Argued: June 15, 2017
J. Greif, Esq. (orally), Gilbert & Greif, P.A., Bangor,
for appellant Richardie Kelley
S. Whitman, Esq. (orally), Richardson, Whitman, Large &
Badger, Portland, for appellee North East Insurance Company
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Richardie Kelley appeals from the entry of a summary judgment
in the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Anderson,
/.) in favor of North East Insurance Company on the reach and
apply action she brought pursuant to 24-A M.R.S. § 2904
(2016). The court concluded that the damages awarded to
Kelley in the underlying action, see 7 M.R.S. §
3961(2) (2016), were based on a claim that was not covered by
the North East automobile insurance policy. We agree and
affirm the judgment.
The following facts are undisputed. Teresa Snyder held an
automobile insurance policy from North East pursuant to which
she was the "named insured" and her 1999 Ford
Mustang was the "covered auto." Snyder and Tim
McCann were the unmarried co-owners of a dog. On February 21,
2009, McCann drove one of his employer's cars to
Frankfort to meet Kelley, who had purchased an old pickup
truck from McCann's son. McCann brought the dog with him
in the car. During the transfer of the pickup truck,
someoneopened the door to the car containing the
dog, and the dog, without leaving the car, bit Kelley in the
face. Snyder was not present during this incident and was not
a driver, passenger, or owner of the car that the dog was in
when it bit Kelley. Kelley filed a lawsuit against Snyder and
McCann, for which North East declined to defend or indemnify
Snyder. See 7 M.R.S. § 3961(2). The parties to
that suit stipulated to a judgment of $100, 000.
On December 4, 2015, Kelley filed a complaint against North
East pursuant to 24-A M.R.S. § 2904, seeking to satisfy
her judgment against Snyder through Snyder's auto
insurance policy. After discovery, the parties filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. On November 16, 2016, the
court granted North East's motion for the entry of a
summary judgment and denied Kelley's. The court concluded
that, pursuant to the definition in the policy, Snyder was
not an "insured" for the purposes of Kelley's
suit and that Kelley's bodily injury did not arise from
an "auto accident" as required by the policy.
Kelley timely appealed.
We review de novo both a court's grant of summary
judgment and its interpretation of an insurance policy.
Cox v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co., 2013 ME 8,
¶ 8, 59 A.3d 1280. Where, as here, the material facts
are not in dispute, we limit our review to whether the
prevailing party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Langevin v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2013 ME 55, ¶ 7,
66 A.3d 585; see M.R. Civ. P. 56.
The review of a judgment in a reach and apply action requires
us to first "identify the basis of liability and damages
from the underlying complaint and judgment" and then to
"review the . . . insurance policy to determine if any
of the damages awarded in the underlying judgment are based
on claims that would be recoverable pursuant to the . . .
policy." Langevin, 2013 ME 55, ¶ 8, 66
A.3d 585 (quotation marks omitted); see 24-A M.R.S.
§ 2904. If the language of an insurance policy is
unambiguous, we interpret it in accordance with its plain
meaning, but we "construe ambiguous policy language
strictly against the insurance company and liberally in favor
of the policyholder." Langevin, 2013 ME 55, ¶
9, 66 A.3d 585 (quotation marks omitted). Further, we view
the language of the policy "from the perspective of an
average person untrained in either the law or the insurance
field in light of what a more than casual reading of the
policy would reveal to an ordinarily intelligent
insured." Union Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Commercial
Union Ins. Co., 521 A.2d 308, 310 (Me. 1987) (quotation
Kelley bears the burden of showing that the damages she was
awarded in the underlying action are based on a claim that
falls within the scope of Snyder's policy with North
East. See Langevin, 2013 ME 55, ¶ 8, 66 A.3d
585. The policy obligated North East to indemnify Snyder for
"'bodily injury' ... for which any
'insured' becomes legally responsible because of an
auto accident." The policy did not define the term
"auto accident." Kelley urges us to conclude that
the term is broad enough to include a dog bite that occurred
in or near a car because, she contends, the bite arose out of
the use of a vehicle. Interpreting "auto accident"
in accordance with its "plain and commonly accepted
meaning, " Cookson v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins.
Co., 2012 ME 7, ¶ 8, 34 A.3d 1156 (quotation marks
omitted), we conclude otherwise.
"Accident, " which is also undefined in the policy,
is commonly understood to mean "[a]n event that is
without apparent cause or unexpected; an unfortunate event,
[especially] one causing injury or damage." 1 Shorter
Oxford English Dictionary 14 (6th ed. 2007); see Patrick
v. J. B. Ham Co.,119 Me. 510, 517, 111 A. 912 (1921)
("[A]n accident is a befalling; an event that takes
place without one's forethought or expectation; an
undesigned, sudden, and unexpected event. Its synonyms
include mishap, mischance, misfortune[, ] disaster, calamity,
catastrophe."). We therefore interpret "auto
accident"-an unambiguous term-to mean an unintended and
unforeseen injurious occurrence involving an automobile.
"[V]iewed from the perspective of an average person,
" Union Mut. Fire Ins. Co.,52lA.2dat 310, the
plain meaning of "auto accident"-although broader
than a collision or car crash- ...