United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.
Preston Scott Fagg seeks a declaratory judgment in diversity
regarding insurance coverage from Progressive Gulf Insurance
Company ("Progressive"), an Ohio corporation, after
he purchased a car and was struck by an uninsured motorist
soon thereafter. This matter is before the court on
cross-motions for summary judgment regarding the ownership of
a car and concomitant insurance coverage, which raise novel
and surprisingly knotty questions of state law. The parties
argued their well-briefed motions in a hearing before the
court on December 2, 2019. For the reasons that follow, the
court denies Fagg's motion for summary judgment and
grants summary judgment for Progressive.
material facts in this case are simple and stipulated. On
April 29, 2016, Fagg paid Joseph Lee Horton $6, 000.00 for
the purchase of a 1999 Suzuki Vitara (the
"Suzuki"). ECF Nos. 10-2 and 12-1, Stipulation of
Facts ("SOF") ¶ 1. Fagg and Horton intended
that Fagg purchase the Suzuki, and that Horton would have no
further financial responsibility regarding the Suzuki.
Id. ¶¶ 2, 14. Fagg took physical
possession of the Suzuki on that same date. Id.
also signed the certificate of title to the Suzuki, and delivered
it to Fagg. Fagg and Horton intended that Horton convey title
and complete ownership of the Suzuki to Fagg. Yet Fagg never
presented the title for the Suzuki to the Virginia Department
of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"). Id.
¶¶ 4-7. The title for the Suzuki contained a
section, required by Virginia Code § 46.2-629, for
Horton to certify that the mileage on the Suzuki's
odometer was the actual mileage on the vehicle. Horton did
not complete the odometer certification. ECF Nos. 10-1 at 2,
12 at 1.
Horton had an auto insurance policy issued by Progressive,
which was in effect at the relevant times (the
"Policy"). The Policy included uninsured motorist
coverage providing up to $100, 000 of coverage per person,
subject to the conditions of the Policy. SOF ¶¶
12-13; ECF No. 12-1 at 5-58. Part C of the Policy defines the
scope of that coverage. Under Subparagraph A of Part C,
coverage is afforded for "damages which an
'insured' ... is legally entitled to recover from the
owner or operator of an 'uninsured motor vehicle'
...." An 'insured' is subsequently defined, in
Sub-paragraph C, as:
1. You or any "family member."
2. Any other person "occupying" "your covered
3. Any person for damages that person is entitled to recover
because of "bodily injury" to which this coverage
applies sustained by a person described in 1 or 2 above.
J of the Definitions section of the Policy defines "any
vehicle shown in the Declarations" as a "covered
auto." The Suzuki is listed on the Declarations Page of
the Policy. ECF No. 12-1 at 6.
after he bought the Suzuki, and while driving it, Fagg had
the misfortune of being struck by an uninsured motorist. He
sustained serious injuries. SOF ¶¶ 8-10.
parties' motions and arguments rely in large part on
Virginia's statutes covering the titling of motor
vehicles. Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-600 et seq. The
court includes certain statutory provisions in relevant part
for ease of reference.
Code § 46.2-620, which is titled "Period of
validity of certificate of title," states:
Every certificate of title issued under this chapter shall be
valid for the life of the motor vehicle ... so long as the
owner to whom it is issued shall retain legal title or right
of possession of or to the vehicle. Such certificates need
not be renewed except on a transfer of title or interest of
Code § 46.2-628, which is titled "How certificate
of title transferred," states:
The owner of a motor vehicle... registered under this
chapter, when transferring or assigning his title or interest
thereto, shall fully and correctly endorse the assignment and
warranty of title on the certificate of title of the motor
vehicle ... to its purchaser, with a statement of all
security interests on it, and shall deliver the certificate
to the purchaser or transferee at the time of delivering the
motor vehicle, .... Any owner who willfully fails fully and
correctly to endorse the assignment and warranty of title
shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Code § 46.2-629, which is titled "Odometer reading
to be reported on certificate of title, application, or power
of attorney," states:
A. Every owner or transferor of any motor vehicle, including
a dealer, shall, at the time of transfer of ownership of any
motor vehicle by him, record on the certificate of title, if
one is currently issued on the vehicle in the Commonwealth,
and on any application for certificate of title the reading
on the odometer or similar device ... at the time of
B. The Department shall not issue to any transferee any new
certificate of title to a motor vehicle unless subsection A
has been complied with.
Code § 46.2-630, which is titled "Transfer and
application for certificate of title forwarded ...