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Admiral Insurance Co. v. W.W. Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

June 21, 2018

Admiral Insurance Company, Plaintiff,
v.
W.W. Associates, Inc., ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Norman K. Moon, Judge

         The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Admiral Insurance Company (“Admiral”) seeks a declaratory judgment regarding an exclusion in a professional services insurance policy (“the Policy”). The Policy, delivered in Virginia to Defendant W.W. Associates, Inc. (“W.W.”), provides insurance coverage for claims arising out of W.W.'s work as a civil engineering firm. An automobile accident, allegedly caused by W.W.'s negligent engineering of a road, resulted in personal injuries to Defendants Miriam and Mustapha Baha, and the death of Bonnie Baha (collectively “the Baha Defendants”). The issue is a narrow one: whether an exclusion in the Policy, precluding coverage for “any claim which arises from, or is related to, any collision or accident involving an automobile . . ., ” bars coverage for claims arising out of an automobile accident. Because the plain language of the Policy unambiguously excludes such coverage, I will grant Admiral's motion, and deny W.W.'s cross-motion.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” “As to materiality . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. When considering cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must “consider each motion separately on its own merits to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law.” Defs. of Wildlife v. N.C. DOT, 762 F.3d 374, 392 (4th Cir. 2014).

         II. Factual Background

         A. The Policy

         The Policy, which provides professional services liability coverage on a “claims-made and reported basis, ” articulates the scope of its coverage as follows:

The Company shall pay on behalf of the insured those damages in excess of the Deductible that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay to others, but only: 1. If such damages result from a wrongful act committed by any insured in performing or failing to perform professional services anywhere in the world; and . . . .
The Company will pay all claims expenses in excess of the Deductible for all claims[1] covered under the terms of this policy.

(Dkt. 27-1 at ECF 19) (emphasis in original). The Policy goes on to list several “Exclusions” that preclude coverage. One such exclusion precludes coverage for damages, claims expense, or any defense for: “Any claim which arises from, or is related to, any collision or accident involving an automobile . . .” (“the Automobile Exclusion”). (Dkt. 27-1 at ECF 27-28) (emphasis in original).

         B. The Underlying Actions

         On August 12, 2016, Defendants Bonnie, Miriam, and Mustapha Baha were in an automobile accident. An automobile, operated by Franklin Reider (who is not a party to the instant suit), struck the Baha Defendants as they traversed a crosswalk near the Shops at Stonefield in Charlottesville, Virginia. The accident killed Bonnie and resulted in personal injuries to Miriam and Mustapha. The Baha Defendants filed several lawsuits (“underlying actions”) alleging $185, 000, 000 in damages for, inter alia, wrongful death against Reider and negligent engineering against W.W. The Baha Defendants allege, among other things, the accident was caused by the negligent design of the road.

         After being notified of the suit, Admiral informed W.W. of the exclusion in the policy pertaining to automobile accidents. Admiral agreed to defend W.W. in the underlying actions pursuant to a reservation of rights. Admiral now seeks a declaratory judgment confirming that, under the Automobile Exclusion, it does not have to defend or pay for damages arising from the underlying actions.

         III. ...


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