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Negron v. Geico Secure Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware

May 29, 2018

SILVIA NEGRON, Plaintiff,
v.
GEICO SECURE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          Submitted: April 6, 2018

         Upon Defendant Geico Secure Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment, CONDITIONALLY GRANTED AS SET FORTH BELOW.

         Upon Plaintiff Silvia Negron's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, DENIED.

          Eric M. Davis, Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a contract action. This civil action relates to an insurance coverage dispute. Plaintiff Silvia I. Negron was driving her mother's car on I-495 northbound. A 2003 Ford Explorer (the "Ford Explorer") approached Ms. Negron from behind. The occupants of the Ford Explorer fired handguns at Ms. Negron striking her and her passenger. Norma Negron, Ms. Negron's mother, had a valid car insurance policy (the "Policy") issued by Defendant Geico Secure Insurance Company ("Geico") on the car at the time of the incident.

         Geico denied coverage under the Policy. Ms. Negron filed suit. Geico filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (the "Motion"). Ms. Negron filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (the "Cross-Motion"). Geico filed an Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment ("Geico's Opposition").

         For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the Motion without prejudice to Ms. Negron amending the Complaint, and DENIES Cross-Motion.

         II. RELEVANT FACTS

         A. The Policy

         The Policy covered the car driven by Ms. Negron on March 8, 2015. The Policy includes Uninsured Motorists ("UIM") Coverage. The Policy defines an uninsured motor vehicle as "a motor vehicle which has no bodily injury and property damage liability bond or insurance policy applicable with liability limits complying with the Financial Responsibility Law of the state in which such auto is principally garaged or registered at the time of the accident." [1] Uninsured motor vehicle "also includes an auto the insurer of which is, or comes insolvent or denies coverage"[2] or "an auto being used without the owner's permission . . ."[3]

         Further, the Policy states that Geico will "pay damages for bodily injury and property damage caused by accident which the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle or hit and run auto arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of that auto."[4] Bodily injury is "bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, sustained by [the insured], [the insured's] relatives or any other person occupying an insured auto with [the insured's] consent."[5]

          B. The Incident

         On March 8, 2015, Ms. Negron drove a car owned by her mother.[6] A Ford Explorer approached Ms. Negron from behind.[7] The unknown occupants of the Ford Explorer fired handguns at Ms. Negron and her passenger.[8] Ms. Negron's vehicle struck the Ford Explorer's rear driver side.[9] The Ford Explorer spun off the roadway and got stuck in a ditch.[10]

         Ms. Negron "was jolted and torqued as a result" of the sudden impact from the Ford Explorer.[11] Ms. Negron also suffered gunshot wounds. Ms. Negron's vehicle exited I-495 onto Route 13. Detective Mark Ryde of the Delaware State Police and medical personnel responded to the scene. The medical personnel transported Ms. Negron to Christiana Hospital and treated Ms. Negron for "multiple injuries in association with a gunshot wound to her right and left chest."[12]

         Ms. Negron suffered "injuries to her spine, left arm, head, back, lungs, and chest."[13]These injuries included a "severed spinal cord (causing paraplegia), urinary tract infections, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain due to trauma, muscle weakness, intestinal infections, major depressive disorder, other heart block, and esophageal reflux compression."[14] Dr. Christian Fras prepared a report of Ms. Negron's medical diagnosis.[15]

         Ms. Negron sought coverage under the Policy's UIM benefits. Geico, denied coverage.

          C. The Litigation

         On December 6, 2016, Ms. Negron filed suit against Geico for (1) breach of contract; and (2) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the Court of Common Pleas.[16] The case was removed to this Court. On December 28, 2016, Detective Ryde sent Ms. Negron's attorney an email with three diagrams by the Crash Reconstruction Unit. The email also stated that the Ford Explorer is registered to Zuavey Kadafi.[17]

         On January 24, 2018, Geico filed the Motion. Ms. Negron filed the Cross-Motion on February 9, 2018. On February 21, 2018, Geico filed the Geico's Opposition. The Court held a hearing (the "Hearing") on the Motion, Cross-Motion, and Geico's Opposition on March 7, 2018. At the Hearing, Ms. Negron's counsel explained that he had trouble obtaining information about the Ford Explorer's registration. The Court allowed Ms. Negron to conduct discovery regarding the ownership and potential insurance for the Ford Explorer. On April 6, 2018, Ms. Negron filed supplemental information (the "Supplemental Exhibits").

         Supplemental Exhibit A is a compilation of DMV records for the Ford Explorer. Supplemental Exhibit A includes an Application for Title, Certificate of Title, Delaware Dealer Reassignment, and other related documents. The Supplemental Exhibits indicate that Mr. Kadafi purchased the Ford Explorer on October 15, 2014. Supplemental Exhibit B is a printout of insurance information for the Ford Explorer. Mr. Kadafi obtained insurance on September 25, 2014. Mr. Kadafi terminated his insurance policy on October 21, 2014. Supplemental Exhibit C is an email from Detective Ryde. Detective Ryde searched the Ford Explorer and did not find any insurance card in the vehicle.

          III. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         A. Motion

         Geico seeks summary judgment in its favor. Geico argues that Ms. Negron's injuries were caused by gunshot wounds and were not a direct or proximate result of the vehicle collision. As such, Geico contends that the Policy does not cover Ms. Negron's injuries. In Geico's Opposition, Geico further argues that Ms. Negron knows the identity of the registered owner of the Ford Explorer. Ms. Negron does not state that the Ford Explorer is uninsured or underinsured. As such, Ms. Negron cannot rely upon the uninsured provision of the Policy.

         B. Cross-Motion

         Ms. Negron argues that she can recover for her injuries although they stemmed from a gunshot wound. Ms. Negron claims she may recover in this instance because the vehicle used was an active accessory to the shooting. As such, Ms. Negron's injuries fall within the Policy.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW A. Civil Rule 56

         The standard of review on a motion for summary judgment is well-settled. The Court's principal function when considering a motion for summary judgment is to examine the record to determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist, "but not to decide such issues."[18]Summary judgment will be granted if, after viewing the record in a light most favorable to a nonmoving party, no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[19] If, however, the record reveals that material facts are in dispute, or if the factual record has not been developed thoroughly enough to allow the Court to apply the law to the factual record, then summary judgment will not be granted.[20] The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that the undisputed facts support his claims or defenses.[21] If the motion is properly supported, then the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there are material issues of fact for the resolution by the ultimate fact-finder.[22]

         V. DISCUSSION

         A.There is a Genuine Issue of Material Fact Whether the Ford Explorer was Insured at the ...


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