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The Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co. v. Lander

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

October 29, 2019

Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Christopher Lander, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Co. and Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut's (collectively, “Travelers”) Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. 15, and Defendant Christopher Lander's Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Dkt. 17. Travelers issued a homeowners policy and an umbrella policy to Lander, a physician specializing in pain management, who has been sued in state court by former coworkers, Defendants Dr. Rasheed Siddiqui and Sherri Johnson, after allegedly brandishing a gun outside of their pain management practice. Dkt 1. In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Travelers seeks a declaratory judgment that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Lander in the underlying action under either the homeowners or umbrella policy, arguing that (1) the underlying incident does not constitute an “occurrence” under either policy; (2) the policies do not cover injuries that are “expected or intended” by the insured; and (3) the policies only cover occurrences resulting in “bodily injury.” Dkt. 16.

         In his Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, Lander seeks a declaratory judgment that Travelers owes him a duty to defend under both policies, arguing that the underlying action does allege a covered “occurrence” that resulted in bodily injury and that it is not subject to an exclusion. Dkt. 18. Because the Court concludes that the underlying incident does not constitute an “occurrence” under either policy, the Court will grant Travelers' Motion for Summary Judgment and issue a declaratory judgment that Travelers is not obligated by either policy to defend Lander in the underlying actions.

         I. Factual Background

         The following is undisputed by the parties. Travelers issued a homeowners policy to Lander with a policy period from August 15, 2016 to August 15, 2017. Dkt. 7 at 24. The homeowners policy provides coverage for suits brought against the insured “because of ‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage' caused by an ‘occurrence' to which this coverage applies.” Dkt. 1, ¶ 26; see also Dkt. 1, ex. 3. The policy defines “bodily injury” as “bodily harm, sickness or disease, including required care, loss of services and death that results.” Dkt. 1, ¶ 27. An “occurrence” is defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions, which results . . . in” bodily injury or property damage. Id.

         Section II of the homeowners policy contains an exclusion providing that coverage does not extend to “bodily injury” or “property damage” “which is expected or intended by an ‘insured' even if the resulting ‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage'” in question is “of a different kind, quality or degree than initially expected or intended; or . . . is sustained by a different person, entity, real or personal property, than initially expected or intended.” Id. ¶ 28.

         Travelers also issued Lander an umbrella policy. This policy provides coverage for “damages for which an ‘insured' becomes legally liable due to ‘bodily injury,' ‘property damage,' or ‘personal injury' caused by an ‘occurrence.'” Id. ¶ 31; see also Dkt. 1, ex. 4. “Bodily injury” is defined as “bodily harm, sickness or disease, ” including “required care, loss of services, death and mental anguish that results.” Dkt. 1, ¶ 33. An “occurrence” is defined as “[a]n accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general conditions, that results in ‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage' during the policy period.” Id.

         The umbrella policy also contains an exclusion providing that coverage does not extend to “‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage' arising out of an act which is expected or intended by an ‘insured' to cause ‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage, '” even if the injury or damage “[i]s of a different kind, quality or degree than expected or intended; or . . . [i]s sustained by a different person or entity than expected or intended.” Id. ¶ 34.

         Dr. Rasheed Siddiqui and Sherri Johnson, also named as Defendants by Travelers in the present action, each filed suit against Lander in Albemarle County Circuit Court for conduct Lander engaged in on and leading up to November 21, 2016. Dkt. 18 at 2. In Siddiqui's suit, Siddiqui alleges that he and Lander started a pain management practice called Charlottesville Pain Management Center, PLLC (“CPMC”) in 2002. Dkt. 1, ¶ 10. Johnson was subsequently retained as an employee of the practice. Id. ¶ 10. According to the complaints, Siddiqui came to believe in 2014 that Lander was “impaired' while practicing at CPMC. Dkt. 1, ex. 1, ¶ 6, Dkt. 1, ex. 2, ¶ 5. Siddiqui filed a complaint against Lander with the Virginia Board of Medicine and staged an intervention. Dkt. 1, ex. 1, ¶¶ 8, 11. Lander was allegedly humiliated by the intervention and informed Siddiqui he could no longer work at CPMC. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Siddiqui and Johnson allege that Lander exhibited a pattern of concerning behavior, including following Siddiqui after work, photographing the front and back of the CPMC office, driving past Siddiqui's home, and requesting a key to CPMC from the doctor who managed the building where CPMC is located. Id. ¶¶ 21-27.

         According to the complaints, on November 21, 2016, Lander purchased a 9mm Glock and 200 rounds of ammunition, consumed alcohol and prescription pills, drove to the CPMC office, and parked directly outside of Siddiqui's window. Id. ¶¶ 28-38. Lander then allegedly brandished the firearm such that people in the parking lot and CPMC office could see it, opened his car door, and fell to the ground as he attempted to exit the vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 39-41. According to the complaints, the office was locked, patients were moved away from windows, and the police were called while two bystanders detained Lander in the parking lot. Id. ¶¶ 43-45. Lander is alleged to have later pled guilty to driving under the influence and brandishing a firearm within 1, 000 feet of a school. Id. ¶ 59.

         The underlying suits each contain the following counts against Lander: 1) intentional infliction of emotional distress; 2) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and 3) assault. Dkt. 1 at 21. The suits allege that Lander “knew or should have known” that his actions would cause emotional distress, and that Lander's actions put Siddiqui and Johnson “in reasonable fear of imminent physical injury.” Dkt. 1, ex. 1, ¶¶ 62, 71; Dkt. 1, ex. 2, ¶¶ 54, 63. Siddiqui alleges that he has lost twenty-five pounds and has experienced difficulty eating, sleeping, and concentrating since the incident. Dkt. 1, ex. 1, ¶ 75. Johnson alleges that she has trouble sleeping and experiences anxiety, hives, and panic attacks as a result of the incident. Dkt. 1, ex. 2 ¶ 67.

         Lander tendered the underlying actions to Travelers for defense and indemnification pursuant to the homeowners and umbrella policies. Travelers is defending Lander against the underlying suits under a reservation of rights. Dkt. 1 ¶ 23.

         II. Legal Standard

         “Summary judgment is particularly well-suited for resolution of insurance coverage disputes because the construction of insurance contracts is a legal question.” Mount Vernon Fire Ins. Co. v. Adamson, No. 3:09-cv-817, 2010 WL 3937336, at *1-2, (E.D. Va. Sept. 15, 2010) (citations omitted). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) provides that a court should award 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.” “A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” and “[a] fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Variety Stores, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 888 F.3d 651, 659 (4th Cir. 2018). The nonmoving party must “show that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial . . . by offering sufficient proof ...


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