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Buckley v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

July 27, 2015

STEPHANIE BUCKLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

Submitted: July 8, 2015

Upon Defendant State Farm Mutual Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment

Michael J. Malkiewicz, Esquire of Barros McNamara Malkiewicz & Taylor, Dover Delaware; attorneys for the Plaintiff.

Colin M. Shalk, Esquire of Casarino Christman Shalk Ransom & Doss, Wilmington, Delaware, attorneys for the Defendant.

OPINION

Jeffrey J Clark Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is a suit for Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") benefits for medical expenses incurred by a minor struck by a car while crossing the road to board a school bus. Plaintiff Stephanie Buckley ("Plaintiff") seeks PIP benefits from the school bus's PIP policy even though Plaintiff was not physically within the bus at the time of the accident. In a case of first impression, the Court finds that based upon the uncontroverted facts in this case, a student in the process of crossing the road to board a school bus, at the direction of the driver via intercom while the bus's red stop lamps and stop arm are activated, is entitled to PIP benefits from the automobile policy insuring the school bus. Accordingly, Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Company's (Defendant's) Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The operative facts are not in dispute. On March 27, 2012, 16 year old Plaintiff Stephanie Buckley ("Plaintiff") was struck on Westville Road by a motor vehicle operated by Norman Anderson ("Anders on"). At the time Plaintiff was struck by Anderson's vehicle, she was crossing the street to board a Bumble Bee Transportation bus insured by the Defendant, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("Defendant").

Just before the incident, the bus approached the Plaintiff's driveway, traveling in the eastbound lane. As the bus approached, the driver activated the amber lights and slowed to a stop. At that point, the bus's red stop lamps activated and the stop sign arm extended. The entrance to the bus faced the sidewalk of the eastbound side of the roadway, on the opposite side of the Plaintiff's driveway. Plaintiff then exited her home, and began walking down the driveway toward the road. Prior to the Plaintiff's entering the roadway, the bus driver, via the bus's intercom, directed the Plaintiff to cross the westbound lane and board the bus. At that point, the Plaintiff began walking across the westbound lane. Just before reaching the halfway point near the double yellow center divide, a westbound motor vehicle operated by Anderson struck the Plaintiff causing her injury.

At the time of the aforementioned incident, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company insured the bus. Its policy included $100, 000 in PIP limits. The No-Fault Coverage section of the State Farm policy reads in relevant part: "Insured means: 1. Any person while occupying … your car …" Pursuant to the policy, "Occupying means in, on, entering, or exiting."

Plaintiff claimed PIP medical benefits from State Farm in the amount of $75, 423.60 for treatment of her injuries. State Farm denied payment of these claimed benefits. Thereafter, Plain tiff filed a PIP suit. Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, which contends that Plaintiff is not entitled to the aforementioned PIP coverage because she was not an occupant of the bus at the time she was struck by a motorist, nor was she a person injured in an accident involving such motor vehicle.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if, when viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."[1] In doing so, the Court must accept all undisputed factual assertions and accept the non-movant's version of any disputed facts.[2] When the ...


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