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Genzer v. James River Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

August 20, 2019

BONNI J. GENZER, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
JAMES RIVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (D.C. No. 5:17-CV-00855-SLP)

          Rex Travis (Greg Milstead with him on the briefs), of Travis Law Office, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Jason L. Glass (Tara D. Zickefoose with him on the brief), of Baum Glass Jayne & Carwile, P.L.L.C., Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before MATHESON, PHILLIPS, and EID, Circuit Judges.

          PHILLIPS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In this appeal, Bonni J. Genzer, a rideshare driver for Uber Technologies, Inc., contends that James River Insurance Company, Uber's insurer, breached its contractual obligations by declining coverage for injuries she sustained in an accident on the return leg of a lengthy fare. Genzer also contends that, under Oklahoma law, the "mend the hold" doctrine limits James River to the grounds it gave for declining coverage before she sued. The district court granted summary judgment in James River's favor, first ruling that Oklahoma has not adopted the mend-the-hold doctrine, and next holding that Genzer's claim falls outside the scope of the governing insurance policy. We agree on both issues. Thus, exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         James River issued two Business Auto Coverage policies (the 100 Policy and 200 Policy)[1] to Rasier LLC, Rasier-CA LLC, Rasier-DC LLC, and Rasier-PA LLC. The two policies were in force from March 1, 2017, to March 1, 2018. The Rasier entities are affiliates of Uber, a company that coordinates ridesharing transportation services through smartphone applications. As explained below, the two policies covered different stages of Uber's ridesharing process.

         In rough terms, the 100 Policy applies when an Uber rideshare driver is fulfilling requests for transportation services. As part of this, the driver must be occupying a "covered auto," which the policy's "Covered Auto Designation Symbol," or covered-auto endorsement, defines to include:

Any passenger "auto" while being used by a "Rideshare Driver", in connection with the "UberPartner application" accessed using account credentials issued under a contract with a Named Insured, provided any of the following:
a. The "Rideshare Driver" has logged and recorded acceptance in the "UberPartner application" of a request to provide transportation services, and the "Rideshare Driver" is:
1) En route to the pick-up location of the requested transportation services including, but not limited to, picking-up of passenger(s); or
2) Traveling to the final destination of the requested transportation services including, but not limited to, dropping-off of passenger(s).
b. The "Rideshare Driver" has logged and recorded acceptance in the "UberPartner application" to provide transportation services and the "Rideshare Driver" is:
1) Located on a public airport premises during the course of the accepted transportation services including the picking-up and dropping-off of passenger(s); or
2) Located on a public airport premises immediately following the conclusion of the requested transportation services and while in the course of exiting the public airport premises.
c. The "Rideshare Driver" has logged into the "UberPartner application" and is "available to receive requests" for transportation services from TNC application users and "Rideshare Driver" is located on a public airport premises.

J.A. at 90. The 200 Policy, by contrast, applies when Uber rideshare drivers are awaiting requests for transportation services. Under that policy's covered-auto endorsement, a "covered auto" includes:

Any passenger "auto" while being used by a "Rideshare Driver", in connection with the "UberPartner application" accessed using account credentials issued under a contract with a Named Insured provided the "Rideshare Driver":
a. has logged into the "UberPartner Application"; and
b. is "available to receive requests" for transportation services requested through the "UberPartner application"; and
c. has not accepted a request through the "UberPartner application" and is not en route to or providing transportation services in response to a request accepted in the "UberPartner application"; and
d. is not on a public airport premises.

Id. at 146.

         On April 17, 2017, Genzer accepted a fare[2] through UberPartner, Uber's smartphone application for drivers, to transport a passenger about 139 miles from Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City to Woodward, Oklahoma.[3] After dropping off the passenger in Woodward, Genzer began heading back to the Oklahoma City area.[4] On the return journey, Genzer was injured when an oncoming semi-trailer truck ejected a semicircular metal object that crashed through her windshield and hit her face. The truck's driver continued traveling and was never identified.

         On May 3, 2017, Genzer submitted a claim for uninsured-motorist, [5] medical, rental-car, and collision coverage. Genzer claimed that, at the time of the accident, her UberPartner application was set to the "Available"[6] trip status and that she was "returning from taking a rider to" Woodward.[7] See id. at 248-52. On May 8, 2017, Michael Pitts, a claims examiner for James River, informed Genzer's then-counsel that Genzer appeared to have been "offline at the time of the accident." Id. at 260. Pitts disclaimed coverage for Genzer's injuries on that basis.[8] On May 9, 2017, counsel responded that Genzer "was logged onto the Uber system on her return trip and looking for a fare for the return trip home when th[e] accident happened." Id. at 259. On May 10, 2017, Pitts replied that, whether "available or offline, there isn't coverage." Id.[9]

         On May 23, 2017, Pitts sent Genzer a disclaimer-of-coverage letter on James River's behalf. The letter initially explained that the 200 Policy applies when a driver is "available" for ride requests, while the 100 Policy applies when a driver is "en route" to pick up a passenger or is "providing" transportation services. Id. at 203. But, the letter advised, neither policy applies if the driver "has logged off the 'UberPartner application,' which is the case here." Id. After quoting both policies' covered-auto endorsements, the letter concluded that "[a]s Bonni Genzer was not logged into the 'UberPartner application' at the time of the accident her vehicle does not appear to qualify as a 'Covered auto,' under either the 100 or 200 Policies." Id. at 210. The letter identified no other reason for concluding that Genzer had not been driving a covered auto.

         On July 14, 2017, Genzer filed suit in Blaine County, Oklahoma, asserting that James River's denial of uninsured-motorist coverage under the 100 Policy breached its contractual obligations. On August 10, 2017, James River removed the action to the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. On November 10, 2017, James River moved for summary judgment, and Genzer cross-moved for partial summary ...


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