BRISTOL WEST INS. CO., Plaintiff,
FARM FAMILY CASUALTY INS. CO., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
William R. Anderson Justice
West Insurance Company ("Plaintiff) filed a Complaint
for Declaratory Judgment against Farm Family Casualty
Insurance Company ("Defendant") seeking a
declaration that the insurance policy at issue does not
provide coverage for Defendant's separate reach-and-apply
claim against Plaintiff. (PISSC-CV-2016-004.) That case was
stayed pending the outcome of this case. Plaintiff has now
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on its Complaint for
Declaratory Judgment. Defendant opposed the Motion on the
basis that the insurance policy at issue is ambiguous and
there are genuine disputes of material fact present. The
Motion is in order for decision.
issued a Maine Personal Auto Policy (Policy No. G00 5211134
00), which had an effective policy period of February 24,
2012, through August 24, 2012, to Todd Rand. (Pl.'s
Supp.'g S.M.F. ¶ 1.) Deborah Northrup, a friend of
Mr. Rand, gave Mr. Rand permission to use her detached garage
on or about February 29, 2012, at 104 Parkman Road in
Wellington, Maine, in order to perform repairs to his
vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 5-7.) Mr. Rand was not
renting the garage from Ms. Northrup. (Id. ¶
7.) While he was using the garage to perform the vehicle
repairs, a fire started in the garage and destroyed the
garage and its contents. (Id. ¶ 8.)
who is Ms. Northrup's insurance company, paid her for the
loss of her garage and its contents. (Id. ¶ 9.)
Defendant then filed a reach-and-apply action against
Plaintiff pursuant to 24-A M.R.S. § 2904 seeking to
recover in the amount of $39, 034.59. (Id. ¶
10.) Part A of Plaintiffs policy for Mr. Rand pertains to
liability coverage and, under the heading of "EXCLUSIONS
THAT APPLY TO PART A - LIABILITY COVERAGE," the second
paragraph contains an exclusion "[f]or damage to
property owned by, used by, rented to, being transported by,
or in the care custody or control of an insured
person." (Id. ¶ 3.) That
exclusion is not applicable to "damage to a rented
residence or rented private garage." (Id.
filed the present declaratory judgment action pursuant to 14
M.R.S. §§ 5951-5963 seeking a judicial declaration
that it is not required to indemnify and/or reimburse
Defendant for any amount Defendant paid to Ms. Northrup based
on the exclusion listed in the preceding paragraph.
(Pl.'s Compl. 3-4.)
judgment is granted to a moving party where "there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact" and the moving
party "is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A material fact is one that can
affect the outcome of the case, and there is a genuine issue
when there is sufficient evidence for a fact-finder to choose
between competing versions of the fact." Lougee
Conservancy v. City Mortgage, Inc., 2012 ME 103, ¶
11, 48 A.3d 774 (quotation omitted). Courts must
"consider only the portions of the record referred to
and the material facts set forth in the Rule 56(h)
statements" and view those facts in the light most
favorable to the non- moving party. Johnson v.
McNeil, 2002 ME 99, ¶ 8, 800 A.2d 702. A genuine
issue exists where the jury would be required to "choose
between competing versions of the truth." MP Assocs.
v. Liberty, 2001 ME 22, ¶ 12, 771 A.2d 1040.
However, "[s]ummary judgment is no longer an extreme
remedy." Curtis v. Porter, 2001 ME 158, ¶
7, 784 A.2d 18.
moved for summary judgment arguing that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact that the insurance policy in
question excludes coverage for the loss and does not provide
coverage for Defendant's reach-and-apply claim against
Plaintiff. The Court agrees and grants Plaintiffs requested
judgment on its Complaint for Declaratory Judgment. While
Defendant argues that there are genuine issues of material
fact with respect to purported ambiguities within the subject
policy, the Court disagrees because it finds the policy to be
unambiguous and plainly excludes coverage for this loss.
whether or not contract language is ambiguous is a question
of law for the Court. Apgar v. Commercial Union Ins.
Co., 683 A.2d 497, 498 (Me. 1996). "Contract
language is ambiguous when it is reasonably susceptible of
different interpretations." Portland Valve, Inc. v.
Rockwood Sys. Corp., 460 A.2d 1383, 1387 (Me. 1983).
Just because parties have differing views on what a contract
means does not make the contract ambiguous. Champagne v.
Victory Homes, Inc., 2006 ME 58, ¶ 10, 897 A.2d
803. "If a document is unambiguous, then its
interpretation is also a question of law and must be
determined from the plain meaning of the language used and
from the four corners of the instrument without resort to
extrinsic evidence." Eastwick v. Cate St. Capital,
Inc., 2017 ME 206, ¶ 17, 171 A.3d 1152 (internal
quotation marks omitted). When the Court interprets
a contract of insurance, it must consider the entire
document and it must "give force and effect to all of
its provisions and not in a way that renders any of its
provisions meaningless." Am. Prot. Ins. Co. v.
Acadia Ins. Co., 2003 ME 6, ¶ 12, 814 A.2d 989
(internal quotation marks omitted).
the exclusion at issue is not reasonably susceptible to
different interpretations. In fact, while Defendant argues
that term "rented" within the exclusion at issue is
ambiguous, the parties actually agree on the interpretation
of the exclusion. Fundamentally, they disagree whether there
is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the
exclusion-and the internal exception to the exclusion-applies
in this instance. That exclusion explains that Plaintiff does
not provide liability coverage under the policy "[f]or
damage to property owned by, used by, rented to, being
transported by, or in the care, custody or control of an
insured person. This exclusion does not
apply to damage to a rented residence or rented private
garage." (Pl.'s Ex. A-l to Supp.'g S.M.F., at
argues that this provision is reasonably susceptible to
different interpretations because the term "rented"
is not defined in the policy and can have different meanings.
This argument appears to be premised on an assumption that
Ms. Northrup's statement in her affidavit that Mr. Rand
"was not renting the garage from" her means only
that Mr. Rand did not pay monetary consideration for use of
the garage. Defendant then proceeds to assert that
"rented" could apply to use of property in exchange
for services provided. However, Plaintiff did not cabin its
proposition as to the meaning of the term "rented"
in the policy solely to use of property in exchange for
monetary consideration. Instead, both Plaintiff and Defendant
agree that "rented" can mean monetary compensation
or other forms of consideration. (See, e.g.,
Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. 2; Pl.'s
Rep. to Mot. Summ. J. 2-3.) In any event, "rented"
is not reasonably susceptible to different interpretations
because it is commonly understood to encompass consideration
in general. See, e.g., rent, Black's Law
Dictionary 1410 (9th ed. 2009).
Defendant really disputes is whether Mr. Rand
"rented" the garage from Ms. Northrup, which would
then bring into play the exception to the exclusion in the
policy. However, it is clear that there is no genuine dispute
of material fact that Ms. Northrup was not renting the garage
to Mr. Rand because she provided an affidavit stating as much
in support of Plaintiff s Statement of Material Facts.
(Pl.'s Supp.'g S.M.F. ¶ 7; Pl.'s Ex. B to
Supp.'g S.M.F., at ¶ 3.) Defendant has not pointed
to any evidence in the record to qualify Ms. Northrup's
statement, i.e., that Mr. Rand did use the garage in
exchange for some type of consideration; instead, Defendant
qualifies the statement of material fact by disputing what
Ms. Northrup meant when she stated that Mr. Rand "was
not renting the garage from" her. See generally Dyer
v. DOT,2008 ME 106, ¶ 15, 951 A.2d 821
("Failure to properly respond to a statement of material
facts permits a court to deem admitted any statements not
properly denied or ...