United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
E. Payne Senior United States District Judge
matter is before the Court following a bench trial on a
stipulated record held on the Complaint for Declaratory
Judgment (''Complaint") filed by Plaintiff
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("Nationwide")
(ECF No. 1) . For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
grant declaratory judgment for Nationwide, and order that it
has no duty to defend or to indemnify Joseph Walton in the
lawsuit that underlies this case.
Complaint seeks a judicial determination, under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 2201 and 1332, that it owes no duty to defend or
indemnify Joseph Earl Walton ("Walton") in an
action filed in state court against Walton by Amy Jo Raiford,
Administrator of the Estate of Nancy Sue Walton (the
"underlying action"). For purposes of this declaratory
judgment action, the parties have stipulated to the facts
respecting Nationwide's insurance policy and the
allegations in the complaint in the underlying action (ECF
13) ("Stipulated Facts"). Based on the stipulated
facts, NATIONWIDE'S OPENING PRETRIAL BRIEF (ECF No. 14)
("Pi. Br."), the OPPOSITION BRIEF OF DEFENDANT
JOSEPH EARL WALTON JR. (ECF No. 18)("Def. Resp."),
and NATIONWIDE'S REPLY BRIEF (ECF No. 19) ("PI.
Reply") were filed, and a bench trial (ECF No. 22) was
held on January 31, 2017.
and Nancy Sue Walton, his wife, were the named insureds in
the homeowners insurance policy issued by Nationwide for the
period of May 15, 2014 to May 15, 2015. (Stipulated Facts 1)
. At all times leading up to January 19, 2015, the Waltons
were husband and wife and shared the insured home.
Id. On January 19, 2015, Mrs. Walton died.
Raiford, daughter of Mrs. Walton, subsequently became
administrator of Mrs. Walton's estate and brought a tort
suit against Walton on behalf of the estate. Id. at
1-2. After receiving notice of the suit, Nationwide began
defending Walton under a full and complete reservation of
rights and filed this declaratory judgment action seeking a
declaration that it had no duty to defend, and therefore no
duty to indemnify, Walton in the underlying action.
Id. at 2.
Virginia, it is well-settled that an "insurer's duty
to defend ... is broader than [the] obligation to pay, and
arises whenever the complaint alleges facts and
circumstances, some of which would, if proved, fall within
the risk covered by the policy." Copp v. Nationwide
Mut. Ins. Co., 279 Va. 675, 682 (2010) . Consequently,
the parties agreed at trial that there is no duty to
indemnify if the Court determines that there is no duty to
defend. They also agreed that, if the Court decides that
there exists a duty to defend, a decision on the duty to
indemnify must be deferred until after the underlying action
is determined. The analysis in this case therefore rests on
the content of the insurance policy and the facts and
circumstances alleged in the complaint in the underlying
action. .Id. Both documents are part of the
stipulated record. (Stipulated Facts, Exhibit A-B).
The Complaint In the Underlying Action (ECF No.
relevant part, the underlying complaint ("UC")
alleges that Mrs. Walton's death was caused by the
intentional and negligent conduct of Walton. (UC ¶¶
26-27). Specifically, it alleges that Walton intentionally
and severely abused Mrs. Walton in the days leading up to and
including January 3, 2015, thereby causing an
"exacerbation of a treatable medical condition from
which she died." (UC ¶ 27). The UC further alleges
that, on January 8, 2015, the date on which the decedent
"became physically sick and incapacitated, " Walton
was instructed by Raiford to take Mrs. Walton to Patient
First, but that Walton "negligently allowed the decedent
to remain unattended." (UC ¶ 9).
that same day, after being told of Walton's refusal to
seek medical treatment, Raiford allegedly went to the
Walton's home and found her mother in a serious state.
(UC ¶ 11). Mrs. Walton was flown to VCU Medical Center,
where she was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke and where
a forensic nurse allegedly "took photographs of all the
bruises caused by [Mr. Walton's] beatings." (UC
¶ 12-13). After being returned to hospice care at home,
Mrs. Walton passed away on January 19, 2015. (UC ¶ 14).
The underlying action seeks damages for the wrongful death,
pain, and mental anguish suffered by Mrs. Walton. (UC
¶¶ 25-27). It also alleges that the decedent's
daughter, Raiford, has suffered "severe mental anguish,
sorrow, loss of solace, companionship and comfort of the
decedent as well as loss of her company and love and has
otherwise suffered decedent's medical expenses and
funeral expenses which Defendant has refused to pay."
(UC ¶ 24) .
The Insurance Policy (ECF No. 13-1)
insurance policy is also a part of the stipulated record, and
Nationwide argues that it has no duty to defend primarily on
the strength of three of its provisions: Paragraphs 1(a) and
l(i) on pages HI of the policy, and Paragraph 2(f) on page
H2. (PI. Br. 9-18). The relevant provisions state:
Coverage E - Personal liability and Coverage F - Medical
Payments to others do not apply to ...