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Hall v. Travelers Casualty Insurance Co. of America

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

September 27, 2016

ROBERT HALL, SR., et a/., Plaintiffs,


          Gerald Bruce Lee United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Robert Hall's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 47), and Defendant Travelers Property Casualty Company of America ("Travelers")'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 48).[1] This case concerns Plaintiffs Complaint for Declaratory Judgment to establish the limit of commercial automobile insurance to the extent a third-party tortfeasor is deemed underinsured.

         The issue before the Court is whether the Travelers' insurance policy entitles Plaintiff to underinsured motorist coverage under the Virginia or Maryland limit, which turns on what state the vehicle involved in a collision was "principally garaged." The Court holds that Plaintiff is entitled to up to $2, 000, 000 in underinsured motorist coverage under the Virginia limit because the vehicle was principally garaged in Virginia while covered under the policy.

         Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 15, 2014, Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident. (Stip. ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 42.) Plaintiff brought a negligence action in Fairfax Circuit Court styled as Hall v. El-Ibrahimy, No. CL 2015-02384 (the "Ibrahimy Lawsuit"). (Stip. ¶ 2.) The defendant in the Ibrahimy Lawsuit has automobile insurance coverage with bodily injury limits of $25, 000. (Stip. ¶ 15.) Although the Ibrahimy Lawsuit is not scheduled for trial until November 2016, the parties expect that Plaintiffs damages will exceed $25, 000. (Stip. ¶ 15.) At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was employed by WP Company, LLC ("WP Company"), which publishes The Washington Post. (Stip. ¶ 3.) In the course of his employment with WP Company, Plaintiff was driving a tractor truck (the "Truck") owned by Penske Truck Leasing Company, L.P. ("Penske"). (Stip. ¶¶ 4-5.)

         Travelers issued to Nash Holdings, LLC a commercial insurance policy effective from October 1, 2013 to October 1, 2014 (the "Policy"). (Stip. ¶ 12.) WP Company is a subsidiary of Nash Holdings, LLC, and as a WP Company employee, Plaintiff was an "insured" under the Policy at the time of the accident. (Stip. ¶ 13.) The Policy contains separate uninsured ("UM") and underinsured ("UIM") endorsements for several states with varying coverage of up to $2, 000, 000. (See Def.'s Opp'n at 8, Dkt. No. 55; Pl's Opp'n at 8, Dkt. No. 57.) According to the Policy, "The LIMIT OF INSURANCE for the coverages shown below is the LIMIT OF INSURANCE shown for the State where a covered 'auto' is principally garaged." (Stip. ¶ 16.) Both parties agree that the Policy does not define "principally garaged." (See Def.'s Br. 12-14; Pl's Br. at 16.) The Policy provides that the limit for Virginia is $2, 000, 000, whereas the limit for Maryland is $75, 000. (Stip. ¶ 16.) The applicable coverage is for "Owned 'Autos' Only, " and a "Leased Auto" is considered the same as an "auto" owned by the named insured. (Policy at 40, 69, Dkt. No. 42-4.)

         WP Company and Penske were parties to a lease agreement under which Penske leased various tractor trucks to WP Company for use in WP Company's regular business operations. (Stip. ¶ 7.) As part of the lease agreement, if one of the leased trucks was temporarily unavailable due to maintenance or repair, Penske provided a substitute vehicle to WP Company during the period of unavailability. (Stip. ¶ 8.) Penske provided the Truck to WP Company on May 14, 2014 as a substitute due to the temporary unavailability of a vehicle being serviced (i.e., Unit #574863). (Stip. ¶ 8.) WP Company took possession of the Truck at a Penske rental facility located in Virginia. (Stip. ¶ 10.) WP Company also garaged its leased trucks at its facility in Virginia. (Stip. ¶ 11.) Thus, both the Truck and the insured vehicle being serviced were garaged in Virginia.

         The Truck was a "covered" auto under the Policy at the time of the accident. (Stip. ¶ 14.) The Truck was not a "covered" auto outside the three-day rental period between May 14, 2014 and May 16, 2014. (Stip. ¶ 14.) From approximately April 17, 2013 through June 30, 2014, including the date of the accident, the Truck was titled and registered in Maryland and had a Maryland license plate. (Stip. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff "stipulate[d] that, if the period of time from June 2013 through the date of the Accident is the relevant period of time, the Truck was 'principally garaged' at Penske's Capitol Heights, Maryland facility during that time." (Stip. ¶ 18.)

         On January 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment pursuant to Va. Code § 8.01-184. Travelers removed this action based on diversity jurisdiction. On August 1, 2016, the parties filed the Motions for Summary Judgment now before the Court.


         A. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must grant summary judgment "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). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Askew v. HRFC, LLC, 810 F.3d 263, 266 (4th Cir.2016).

         Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Dash v. Mayweather,731 F.3d 303, 311 (4th Cir. 2013). "[T]he 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. A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id.; Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd,718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). A dispute ...

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