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Hanover Insurance Co. v. National General Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

August 15, 2016

HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counterclaim-Defendant,
v.
NATIONAL GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant/Counterclaim-Plaintiff.

          Plaintiff-Gerard Fournier, Esq.

          Defendants-Paul Douglas, Esq.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lance E.Walker, Justice

          Presently before the court is Defendant National General Insurance Company's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not in dispute. This action for declaratory judgment arises out of a motor vehicle accident occurred on September 18, 2013. (Def. Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 1; PI. Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 1.) Richard and Karen Jarry (the "Jarrys") were the owners of 2005 Jeep that was insured under a personal automobile insurance policy issued by Defendant. (Id. ¶ 3.) The Jarrys' adult son, Anthony Jarry, was an insured driver under the policy. (PI. Add'l S.M.F. ¶ 17; Def. Reply S.M.F. ¶ 17.) At the time of the accident, Anthony Jarry was not permitted to drive the Jarrys' vehicle because his driver's license had been suspended. (Def. Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 12; PI. Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 12.)

         On September 18, 2013, Karen Jarry gave Kayla Bausha, a person she knew possessed valid driver's license, permission to drive the Jarrys' vehicle to take Anthony Jarry to a medical appointment. (Id. ¶ 13.) Bausha and Anthony Jarry were accompanied by Vaugh Hanson on the drive to the medical appointment. (Id. ¶ 21.) En route to the medical appointment, Bausha drove the Jarrys' vehicle, with Anthony Jarry and Hanson as passengers, to the home of a friend of Hanson. (PL Add'l S.M.F. ¶ 25; Def. Reply S.M.F. ¶ 25.) After dropping Anthony Jarry off at his medical appointment, Bausha drove the Jarrys' vehicle, with Hanson as a passenger, to home of another friend. (Def. Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 24; PI. Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 24.) When Bausha and Hanson returned to pick up Anthony Jarry from his medical appointment, Bausha asked Hanson to drive the Jarrys' vehicle. (Id. ¶ 26.) Bausha claimed that she was tired. (Id.) Hanson told Bausha he did not have a valid driver's license. (Id. ¶ 28.) Hanson drove the Jarrys' vehicle, with Anthony Jarry and Bausha as passengers, to a pawnshop and then to the home of a friend of Bausha. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) Hanson then drove the Jarrys' vehicle, with Anthony Jarry and Bausha as passengers, to Water Street in Saco, Maine. (Id. ¶ 34.) While parked at Water Street, a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agent and a Saco police officer approached the vehicle. (PI. Add'l S.M.F. ¶ 30; Def. Reply S.M.F. ¶ 30.) Hanson drove away in the Jarrys' vehicle, with Anthony Jarry as a passenger, in an effort to flee from the law enforcement officers. (Def. Supp. S.M.F. ¶ 37; PI. Opp. S.M.F. ¶ 37.)

         During the flight from law enforcement in the Jarrys' vehicle, Hanson struck another vehicle owned by Harry and Sally Wellsman (the "Wellsmans") and operated by Harry Wellsman, resulting in personal injuries and property damage. (Id. ¶¶ 1-2, 5.) The Wellsmans' vehicle was insured under a personal automobile insurance policy issued by Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 1.)

         Following an investigation, Defendant determined that it would neither defend nor indemnify Hanson under the Jarrys' policy for any damages arising out of the September 18, 2013 accident. (Id. ¶ 4.) As a result of Defendant's denial of coverage under the Jarrys' policy, Plaintiff paid $172, 500.00 to the Wellsmans for their injuries pursuant to the uninsured motorist coverage of their policy. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff also paid the Wellsmans $19, 751.95 for damages to their vehicle under the property damage coverage of their policy. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 5951 et seq., on September 28, 2015. Plaintiff seeks a judicial declaration that Defendant breached its duty to indemnify its insured when it denied Hanson coverage under the Jarrys' policy and that Plaintiff is entitled to subrogate against, and be indemnified by, Defendant for the amounts Plaintiff paid to the Wellsmans. (Compl. ¶¶ a-b.) Defendant filed an answer and counterclaim for declaratory judgment on October 2, 2015. Defendant asserts, inter alia, that Hanson was excluded from coverage under the Jarrys' policy because Hanson lacked an objectively reasonable belief that he was entitled to use the Jarrys' vehicle. (Ans. Affirm. Defense ¶ 1.)

         Defendant moved for summary judgment on March 28, 2016. Defendant asserts there is no genuine issue of material fact that Hanson lacked an objectively reasonable belief that he was entitled to use the Jarrys' vehicle. (Def Mot. Summ. J. 7.) Following an extension of time, Plaintiff filed its opposition on May 13, 2016. Defendant filed a reply on May 27, 2016. Oral argument was held on June 24, 2016.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate if, based on the parties' statements of material fact and the cited record, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c); Dyer v. Dep'tof Transp., 2008 ME 106, ¶ 14, 951 A.2d 821. "A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case. A genuine issue of material fact exists when the fact finder must choose between competing versions of the truth." Dyer, 2008 ME 106, ¶ 14, 951 A.2d 821 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.

         If the moving parly's motion for summary judgment is properly supported, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to respond with specific facts indicating a genuine issue for trial in order to avoid summary judgment. M.R. Civ. P. 56(e). When a defendant moves for summary judgment, the plaintiff must respond with evidence establishing a prima facie case. Watt v. UniFirst Corp.,2009 ME 47, ¶ 21, 969 A.2d 897. The evidence proffered by the plaintiff "need not be persuasive at that stage, but the evidence must be sufficient to allow a factfinder to make a factual determination without speculating." Estate of Smith v. Cumberland Cnty.,2013 ME 13, ΒΆ ...


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