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Peerless Insurance Co. v. K.F.H.

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 14, 2015

PEERLESS INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff
v.
K.F.H. and GREGORY VROOMAN, Defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

GEORGE Z. SINGAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Peerless Insurance Company (“Plaintiff” or “Peerless”). For the reasons explained herein, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 30).

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Generally, a party is entitled to summary judgment if, on the record before the Court, it appears “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). An issue is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248. A “material fact” is one that has “the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” Nereida-Gonzalez v. Tirado-Delgado, 990 F.2d 701, 703 (1st Cir. 1993) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248) (additional citation omitted).

The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In determining whether this burden is met, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences in its favor. Santoni v. Potter, 369 F.3d 594, 598 (1st Cir. 2004).

Once the moving party has made this preliminary showing, the nonmoving party must “produce specific facts, in suitable evidentiary form, to establish the presence of a trialworthy issue.” Triangle Trading Co. v. Robroy Indus., Inc., 200 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1999) (citation and internal punctuation omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). “Mere allegations, or conjecture unsupported in the record, are insufficient.” Barros-Villahermosa v. United States, 642 F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Rivera-Marcano v. Normeat Royal Dane Quality A/S, 998 F.2d 34, 37 (1st Cir. 1993)); see also Wilson v. Moulison N. Corp., 639 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2011) (“A properly supported summary judgment motion cannot be defeated by conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, periphrastic circumlocutions, or rank speculation.” (citations omitted)). “As to any essential factual element of its claim on which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof at trial, its failure to come forward with sufficient evidence to generate a trialworthy issue warrants summary judgment to the moving party.” In re Spigel, 260 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 2001) (quoting In re Ralar Distribs., Inc., 4 F.3d 62, 67 (1st Cir. 1993)).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

A. The Insurance Policy

Peerless issued to Gregory Vrooman (“Vrooman”) two consecutive insurance policies that included homeowners insurance. (Stipulation of the Parties (ECF No. 28) (“SOP”), ¶ 2.) The first policy was effective from November 18, 2008 until November 18, 2009, and the second policy was effective from November 18, 2009 to November 18, 2010 (the two policies, together, the “Policy”).[2]

Under the Policy’s “Personal Liability” section, Peerless is obligated to provide defense and indemnification (to specified limits) “[i]f a claim is made or a suit is brought against an ‘insured’ for damages because of ‘bodily injury’ . . . caused by an ‘occurrence’ to which this coverage applies . . . .” (SOP Ex. 2, PageID # 83.) Vrooman, the “named insured” under the Policy, is an “insured.” (Id. at PageID # 70, 72.) “Bodily injury” is defined in relevant part as “bodily harm, sickness or disease . . . .” (Id. at PageID # 96.) “Occurrence” is defined as “an offense or accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions, which results, during the policy period in: (a) ‘Bodily injury’ . . . .” (Id. at PageID # 96.)

The Policy contains certain exclusions applicable to the Personal Liability coverage. Such exclusions include claims for damages because of “‘bodily injury’ . . . [w]hich is expected or intended by one or more ‘insureds.’” (Id. at PageID # 83, 91.) Also excluded are claims for damages because of “‘bodily injury’ . . . [a]rising out of sexual molestation, corporal punishment or physical or mental abuse.” (Id. at PageID # 83, 85.)

B. Vrooman and K.F.H.

According to the amended complaint filed by the next friend of K.F.H., a minor (“K.F.H.”) against Vrooman (SOP Ex. 1) (the “K.F.H. Complaint”), K.F.H.’s mother was previously involved in a romantic relationship with Vrooman. (Id. at PageID # 64.) K.F.H. and her mother lived at Vrooman’s residence during 2009 and 2010. (Id. at PageID # 65.) Over the course of this time, Vrooman made sexual contact with K.F.H. on a number of occasions, causing K.F.H. to suffer emotional distress and, ultimately, to incur medical expenses. (Id.)

According to the K.F.H. Complaint, in addition to his physical acts of abuse, Vrooman made a number of verbal communications to K.F.H. that caused her to experience emotional distress. Vrooman told K.F.H. that “he wanted to play with her” and that their interactions, including the sexual contact, should remain a secret. (Id. at PageID # 66.) His statements allegedly caused K.F.H. to believe that if she told anyone about Vrooman’s behavior towards her, K.F.H. and her family members would no longer be able to live at Vrooman’s home and would be financially ...


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