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Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 22, 2015

LETICIA MORALES, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Santana Morales, Jr., deceased, as parent and natural guardian of SM and RM, minors, as legal guardian for Santana Morales, III and Marciela Morales, individually, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ZENITH INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 8:10-cv-00733-JSM-TGW.

AFFIRMED.

For LETICIA MORALES, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Santana Morales, Jr., deceased, as parent and natural guardian of SM and RM, minors, as legal guardian for Santana Morales, III and Marciela Morales, individually, Plaintiff - Appellant: Tracy Raffles Gunn, Gunn Appellate Practice, PA, Tampa, FL; Lee Delton Gunn IV, Gunn Law Group, PA, Tampa, FL.

For Zenith Insurance Company, Defendant - Appellee: Richard Scott Maselli, Timon V. Sullivan, Ogden & Sullivan, PA, Tampa, FL; Julissa Rodriguez, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Miami, FL; I. William Spivey II, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Orlando, FL.

Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, HULL and FAY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1286

HULL, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises from a breach of contract claim filed by plaintiff-appellant Leticia Morales, on behalf of herself, the Estate of Santana Morales, Jr., and two minor children under her guardianship, along with Marciela Morales (collectively, " the Estate" ) against defendant-appellee Zenith Insurance Company (" Zenith" ).

Santana Morales, Jr. was crushed to death by a palm tree while working as a landscaper for Lawns Nursery and Irrigation Designs, Inc. (" Lawns" ). At the time of Morales's death, his employer Lawns maintained a " Workers Compensation and Employers Liability Insurance Policy" with Zenith. The policy contained two types of coverage: (1) workers compensation insurance under Part I and (2) employer liability insurance under Part II. After Morales's death, Zenith began paying workers' compensation benefits to the Estate in accordance with its obligation under Part I of the policy.

Under Part II, Zenith was obligated: (1) to " pay all sums [Lawns] legally must pay as damages because of bodily injury to [its] employees, provided the bodily injury is covered by this Employers Liability Insurance" ; and (2) to defend lawsuits for such damages. In relevant part, Part II contained an exclusion barring employer liability insurance coverage for " any obligation imposed by a workers compensation . . . law" (the " workers' compensation exclusion" ).

On December 3, 1999, the Estate filed a wrongful death action against Lawns in Florida circuit court, alleging that Lawns's negligence caused Morales's death. The state court entered a default judgment in the Estate's favor on the issue of Lawns's liability to the Estate, and held a jury trial

Page 1287

as to damages. On March 14, 2005, the jury awarded the Estate $9.525 million in damages against Lawns.

While the Estate's wrongful death lawsuit was still ongoing, Zenith continued to pay workers' compensation benefits on Lawns's behalf until August 2003, when Zenith made a final lump sum payment of $20,000 in full settlement of the Estate's workers' compensation claim against Lawns. The parties ...


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