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The Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut v. Beyl-Davenport House Moving, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 23, 2019

BEYL-DAVENPORT HOUSE MOVING, INC., an Oklahoma corporation, and DENNIS BEYL, an individual, Defendant.


          TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI, Chief United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 12] filed by The Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut (the “Plaintiff”) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Defendants Dennis Beyl (“Defendant Beyl”) and Beyl-Davenport House Moving, Inc., (“Beyl-Davenport”) (collectively “Defendants”) filed a Response in Opposition and Brief in Response [Doc. No. 19], to which Plaintiff has replied [Doc. No. 20].


         The following are undisputed facts unless otherwise indicated. The instant action arises out of an automobile accident on October 26, 2016 in Perry, Oklahoma. Motion at 2. Beyl-Davenport has an insurance policy with Plaintiff (“Policy”) providing uninsured motorist coverage to anyone occupying a “covered auto” or a temporary substitute for a “covered auto.” Id. For an insured to be covered under the policy in a temporary substitute for a covered auto, the “covered ‘auto’ must be out of service because of its breakdown, repair, servicing, ‘loss’ or destruction.” Id. at 3. At the time of the accident, the Policy identified five “covered autos, ” among them a 1981 Kenworth semi-truck (“Kenworth”). Id. Defendant Beyl’s personal vehicle, a 2006 GMC Sierra (“GMC”), was not listed as a covered auto under the policy. Id. at 5.

         Defendant Beyl owns and operates Beyl-Davenport. Id. at 2. Beyl-Davenport moves homes and other large structures. Id. In the Fall of 2016, Beyl-Davenport was hired to move a historic home to a museum site in Perry, Oklahoma. Id. The move was scheduled for October 27, 2016. Id. In preparation for the scheduled move, on October 26, 2016, Defendant Beyl, acting within the scope of his employment, intended to drive the route he would follow the next day. Id. On October 26, all covered autos were in Perry, Oklahoma, being readied to make the move. Id. at 6. More precisely, however, the Kenworth-a covered auto-was at Sooner Corner Truck and Tire Repair Center being serviced and repaired so the Kenworth could pass an inspection by the Department of Transportation. Response at 2.

         Because the Kenworth was at Sooner Corner for servicing and repairs, Defendant Beyl chose to use his personal truck, the GMC, to drive his scheduled route for the next day’s move. Id. Had the Kenworth not been in the shop, Defendant Beyl indicates that the Kenworth would have been used on the preparatory drive. Response at 5.[1] As Defendant Beyl set out on this drive, the GMC experienced mechanical problems, which prompted Defendant Beyl to drive the GMC to a mechanic shop for repairs. Motion at 5.

         Once at the shop, Defendant Beyl called Brett Powers (“Powers”) to pick him up so they could continue the preparatory drive as Defendant Beyl had intended from the outset. Id. Powers picked Defendant Beyl up in a 1995 Ford Explorer (“Explorer”), not listed as a covered auto under the Policy. Response at 2. While on the drive in the Explorer, Powers and Defendant Beyl were involved in a collision, after which Defendant Beyl presented a claim for underinsured motorist benefits under the Policy. Response at 2. Plaintiff responded by filing this declaratory judgment action.


         Summary judgment is proper “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); Universal Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Winton, 818 F.3d 1103, 1105 (10th Cir. 2016). “An issue is ‘genuine’ if there is sufficient evidence on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way, ” and “[a]n issue of fact is ‘material’ if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

         The Court’s inquiry must be whether the evidence, when viewed “through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254, “presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251–52. Although the Court views all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party at the summary judgment stage, “there is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Id. at 249.


         Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment, asking the Court to find, as a matter of law, that because Defendant Beyl was not occupying a covered auto or temporary substitute under the Policy at the time of the accident, coverage does not apply. Motion at 8.

         The interpretation of an insurance contract is governed by state law and, sitting in diversity, the Court looks to the law of the forum state. See Braun v. Annesley, 936 F.2d 1105, 1108 (10th Cir. 1991).

         “Under Oklahoma law related to insurance contracts, ‘[t]he terms of the parties’ contract, if unambiguous . . . are accepted in their plain and ordinary sense, and the contract will be enforced to carry out the intentions of the parties as it existed at the time of the contract.’” Am. Cas. Co. v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.,958 F.2d 324, 326 (10th Cir. 1992) (quoting Dodson v. St. Paul Ins. Co., 812 P.2d 372, 376 (Okla. 1991)). Where a genuine ambiguity exists in an insurance policy, Oklahoma courts will interpret the contract against the carrier. See Hous. Gen. Ins. Co. v. Am. Fence Co.,115 F.3d ...

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