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Lowe v. Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

November 7, 2019

DANNY LOWE et al., Plaintiffs
v.
METROPOLITAN PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE CO., Defendant

          Plaintiffs - Patrick Hunt, Esq.

          Defendant- Christine Kennedy- Jensen, Esq.

          ORDER

          Thomas D. Warren Justice

         Before the court are cross-motions based on a joint stipulation of Facts.[1]

         Although the parties have denominated their motions as motions for summary judgment based on stipulated Facts, there is a difference between snmmary judgment and decisions based on stipulated facts. The difference is that the court is permitted to draw inferences from a stipulated record. See Blue Sky West LLC v. Maine Revenue Services, 2019 ME 137, ¶ 16 n.10, 215 A.3d K12. In this case, however., Lite difference does not matter because the case turns on the interpretation of an insurance contract, which is "an issue of law. and no inferences need. be drawn.

         The stipulated Facts may be .summarized as follows:

         Plaintiffs Danny Lowe and Kelly Wentworth were injured in a collision with a 2015 Hyundai driven by Alphee Lambert in June 2017. At the time of the collision Lambert was acting in the course and scope of his employment with Coastline Security Management, which was the named insured on a commercial auto policy issued by Progressive Northern Insurance Co with u $500, 000 liability coverage limit. The 2015 Hyundai was listed as an insured vehicle on the Progressive policy.

         The 2015 Hyundai was owned by Alphee Lambert and his wife Kathleen. Alphee and Kathleen were listed as named insureds on an auto policy issued by defendant Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co., but the 2015 Hyundai was not listed as an insured vehicle on the Metropolitan policy. The issue in this case is whether, in driving the 2015 Hyundai, Alphee Lambert was covered by the Metropolitan policy as well as by the commercial policy issued to Coastline Security Management. Lowe and Wentworth sued Lambert and Coastline Security Management and obtained an agreed judgment for $750, 000 - $500, 000 of which was covered by the commercial policy issued to Coastline Security Management. The understanding of the parties is that Lowe and Wentworth would attempt to collect the remaining $250, 000 through a reach and apply action against Metropolitan.

         Discussion

         "To resolve a reach and apply action, [the court must] first identify the basis of liability and damages from the underlying complaint and judgment. Langevin v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2013 . ME 55, ¶ 8. The court then reviews the insurance policy in order "to determine if any of the damages awarded in the underlying judgment are based on claims that would be recoverable pursuant to the . . . policy." Jacobi v. MMG Ins. Co., 2011 ME 56, ¶ 14, 17 A.3d 1229. "[T]he party seeking to recover pursuant to the reach an apply statute, . . has the burden to demonstrate that [his] awarded damages fall within the scope of the insurance contract," Id.

         "The meaning of language contained in an insurance contract is a question of law." Patrons Oxford Ins. Co. v. Harris, 2006 ME 72, ¶ 7, 905 A.2d 819. Any ambiguity in an insurance policy must be construed strictly against the insurer. Vt. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ben-Ami, 2018 ME 125, ¶ 13, 193 A.3d 178. Similarly, any policy exclusion is also construed "strictly against the insurer and liberally in favor of the insured." Acadia Ins. Co. v. Vt. Mut. Ins. Co., 2004 ME 121, ¶ 5, 860 A.2d 390 (quotation omitted).

         In this case, the relevant policy language is that "[Metropolitan] will pay damages for bodily injury and property damage to others for which the law holds an Insured responsible because of an accident which results from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered automobile [or] a non-owned automobile . . . ."[2] The 2015 Hyundai was not a covered automobile, and the question in this case is whether it qualifies as a "non-owned automobile."

         "Non-owned automobile" is defined in the policy in pertinent part as follows:

An automobile which is not owned by, furnished to, or made available for regular use to you or any resident ...

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