d 1166 (8th
Cir. 2008) (citing Viacom, Inc. v. Transit Cas. Co.,
138 S.W.3d 723, 724-725 (Mo.2004)). Those sections call on
courts to consider several key contacts between the parties
to the contract and the various potential states, such as the
place of contracting, the place of negotiation of the
contract, the place of performance, and the parties'
states of incorporation. See Restatement (Second) of
Conflict of Laws §188(1971).
Simlers suggest that the Court must apply the law of either
Wisconsin or Iowa-the states where Acuity and Dubuque Paint
are headquartered and where the negotiation and execution of
the contract occurred. (Doc. 61 at 6-7.) However, the Court
agrees with Acuity that both states agree as to the laws
relevant to this case. (Doc. 68 at 2.) Importantly, both
states require ambiguities in contracts to be strictly
construed against the drafter. Richland Valley Prod.,
Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Cas. Co.,201 Wis.2d 161,
168 (Ct. App. 1996); State Auto. & Cas. Underwriters
by Auto. Underwriters v. Hartford Ace. & Indem. Co.,166 N.W.2d 761, 763 (Iowa 1969). In addition, both states
have adopted the "cause theory." Just v.
Farmers Auto. Ins. Ass'n,877 N.W.2d 467, 480 (Iowa
2016); Pla ...