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State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Rollins

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

May 12, 2016

STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY Plaintiff,
v.
TRUDY T. ROLLINS, K.L.P., a minor, by and through her mother and next friend TRACIE LOVEJOY, and, TRACIE LOVEJOY, individually as mother and next friend of K.L.P., a minor, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

This matter comes before the Court upon the motion of State Farm Fire and Casualty Company's Motion for Summary Judgment against defendants. ECF No. 18. State Farm seeks by means of summary judgment, a declaratory judgment against the insured Trudy T. Rollins, K.L.P., and Tracie Lovejoy. In seeking this judgment, State Farm requests this Court declare that the State Farm Homeowners Policy in question excludes both personal liability coverage and medical payments to others coverage for the claims of Lovejoy and K.L.P because of the time of the incident of injury, K.L.P. was in the care of Rollins because of child care services.

For the reasons stated herein, this Court FINDS that under the plain meaning of the Homeowners Policy, K.L.P. and Lovejoy's potential claims are excluded under the unambiguous child care services exclusion of the Homeowners Policy. State Farm is entitled to judgment as a matter of law under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 et seq. Accordingly, this Court GRANTS the Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 18.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On October 16, 2016, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") filed a Complaint against Trudy T. Rollins ("Rollins"); K.L.P., a minor by and through her next friend Tracie Lovejoy; and Tracie Lovejoy ("Lovejoy"), individually and as mother and next friend of the minor K.L.P. ECF No. 1. In the Complaint, State Farm seeks declaratory judgment, pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 et seq. Compl.; ECF No. 1. On January 31, 2014, the Court appointed attorney Christopher J. Wiemken, Esq. as guardian ad litem for defendant K.L.P, a minor, pursuant to Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Va. Code §8.01-9. ECF No. 8.

This suit arises out of an incident which occurred July 12, 2013. On the day of the incident Rollins was caring for K.L.P. in Rollins' home when the family dog allegedly bit K.L.P. requiring medical treatment. ECF No. 19, Ex. 1 at 31. Through her mother, Lovejoy, K.L.P. retained counsel to pursue the claim. ECF No. 1, Ex. 1. At the time of the incident, Rollins held a Homeowners Policy (Policy No. 46-GU-5766-4) issued by State Farm. State Farm now seeks declaratory judgment stating that it is not responsible for any claims of Rollins, K.L.P. or Lovejoy. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 4. Jurisdiction for this claim is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) and venue is good pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

In the present motion, State Farm motions for the Court to enter an Order declaring that State Farm's liability coverage excludes personal liability (Coverage L) and medical payments to others coverage (Coverage M) for the claims in dispute. ECF No. 18. K.L.P., through her guardian ad litem, responded to the motion on April 18, 2016. ECF No. 23. Rollins responded on April 18, 2016. ECF No. 24. State Farm filed reply briefing April 22, 2016. The Court entered default judgment against Lovejoy on April 26, 2016, binding her to final disposition of this suit. ECF No. 29. A hearing was held on the present motion on May 5, 2016, at which counsel for State Farm, Rollins, and K.L.P. presented arguments. This motion is now ripe for judgment.

II. FACTS AS ALLEGED BY THE PARTIES

A. The Parties

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company seeks declaratory judgment in this action against three defendants regarding an incident arising July 12, 2013: (1) Trudy T. Rollins; (2) K.L.P., a minor by her next friend and mother Tracie Lovejoy; and, (3) Tracie Lovejoy, as mother of K.L.P. and in her individual capacity. Compl. at ¶ 1-5. The parties are as follows.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business located in Bloomington, Illinois, and a citizen of the State of Illinois. Compl. at ¶ 3. Trudy T. Rollins ("Rollins") is a resident of Poquoson, Virginia and a citizen of Virginia. Compl. at ¶ 4, Rollins Ans. At ¶ 4. K.L.P. is minor under the age of eighteen, by her mother and next friend Trace Lovejoy, as well as her guardian ad litem. K.L.P. Ans. At 1, ¶ 4. K.L.P. is a resident of Poquoson, Virginia, and a citizen of Virginia. Id. at ¶ 5. Tracie Lovejoy is the mother of K.L.P., a resident of Poquoson, Virginia, and a citizen of Virginia. Compl. at 5.

B. The Homeowners Policy

The present suit seeks declaratory judgment regarding personal liability coverage and medical payments to others coverage under the Homeowners Policy issued by State Farm to Roll ins, the insured. On the day of July 12, 2013, Rollins was a named insured under the subject Homeowners Policy (Policy No. 46-GU-5766-4) (hereinafter "Homeowners Policy") issued by State Farm. Compl. ¶ 4, Rollins Ans. ¶ 4. State Farm and Rollins agree that the Homeowners Policy attached to the Complaint was a true and accurate copy of the policy in effect at the time of the incident. Compl. at ¶ 12, ECF No. 1 at 3-4; Rollins Answer at ¶ 12, ECF 5 at 2.

The Homeowners Policy provided Personal Liability coverage under Coverage L to an insured, "[i]f 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...". Compl., Ex. 2 at 14; ECF No. 1, Ex. 4 at 20. Additionally, the Homeowners Policy provides for "Medical Payments to Others" under "Coverage M" which states, "We will pay the necessary medical expenses incurred or medically ascertained within three years from the date of an accident causing bodily injury." Compl., Ex. 2 at 14; ECF No. 1, Ex. 4 at 20.

However, in the exclusions section of the Homeowners Policy, two particular exclusions are relevant to the present suit: (1) the exclusion of Coverage L and Coverage M for child care services, and (2) the exclusion of Coverage L and Coverage M for damages arising from business pursuits. The child care services exclusion states as follows:

Coverage L and Coverage M do not apply to (i) Any claim made or suit brought against any insured by:
(1) any person who is in the care of any insured because of child care services provided by or at the direction of:
(a) any insured
(b) any employee of any insured; or
(c) any other person actually or apparently acting on behalf of any insured; or
(1) any person who makes a claim because of bodily injury to any person who is in the care of any insured because of child care services provided by or at the direction of
(a) any insured;
(b) any employee of any ...

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