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Safeco Insurance Co. v. Laubinger

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

April 23, 2019

SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY of AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BLAKE LAUBINGER, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an insurance coverage declaratory judgment action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Before the Court is the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Plaintiff Safeco Insurance Company of America (“Safeco”), [Doc. No. 30]. The motion is fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

         Facts and Background

         The relevant facts in this matter are undisputed. Defendants Ellis Athanas, Jr., Lynn Gellerman, and Ellis Athanas, III have a pending civil action for damages (“the underlying action”) in state court against Safeco's insureds, Defendants Blake Laubinger, Caleb Laubinger, Zachary Smith, (“the insureds”), among other defendants. The civil action stems from the allegation that the defendants in the underlying suit formed an agreement between themselves to unlawfully kidnap, detain, torture, and ransom Ellis Athanas, III. The insureds have pled guilty to criminal charges. The Laubinger Defendants are currently serving sentences. Defendant Smith has served his sentence. After the insureds made a demand on Safeco for payment of the policy proceeds, Safeco brought this declaratory judgment action. In its motion for judgment on the pleadings, Safeco requests for judgment to be entered in its favor by declaring that there is no coverage under the policies for Defendants Athanas, Jr., Gellerman, and Athanas, III's claims against Defendants Blake Laubinger, Caleb Laubinger, and Zachary Smith.

         The Laubinger Defendants have failed to respond to this action, and the Court has entered default judgments against them.

         The Underlying State Civil Action

         Analysis of the arguments at issue requires review of the petition filed by the Athanas Defendants and Defendant Gellerman in state court (the “Petition”). These Defendants sue the Laubinger Defendants and Defendant Smith for money had and received (Count I), assault (Count II), battery (Count III), false imprisonment, (Count IV), infliction of emotional distress (Count V), conspiracy (Count VI), conversion (Count VII). The factual allegations which are common to all counts are as follows:

         Ellis Athanas, Jr. is the natural father of Ellis Athanas, III. Lynn Gellerman is the natural mother of Ellis Athanas, III On or about November 21, 2016, Defendants formed an agreement between themselves to unlawfully kidnap, detain, torture and ransom Ellis Athanas, III in order to obtain money and other things of value from Plaintiffs.

         On or about November 21, 2016, Defendants Blake Laubinger and Caleb Laubinger ambushed Ellis Athanas, III at his home in St. Louis County. Blake Laubinger and Caleb Laubinger struck Ellis Athanas, III, beat him, bound his hands, and then took him by force and against his will to the home of Blake Laubinger. Defendants then took Ellis Athanas, III, by force and against his will, to property owned by Todd Beckman, where they confined him in an empty shipping container.

         On or about November 22, 2016, Defendants contacted Ellis Athanas, Jr. by telephone and demanded a ransom for the release of Ellis Athanas, III. In order to encourage payment of the ransom, Defendants assaulted and tortured Ellis Athanas, III while on the phone with this father by, among other things, binding him, restraining him, beating him, tasing him and threatening to kill him. Specifically, among other acts:

a) Defendants Todd Beckman and Kerry Roades beat Ellis Athanas, III and pressed the barrel of a handgun to his head;
b) Defendant Todd Beckman dry-fired a handgun against Ellis Athanas, III's head;
c) Defendants Todd Beckman and Kerry Roades threatened to shoot Ellis Athanas, III, chop him up, and shrink wrap him;
d) Defendants Zachary Smith and Blake Laubinger repeatedly tased Ellis ...

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