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State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Lusk

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 25, 2018

STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
(1) REGINA LUSK and (2) BOBBIE SADLER, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL, JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 23) filed by Plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. (“State Farm”). Defendant Bobbie Sadler (“Sadler”) filed a Response (Doc. 29), but Defendant Regina Lusk (“Lusk”) failed to do so. State Farm subsequently filed a Reply (Doc. 30).

         This declaratory judgment action relates to an accident that was the subject of a negligence action in the Oklahoma County District Court, Sadler v. Lusk, CJ-2014-5707. (See Doc. 2-2). In that action, Sadler alleged that she sustained personal injuries when Lusk hit her and ran her over with an all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”) at Lake Eufala. (Doc. 2-2 at 1 [Pet. at ¶¶ 3-4]). At the time of the accident, Lusk had a homeowners insurance policy (“the Policy”) with State Farm. State Farm seeks a judgment from this Court declaring that the Policy does not cover any loss related to the aforementioned negligence suit and that State Farm has no duty to defend Lusk or satisfy any judgment secured against Lusk.

         I. Summary Judgment Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P.

         56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “By its very terms, [the Rule 56] standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in original). In this case, State Farm and Sadler agree that there are no material facts in dispute. (See Doc. 29 at 18).[1] By failing to respond to the summary judgment motion, Lusk is deemed to have admitted State Farm's assertions of fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Local Rule 56.1. The sole issue for the Court to determine is whether the subject incident occurred on an “insured location” and is, therefore, covered by the Policy.

         II. Insurance Contract Construction

         Under Oklahoma law, “the cardinal rule in contract interpretation is to determine and give effect to the intent of the parties.” Porter v. Okla. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 330 P.3d 511, 515 (Okla. 2014) (quoting In re Kaufman, 37 P.3d 845, 853 (Okla. 2001)). “When policy provisions are clear, consistent, and unambiguous, [Oklahoma courts] look to the plain and ordinary meaning of the policy language to determine and give effect to the parties' intent.” Id. By contrast, “[w]hen an insurance contract provision is ambiguous, words of inclusion will be liberally construed in favor [of] the insured, and words of exclusion will be strictly construed against the insurer.” Haworth v. Jantzen, 172 P.3d 193, 197 (Okla. 2006). “An insurance contract is ambiguous only if it is susceptible to two constructions on its face from the standpoint of a reasonably prudent layperson, ” and Oklahoma courts “will not indulge in forced or constrained interpretations to create and then construe ambiguities in insurance contracts.” Id. at 196.

         III. “Insured Location”

         The Policy includes the following clause regarding personal liability coverage:

If a claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which this coverage applies, caused by an occurrence, we will:
1. pay up to our limit of liability for the damages for which the insured is legally liable; and 2. provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice. We may make any investigation and settle any claim or suit that we decide is appropriate. Our obligation to defend any claim or suit ends when the amount we pay for damages, to effect settlement or satisfy a judgment resulting from the occurrence, equals our limit of liability.

(Doc. 24-3 at 38).

         The Policy specifically excludes from coverage any “bodily injury or property damage arising out of ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of . . . a motor vehicle owned or operated by or rented or loaned to any insured.” (Id. at 40). The Policy's definition of a “motor vehicle” includes “a ‘recreational vehicle' while off an ...


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