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Laplante v. Peerless Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 19, 2017




         The Plaintiff seeks to recover uninsured motorist benefits under her parents' motor vehicle policy with the Defendant for injuries she sustained in a motorcycle accident. Under the terms of that policy, uninsured motorist benefits are available to the Plaintiff's parents as named insureds and their family members who are residents of their household. As a matter of law, the Court concludes that, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, she was not a resident of her parents' household at the time of the accident, and therefore, the Court grants the Defendant's motion for summary judgment.


         On August 26, 2015, Kristen L. LaPlante filed a complaint against Peerless Insurance Company (Peerless). Compl. (ECF No. 1). The Complaint contains two counts: Count I seeks a declaratory judgment that Ms. LaPlante was covered under her parents' motor vehicle insurance policy, and Count II alleges that Peerless breached that insurance policy by refusing to pay Ms. LaPlante following the accident. Compl. at 2-3. Peerless answered the Complaint on October 7, 2015. Answer (ECF No. 5).

         On July 20, 2016, the United States Magistrate Judge held a telephone conference in which he ordered the parties to complete discovery only as to the coverage issue by October 14, 2016. Report of Telephone Conf. and Order at 1 (ECF No. 39). On October 25, 2016, following the completion of discovery on the coverage issue, the Magistrate Judge held another telephone conference and determined that “judicial economy militates in favor of resolving the coverage issue before the parties engage in further discovery regarding Plaintiff's liability and damage claims.” Report of Telephone Conference and Order at 1 (ECF No. 42). The Magistrate Judge noted that Peerless intended to file a motion for summary judgment on the issue of coverage and concluded that no Local Rule 56(h) conference was needed “[g]iven the relative narrow issue and the limited summary judgment record that will be necessary . . . .” Id. at 1.

         On December 15, 2016, Peerless filed a motion for summary judgment and a statement of undisputed material facts. Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 43) (Def.'s Mot.); Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (ECF No. 44) (DSMF). On February 6, 2017, Ms. LaPlante filed an opposition to Peerless' motion for summary judgment and a responsive statement of material facts. Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 48) (Pl.'s Opp'n); Pl.'s Opposing Statement of Material Facts Pursuant to D. Me. Loc. R. 56(c) (ECF No. 49) (PRDSMF). Ms. LaPlante did not file a statement of additional material facts. On March 6, 2017, Peerless filed a reply and a reply statement of undisputed material facts.[1] Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 52) (Def.'s Reply); Def's Reply Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (ECF No. 53).


         A. Accident and Insurance Policy

         Ms. LaPlante was injured in a motor vehicle accident (Accident) on January 28, 2010, in Orlando, Florida, when she was the passenger on a motorcycle owned and negligently operated by an uninsured driver. DSMF ¶ 1; PRDSMF ¶ 1.

         At the time of the Accident, Ms. LaPlante's parents, Michael and Robin LaPlante of Waterville, Maine, were the only named insureds on a personal motor vehicle insurance policy (Policy) issued by Peerless. DSMF ¶ 2; PRDSMF ¶ 2. In relevant part, the Policy provided uninsured motorists coverage to the named insureds and to “any ‘family member'.” DSMF ¶ 3; PRDSMF ¶ 3. The Policy defines “family member” as “a person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of your household. This includes a ward or foster child.”[3] DSMF ¶ 4; PRDSMF ¶ 4.

         B. Where Ms. LaPlante Lived and When[4]

         1. 2000 - October 2002

         After graduating high school in 2000, Ms. LaPlante moved from Waterville, Maine, to southern Maine, where she attended college in Gorham until partway through her sophomore year, living variously in dorms or with her sister until the spring of 2002.[5] DSMF ¶ 6; PRDSMF ¶ 6. Upon leaving college in the spring of 2002, Ms. LaPlante lived with friends in a house in Portland, Maine. Id.

         2. October 2002 - September 2003

         In October 2002, Ms. LaPlante moved back to Waterville and lived with her father in an apartment while her mother was working in North Carolina.[6] DSMF ¶ 8; PRDSMF ¶ 8. Also in October 2002, Ms. LaPlante began working at an Old Navy store in Augusta, Maine. PRDSMF ¶ 5. Her employment with Old Navy continued until September 2003.[7] Id.. At some point during the period from October 2002 to September 2003, Ms. LaPlante transferred from the Old Navy in Augusta to an Old Navy in Portland. Id.. Upon her transfer, Ms. LaPlante moved to Scarborough, Maine.[8] Id. Ms. LaPlante does not know precisely when the transfer occurred, but she believes that she lived for a longer period with her father in Waterville than she did in Scarborough. Id.

         Also during this time period, Ms. LaPlante stayed with her mother in North Carolina for “a couple of months, ” but Ms. LaPlante cannot recall the exact dates.[9]DSMF ¶ 8; PRDSMF ¶ 8.

         3. September 2003 - Fall 2004

         Ms. LaPlante left Scarborough and continued living independently in various locations in Maine until the fall of 2004.[10] DSMF ¶ 7; PRDSMF ¶ 7. Postal records indicate that she moved from Scarborough to Bangor in September 2003, from Bangor to Orrington in November 2003, and from Orrington to Milford in August 2004. Id.

         When Ms. LaPlante lived in Bangor, she was involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving her parents' car.[11] DSMF ¶ 9; PRDSMF ¶ 9. Following that accident and through January 28, 2010, Ms. LaPlante's parents did not permit her to drive their cars.[12] DSMF ¶ 9; PRDSMF ¶ 9. Ms. LaPlante has no specific recollection of driving her parents' vehicles between the time of the accident in 2003 and the Accident at issue in this case.[13] DSMF ¶ 10; PRDSMF ¶ 10.

         While still living in Bangor, Ms. LaPlante bought a Chevrolet and purchased her own insurance policy for the car, which she maintained until she moved to Florida in the fall of 2004.[14] DSMF ¶ 11; PRDSMF ¶ 11.

         4. Fall 2004 - May 2006

         Ms. LaPlante moved to Florida for the first time in the fall of 2004, and in November 2004, she registered a change of address with the United States Postal Service from Milford, Maine, to Daytona Beach, Florida. DSMF ¶ 12; PRDSMF ¶ 12. She changed her address again in February 2004 from Daytona Beach to Orlando, Florida. DSMF ¶ 12; PRDSMF ¶ 12. Ms. LaPlante lived and worked in Florida for about a year and a half between 2004 and 2006, during which time she did not visit 15. The date of the 911 call incident is obscure, but Ms. LaPlante acknowledged that it is possible it took place before the accident in Bangor in September or October 2003. Id. 131:16-132:8. Putting this together, the Court concludes that Ms. LaPlante's parents did not want her to drive their vehicles from September-October 2003 through January 28, 2010. The Court amends Peerless' statement of material fact paragraph nine accordingly. her parents nor did they visit her, and Ms. LaPlante had little contact with her parents by phone or email. DSMF ¶ 13; PRDSMF ¶ 13. While Ms. LaPlante was in Florida, her parents moved several times within Maine, and she was not always aware of their current address, nor were they aware of hers at all times. DSMF ¶ 14; PRDSMF ¶ 14.

         5. May 2006 - April 2007

         Ms. LaPlante returned to Maine in May 2006. DSMF ¶ 15; PRDSMF ¶ 15. Her father drove her from the airport directly to her sister's home in Portland, where she lived for a few months until moving in with friends in Biddeford, Maine.[15] DSMF ¶ 16; PRDSMF ¶ 16. While staying at her sister's home, her father visited frequently, but her mother did not. PRDSMF ¶ 16. She also visited her parents' home at some point when her sister moved back in with her parents. Id. Ms. LaPlante listed the Biddeford address on her 2006 tax return. DSMF ¶ 17; PRDSMF ¶ 17.

         6. April 2007 - February 2009

         In April 2007, Ms. LaPlante moved from Biddeford to California, and her address on her 2007 tax return was in Avalon, California. DSMF ¶ 18; PRDSMF ¶ 18. Ms. LaPlante had secured a three-month seasonal job prior to moving to California. DSMF ¶ 19; PRDSMF ¶ 19. Once there, she found subsequent employment and remained in California at various locations for almost two years. Id. During the time she lived in California, Ms. LaPlante did not leave the state, nor did her parents visit her there. DSMF ¶ 20; PRDSMF ¶ 20. While in California, Ms. LaPlante contacted her parents by telephone.[16] DSMF ¶ 21; PRDSMF ¶ 21.

         7. February 2009 - May 2009

         Ms. LaPlante moved back to Maine in February 2009, intending to live with her parents.[17] DSMF ¶ 22; PRDSMF ¶ 22. Ms. LaPlante brought with her a cat that she acquired in California. Id. Her father picked up Ms. LaPlante and her cat at the airport and took them to her parents' home in Oakland, Maine; this was the first time Ms. LaPlante had visited her parents' home in Oakland since they purchased it in 2007.[18] DSMF ¶ 22; PRDSMF ¶ 22.

         Ms. LaPlante stayed with her parents for a few months after returning to Maine, but her parents expected her to “[g]et a job and get a life.”[19] DSMF ¶ 23; PRDSMF ¶ 23. Ms. LaPlante's mother, troubled by her perception that Ms. LaPlante was an alcoholic, made it clear that Ms. LaPlante's stay at her parents' home would be temporary.[20] DSMF ¶ 24.

         8. May 2009 - October 2009

         In May 2009, Ms. LaPlante found employment in Bar Harbor, Maine, and moved to an apartment there with her cat. DSMF ¶ 25; PRDSMF ¶ 25. Her father took Ms. LaPlante shopping and bought her pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery to set up her apartment in Bar Harbor.[21] DSMF ¶ 26; PRDSMF ¶ 26.

         On April 15, 2009, while living in Bar Harbor, Ms. LaPlante visited the emergency room at Mount Desert Island Hospital. DSMF ¶ 27; PRDSMF ¶ 27. The emergency room report associated with that visit states, “This is a 26-year-old resident of Bar Harbor . . . .”[22] Id.

         9. October 2009 - January 2010

         In October 2009, Ms. LaPlante moved from Bar Harbor back to Florida, taking her cat with her. DSMF ¶ 28; PRDSMF ¶ 28. Explaining her move from Bar Harbor to Florida, Ms. LaPlante testified that a friend “said she wanted to go down to Florida and I was like I don't want to be here in the winter, maybe I'll go too and we ended up just winging it and going.” PRDSMF ¶ 35. Her parents understood Ms. LaPlante's move to Florida to be permanent. DSMF ¶ 29; PRDSMF ¶ 29. She drove to Florida with her friend and after arriving, stayed with that friend for a couple of days.[23]PRDSMF ¶ 28. However, after a couple of days of living with her friend, she called one of her former roommates who lived in Davenport, Florida, and moved in with him instead.[24] PRDSMF ¶ 28. In November 2009, Ms. LaPlante registered an address change with the United States Postal Service from Bar Harbor, Maine, to her roommate's address in Davenport, Florida. DSMF ¶ 28; PRDSMF ¶ 28.

         In November 2009, Ms. LaPlante obtained employment at a restaurant in Orlando.[25] DSMF ¶ 28; PRDSMF 28. At some point prior to the end of 2009, she moved into an apartment in Kissimmee, Florida, with five female co-workers in order to be closer to work.[26] DSMF ¶ 30; PRDSMF ¶ 28. She notified her parents of the move and reported the Kissimmee address as her home address on her 2009 tax return.[27] DSMF ¶ 30; PRDSMF ¶ 30.

         On January 27, 2010, the day before the Accident, Ms. LaPlante moved from Kissimmee to Orlando and registered her Orlando address with the United States Postal Service. DSMF ¶¶ 31, 33; PRDSMF ¶¶ 31, 33. She moved to Orlando to get away from the group with whom she was living in Kissimmee and to have a quieter living environment.[28] PRDSMF ¶ 32. Her parents were not aware of Ms. LaPlante's move to Orlando.[29] DSMF ¶ 33; PRDSMF ¶ 33.

         Between Ms. LaPlante's move to Florida in October 2009 and the Accident in January 2010, she did not return to Maine. DSMF ¶ 34; PRDSMF ¶ 34. According to Ms. LaPlante, before the Accident, she was going to try to stay in Florida to live and work there.[30] DSMF ¶ 35; PRDSMF ¶ 35.

         10. January 2010 - June 2010

         The Accident occurred on January 28, 2010, while Ms. LaPlante was travelling as the passenger on a motorcycle. DSMF ¶¶ 36-37; PRDSMF ¶¶ 36-37. Ms. LaPlante and the driver of the motorcycle had been dating since around Christmas of the previous year. DSMF ¶ 36; PRDSMF ¶ 36.

         Following the accident, Ms. LaPlante moved to Madeira Beach, Florida, in March 2010.[31] DSMF ¶ 37; PRDSMF ¶ 37. In Madeira Beach, Ms. LaPlante signed a one-year lease on her own apartment, paid a security deposit, and purchased some essentials for the apartment, including a bed and bedding, one or two pots and pans, dishes, and silverware.[32] DSMF ¶ 38; PRDSMF ¶38.

         After the Accident, Ms. LaPlante had no contact with her parents until March 2010, and she did not inform her parents of the Accident until June 2010. DSMF ¶ 39; PRDSMF ¶ 39. Plaintiff continued living in Florida after the Accident until approximately June 2010, when she relocated to Maine.[33] DSMF ¶ 40; PRDSMF ¶ 40.

         11. Summary

         Between her high school graduation and the Accident, Ms. LaPlante says that she did not live with either or both of her parents for an extended period other than the 2002-2003 stay with her father; as recorded by her medical provider in 2012, “She moved out of her mother's house at the age of 18.”[34], [35] DSMF ¶ 42; PRDSMF ¶ 42. Since she ended the stay with her father in approximately 2003, Ms. LaPlante has never ...

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