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Rabon v. Rabon

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 14, 2015

JONATHON RABON, individually, and EVERETTE A. PRICE, JR., as Guardian and Conservator for JONATHON RABON, Plaintiffs,
v.
LEE RABON and PROGRESSIVE SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM E. CASSADY, Magistrate Judge.

This is a declaratory judgment action arising out of a motor vehicle accident in which two brothers-Plaintiff, Jonathan Rabon, and Defendant, Lee Rabon-were traveling in a truck driven by Lee Rabon when it was hit by a train.[1] In a separate state court action, Jonathan Rabon brought suit for his injuries against Lee Rabon and the train company. (Doc. 1-1, ¶ 10.) Progressive Specialty Insurance Company ("Progressive") denied liability coverage for Lee Rabon, and the state court ultimately entered a default judgment against Lee Rabon in the amount of $500, 000.00. ( Id., ¶¶ 13-14.) Jonathan Rabon subsequently filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that, pursuant to the insurance policy entered into between Progressive and Cindy Rabon, the mother of Jonathan and Lee Rabon, Progressive was obligated to defend Lee Rabon in the underlying suit and is obligated to indemnify Lee Rabon by paying Jonathan Rabon the $500, 000.00 default judgment entered against his brother. ( Id., ¶¶ 16-19.)[2]

After completing discovery, Progressive filed a motion for summary judgment (doc. 32), which has been fully briefed by the parties (docs. 37 and 39). The undersigned has considered the record, the parties' pleadings, and the arguments presented in the briefs, and for the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned has determined that Progressive's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.[3]

RELEVANT UNDISPUTED FACTS

In November and December 2007, and the months prior, Cindy Rabon, her husband, Darroll Rabon, and her adult sons, Lee and Jonathan Rabon, all resided together at 112 Forest Avenue, in Castleberry, Alabama. (Doc. 32-10 at 15-18; 32-11 at 3-5.) Lee and Jonathan Rabon did not have any other residence at that time. (Doc. 32-10 at 15-18; 32-11 at 3-5.)

On November 12, 2007, Cindy Rabon applied for an automobile insurance policy with Progressive for insurance covering her Ford F-150. (Doc. 32-2.) The insurance application included a "Drivers and household residents" section where the applicant needed to identify "all household residents 15 years of age or older, all regular operators of the [Ford F-150], and all children who live away from home who drive [the Ford F-150], even occasionally." (Doc. 32-2 at 1 (emphasis in original).) Ms. Rabon only identified herself and her husband in that section of the application. (Id. ) She did not identify Lee and Jonathan Rabon, even though they were residents of her household and were over the age of 15. (Id.; doc. 32-6 at 13-14.) Later in the application, Ms. Rabon initialed a sentence confirming that "all household residents 15 years of age or older... [have] been disclosed in the Drivers and household residents' section[.]" (Doc. 32-2 at 3.) Finally, Ms. Rabon signed the application, which included a verification that "the statements contained [in the application] are true to the best of [her] knowledge and belief." (Id. at 3-4.)

On November 13, 2007, Progressive issued an insurance policy covering the Ford F-150 from November 12, 2007, to May 12, 2007. (Doc. 32-7 at 1.) Cindy Rabon and her husband, Darroll Rabon, are the only individuals listed on the policy. (Id. ) The policy included liability coverage, including coverage for bodily injury to others with limits of $25, 000 per injured person and $50, 000 per accident. (Id. ) The policy further provides in pertinent part that liability coverage, "including [Progressive's] duty to defend, will not apply to any insured person for:... bodily injury to you or a relative." (Id. at 5-6 (emphasis in original).) An "insured person" is defined in the policy as "you or a relative with respect to an accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of an auto or trailer." (Id. at 5 (emphasis in original).) "You" is defined in the policy as "a person shown as a named insured on the declarations page; and... the spouse of a named insured if residing in the same household." (Id. (emphasis in original).) A "relative" is defined in the policy as "a person primarily residing in the same household as you, and related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, and includes a ward, stepchild, or foster child." (Id. (emphasis in original).)

On December 8, 2007, Jonathan Rabon was riding as a passenger in the Ford F-150 when his brother, Lee Rabon, drove said vehicle across railroad tracks and in front of an oncoming train. (Doc. 32-1 at 1-2.) The train collided into the passenger side of the truck causing injuries to Jonathan Rabon. (Id. ) Progressive denied liability coverage for the incident, (doc. 32-9), Jonathan Rabon sued Lee Rabon and the train company to recover for his injuries, (doc. 32-3), and a default judgment was entered against Lee Rabon in the amount of $500, 000, (doc. 32-4).

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ("The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment."); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th Cir. 2009) ("[S]ummary judgment is appropriate even if some alleged factual dispute' between the parties remains, so long as there is no genuine issue of material fact.'").

The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of establishing, based upon the discovery instruments outlined in Rule 56(c), that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); see also Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007) ("The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial."). Once this initial demonstration is made, the "responsibility then devolves upon the non-movant[s] to show the existence of a genuine issue... [of] material fact." Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993); see also Allen, 495 F.3d at 1314 ("When a moving party has discharged its burden, the non-moving party must then "go beyond the pleadings, " and by its own affidavits, or by "depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, " designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'"); see Comer v. City of Palm Bay, 265 F.3d 1186, 1192 (11th Cir. 2001) ("Once the moving party discharges its initial burden of showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the non-moving party must specify facts proving the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial confirmed by affidavits, "depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file."'").

Forbidding reliance upon pleadings precludes a party from "choos[ing] to wait until trial to develop claims or defenses relevant to the summary judgment motion." This effectuates the purpose of summary judgment which "is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Thus, "mere general allegations which do not reveal detailed and precise facts" will not prevent the award of summary judgment upon a court's determination that no genuine issue for trial exists.

Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 592 (11th Cir. 1995) (internal citations omitted), cert. denied sub nom. Jones v. Resolution Trust Corp., 516 U.S. 817, 116 S.Ct. 74, 133 L.Ed.2d 33 (1995); see also LaChance v. Duffy's Draft House, Inc., 146 F.3d 832, 835 (11th Cir. 1998) ("[The nonmoving party] must raise significant probative evidence' that would be sufficient for a jury to find for that party."). In other words, there is no genuine issue for trial "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party[.]" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); see Comer, 265 F.3d at 1192 ("Summary judgment is required where the non-moving party's response to a motion is merely a repetition of his conclusional allegations' and is unsupported by evidence showing an issue for trial.").

In considering whether Progressive is entitled to summary judgment in this case, the Court has viewed the facts in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs. Comer, 265 F.3d at 1192 ("We view the evidence and all factual inferences raised by it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and ...


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