Submitted: October 11, 2017
Motion for Summary Judgment. Granted.
E. Chambers, Esquire and Gary E. Junge, Esquire of
Scnmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware;
attorneys for the Plaintiff.
M. Grubb, Esquire of the Law Office of Cynthia G. Beam,
Wilmington, Delaware; attorney for the Defendant.
WILLIAM L. WITHAM, JR. RESIDENT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Titan Indemnity Company's
("Titan") Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff
Lamar Jarrett's Response in Opposition. Titan's
motion is hereby GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
February 3, 2016, Mr. Jarrett, intending to perform
maintenance on another person's vehicle in a nearby
apartment parking lot, transported his tools to the parking
lot in his own vehicle. Mr Jarrett parked his vehicle
directly beside the other vehicle that he intended to conduct
maintenance on. After examining the other vehicle, Mr.
Jarrett turned to his own vehicle to retrieve the tools that
he had brought. Mr. Jarrett was standing next to his vehicle,
with his keys in hand, preparing to unlock the door when his
brother yelled that a tree was falling. Mr. Jarrett attempted
to move away from the falling tree, but he and his vehicle
were struck by the tree before he could escape.
time of the loss described, Mr. Jarrett's vehicle was
insured by Titan. Mr. Jarrett applied to Titan for no-fault
PIP benefits as a result of his loss. However, Titan denied
coverage for his loss pursuant to the terms of Mr.
Jarrett's policy as his injuries did not arise, "out
of the: (1) ownership; (2) maintenance; or (3) use; of a
Jarrett subsequently filed suit to recover his unpaid medical
expenses, up to the contractual policy limits, damages set
forth in 21 Del. C. § 2118B(c), together with
pre and post-judgment interest and the costs of litigation.
27, 2017, Titan filed its Motion for Summary Judgment
pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 56(c), on the basis
that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
August 17, 2017, Mr. Jarrett filed his Response in Opposition
to Titan's Motion for Summary Judgment.
August 18, 2017, Titan filed a Reply to Mr. Jarrett's
September 22, 2017, the Court held oral argument for this
matter. At the end of the hearing, the Court determined that
it was necessary for the parties to submit supplemental
October 4, 2017, Mr. Jarrett filed his supplemental briefing
with the Court. Titan filed its supplemental brief on October
Titan's initial brief filed on July 27, 2017, Titan
contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because Mr.
Jarrett's injury "did not arise out of the: (1)
ownership; (2) maintenance; or (3) use; of his motor vehicle
as a motor vehicle." Specifically, Titan contends that
Mr. Jarrett is not entitled to PIP benefits because,
according to Titan, Mr. Jarrett cannot demonstrate that his
bodily injury "arose out of the use of a motor
vehicle." In addition, Titan contends that Mr.
Jarrett's vehicle was not an "active accessory"
in causing the injury. Next, Titan alleges that the falling
tree was an act of independent significance that broke the
causal link between the use of Mr. Jarrett's vehicle and
the injuries inflicted at the time of the use. Finally, Titan
contends that Mr. Jarrett is not entitled to PIP benefits
because his vehicle was not being used for transportation
Jarrett's initial response on August 17, 2017, he
contends that Titan is not entitled to summary judgment
because: (1) he was an occupant of his vehicle at the time he
was injured; (2) his vehicle was an active accessory in
causing the injury; and (3) the tree falling does not
constitute an act of independent significance. Mr. Jarrett
alleges that the PIP statute does not require that a claimant
show that he was "using" the insured vehicle or
that it be "used for transportation purposes."
Finally, Mr. Jarrett contends that Titan's
"independent significance" defense is barred
because Titan did not raise it as an affirmative defense in
its answer. Therefore, Mr. Jarrett requests that the Court
deny Titan's motion for summary judgment.
Titan's Reply, filed on August 18, 2017, Titan contends
that Mr. Jarrett was not "engaged in a task related to
the operation of his vehicle." Titan also alleges that
Mr. Jarrett would not have been considered an occupant of his
vehicle. Finally, Titan believes that Mr. Jarrett is not
entitled to PIP benefits because, according to Titan, Mr.
Jarrett's vehicle was merely the situs of his injuries
and the tree falling constituted an act of independent
significance. Titan claims that it included the argument,
regarding independent significance, in Titan's denial of
benefits letter to Mr. Jarrett. In sum, Titan requests this
Court grant summary judgment.
Jarrett's letter to the Court, filed on October 4, 2017,
he clarified that, despite the language in Mr. Jarrett's
insurance policy, the only requirements that Mr. Jarrett must
demonstrate to qualify for PIP coverage are those
requirements contained in 21 Del. C. §
2118(a)(2)c. Mr. Jarrett also clarifies his position
regarding his occupancy at the time of his injury, as well as
his belief that his vehicle was an "active
accessory" in causing his injuries. And, Mr. Jarrett
re-states his opinion that he does not believe that an act of
independent significance occurred when the tree fell on him.
In sum, Mr. Jarrett asks the Court to deny Titan's motion
for summary judgment.
Titan's letter to the Court, filed on October 11, 2017,
Titan concedes that the PIP statute requires coverage to any
person, "occupying such motor vehicle and to any other
person injured in an accident involving such motor vehicle,
other than an occupant of another
vehicle." Pursuant to this standard, Titan contends
that Mr. Jarrett was not an occupant of his vehicle because,
according to Titan, "close proximity to an insured
vehicle is not enough to warrant extension of PIP
coverage." In addition, Titan contends that Mr.
Jarrett's vehicle was not an "active accessory"
in causing his injuries. Rather, according to Titan, the
vehicle was merely the situs of the accident.
judgment is granted only if the moving party establishes that
there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and
judgment may be granted as a matter of law. All facts are
viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Summary judgement may not be granted if
the record indicates that a material fact is in dispute, or
if there is a need to clarify the application of law to the
specific circumstances. When the facts permit a reasonable
person to draw only one inference, the question becomes one
for decision as a matter of law. If the non-moving party
bears the burden of proof at trial, yet "fails to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, " then summary
judgment may be granted against that party.