DONALD R. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation, Defendant.
Submitted: September 11, 2017
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
S. Nitsche, Esquire, Joel H. Fredericks, Esquire, Weik,
Nitsche & Dougherty, Attorneys for Plaintiff
H. Christman, Esquire, Brian V. Dermott, Esquire, Casarino
Christman Shalk Ransom & Doss, P.A., Attorneys for
Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli
an insurance dispute arising out of a motor vehicle accident
that occurred on October 22, 2014. Plaintiff Donald Johnson
("Plaintiff") was a pedestrian when he was struck
by a motor vehicle operated by Fredia Brinkley
("Brinkley"). At the time of the accident, Brinkley
was insured under a policy ("Brinkley's
Policy") with Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile
Insurance Company ("State Farm"). Brinkley's
Policy provided Brinkley with liability, uninsured motorist
("UM"), and underinsured motorist ("UIM")
coverage. Following the accident, State Farm tendered the
liability coverage policy limits on Brinkley's Policy to
Plaintiff. Plaintiff then sought to recover UIM benefits from
State Farm as an insured under Brinkley's Policy, which
State Farm denied.
filed a complaint on March 20, 2017, alleging that he is
entitled to UIM benefits as an insured under Brinkley's
Policy with State Farm. State Farm moves for summary
judgement, contending that Plaintiff does not qualify as an
insured under Brinkley's Policy and that Brinkley's
vehicle does not meet the required definition of uninsured
vehicle. Plaintiff opposes State Farm's motion.
Court may grant summary judgment only where the moving party
can "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." The moving party bears the
initial burden of proof and, once that is met, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to show that a material issue
of fact exists. At the motion for summary judgment phase,
the Court must view the facts "in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party."
Policy provides UIM coverage for injuries that "an
insured is legally entitled to recover from the
owner or driver of an uninsured motor
vehicle."The policy defines "insured" to
include the named insured, resident relatives, and "any
other person while occupying [the named insured's]
car." It further defines "occupying"
to mean "in, on, entering, or
exiting." In addition, Brinkley's Policy defines
"uninsured motor vehicle" to exclude any vehicle
"whose ownership, maintenance, or use is provided
Liability Coverage by this policy."
parties do not dispute the material facts in this case.
However, State Farm contends, as a matter of law, that
Plaintiff is not entitled to UIM benefits based on two terms
in the policy language. First, State Farm contends that
Brinkley's vehicle had liability coverage, thereby
excluding it from the definition of uninsured vehicle in the
UIM insuring agreement. Second, State Farm argues that
Plaintiff cannot meet the definition of insured to recover
UIM benefits under Brinkley's Policy. The Court rejects
State Farm's argument that Brinkley's vehicle was not
an uninsured vehicle, but agrees that Plaintiff cannot
qualify as an insured on Brinkley's Policy.
I.State Farm's definition of "uninsured motor
vehicle" is inconsistentwith Delaware