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Progressive Northern Insurance Co. v. Jones

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

January 14, 2020

PROGRESSIVE NORTHERN INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
BRYANT JONES d/b/a JONES TRUCKING, ET AL., Defendants.

          John B. Mumford, Jr., and Lindsay L. Rollins, Hancock, Daniel & Johnson, P.C., Glen Allen, Virginia, Robert D. Moseley, Jr., and Megan M. Early-Soppa, Greenville, South Carolina, for Plaintiff;

          Charles A. Stacy, The Charles A. Stacy Law Office & Personal Injury Center, PLLC, Bluefield, Virginia, for Defendant Michelle Reynolds Streeby, Administrator of the Estate of Michael Eugene Reynolds, Deceased.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, an automobile liability insurance company, seeks a declaration pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction of this court that it has no obligation under its policy to provide coverage, including a duty to defend, arising from an accident in which the defendant's decedent was killed. The plaintiff has moved for summary judgment in its favor, which motion has been fully briefed. For the following reasons, I will grant summary judgment for the insurance company.

         I.

         The facts are not in dispute. Michelle Reynolds Streeby, as the Administrator of the Estate of Michael Eugene Reynolds, Deceased (the “Administrator”) filed a wrongful death action in a Virginia state court arising from a motor vehicle accident that killed her decedent. The defendants in the state court action are Bryant Jones, doing business as Jones Trucking (“Jones”), and Brandon Blevins. It is alleged that Blevins, the other driver, while acting within the scope of his employment by Jones, negligently caused the accident that killed Reynolds.

         Progressive Northern Insurance Company (“Progressive”) then filed the present declaratory judgment action, in which it alleges that the tractor and trailer being operated by Blevins were owned by Jones. It further alleges that Blevins and B K & K Trucking, Inc. (“B K & K”), of Tazewell, Virginia, were named insureds under a liability insurance policy issued by Progressive (the “Policy”).[1] It contends that the tractor and trailer owned by Jones and operated by Blevins were not covered under the Policy at the time of the accident. It thus concludes that Progressive's Policy affords no coverage for liability arising from the accident and seeks a declaration that Progressive had no duty to defend or indemnify Jones, Blevins, or B K & K. Compl. ¶ 22, ECF No. 1.

         In the present action, Progressive has named and served as defendants Jones, Blevins, B K & K, and the Administrator. Jones, Blevins, and B K & K did not respond to the suit and have been declared in default. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). The Administrator answered and has opposed Progressive's Motion for Summary Judgment, which is ripe for decision.[2]

         II.

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         Progressive has submitted a certified copy of the Policy and its Declarations, which the defendant Administrator does not dispute. Mem. Supp. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. E, ECF No. 32-5. The Policy specifically provides that it applies only to covered vehicles that are listed on the Declarations for the Policy. Id. at Policy 1. Neither the tractor nor the trailer which Blevins was operating at the time of the accident are so listed. Id. at Declarations 2.

         As regards liability coverage, the Policy provides that Progressive

will pay all sums an “insured” legally must pay as damages because of “bodily injury” or “property damage” to which this insurance applies, caused by an “accident” and resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered “auto”.
We have the right and duty to defend any “suit” for such damages, even if the “suit” if groundless, false or fraudulent. However, we have no duty to defend “suits” for “bodily injury” or “property ...

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