United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
K. Moon, Judge
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.
Standard of Review
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).
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
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).
The Underlying Actions
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.
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.