United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
NATIONWIDE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counter-defendant;
JEFFREY L. CHISM, Defendant/Counterclaimant.
MICHAEL PUTNAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action was brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, which
provides that a federal court “may declare the rights
and other legal relations” of the parties. This
declaratory judgment action was filed by plaintiff Nationwide
Property and Casualty Insurance Company
(“Nationwide”), seeking a declaration that the
insurer owes no uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
(“UM/UIM”) to defendant Jeffrey L. Chism. This
matter is before the court on the court's sua
sponte motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 22). The court
notified the parties that it appeared that an express
exclusion in the policy at issue demonstrated that, as a
matter of law, no UIM coverage was provided to Chism. (Doc.
22, p. 12). The parties have fully briefed the issue. The
defendant filed a brief in opposition to the court's
notice regarding summary adjudication (Doc. 27), supported by
exhibits. Plaintiff filed a reply, and evidence in support of
the reply. (Docs. 30, 31). Defendant filed a supplemental
response (Doc. 37), and the plaintiff filed a sur-reply (Doc.
38), to which the defendant filed a response. (Doc. 39). The
parties have consented to the exercise of final dispositive
jurisdiction by the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper ''if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.'' Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
The party asking for summary judgment ''always bears
the initial responsibility of informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.'' Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)). The movant can meet this burden by presenting
evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by
showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present
evidence in support of some element of its case on which it
bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-23. There is no requirement, however,
''that the moving party support its motion with
affidavits or other similar materials negating the
opponent's claim.'' Id. at 323.
the moving party has met his burden, Rule 56(e)
''requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the
pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the
'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions
of file, ' designate 'specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.'''
Id. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The
nonmoving party need not present evidence in a form necessary
for admission at trial; however, he may not merely rest on
his pleadings. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
''[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the
entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery
and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.'' Id. at 322.
the plaintiff has properly responded to a proper motion for
summary judgment, the court must grant the motion if there is
no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
The substantive law will identify which facts are material
and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine
''if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.''
Id. at 248. ''[T]he judge's function is
not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of
the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue
for trial.'' Id. at 249. His guide is the
same standard necessary to direct a verdict:
''whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is
so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.'' Id. at 251-52; see also Bill
Johnson's Restaurants, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 461 U.S.
731, 745 n.11 (1983). However, the nonmoving party
''must do more than show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.''
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). If the evidence is
merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249
(citations omitted); accord Spence v. Zimmerman, 873
F.2d 256 (11th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, the court must
''view the evidence presented through the prism of
the substantive evidentiary burden, '' so there must
be sufficient evidence on which the jury could reasonably
find for the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254;
Cottle v. Storer Communication, Inc., 849 F.2d 570,
575 (11th Cir. 1988). Nevertheless, credibility
determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of
inferences from the facts are the function of the jury, and
therefore the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The non-movant need not
be given the benefit of every inference but only of every
reasonable inference. Brown v. City of Clewiston,
848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n.12 (11th Cir. 1988).
the evidence provided by both parties in the light most
favorable to the defendant, Chism,  the following facts are
relevant for purposes of the motion for summary judgment.
filed this action seeking declaratory relief, requesting that
the court declare the parties' rights and liabilities
pursuant to a policy of automobile insurance, Policy No. 77
01 C 408074, that was issued to Omiku Chism, the
defendant's mother. The policy covered three vehicles: a
2005 Chevrolet Silverado, a 2004 Mercedes Benz S1500, and a
2009 Nissan Maxima, and included $25, 000/$50, 000 in
coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists. The policy
covered a period from April 30, 2015, until October 30, 2015.
October 13, 2015, during the coverage period, the defendant
was involved in an automobile accident while driving a 2003
GMC Sierra 3500 owned by his father, Jeffrey C. Chism. The
2003 GM Sierra was insured by Progressive Insurance Company,
which is not a party to this action. The GM Sierra was not
covered by the Nationwide policy owned by Omiku Chism. (Doc.
27, p. 3). As a result of the accident, the defendant was
injured and incurred medical expenses of more than $100, 000.
The driver of the car that struck the defendant was insured
by Alfa Insurance Company, which paid its policy limits of
$25, 000 to the defendant on December 16, 2015. It is
undisputed that, absent some exclusion, the Nationwide
contract would include coverage for the defendant as a
resident relative of the named insured.
declarations pages of the policy expressly excluded Jeffrey
L. Chism “from all coverages and all vehicles on the
policy.” (Doc. 1-1). On page 2 of 4 of the declarations
pages, the following appears:
The following driver(s) are excluded from all
coverages and all vehicles on the policy:
Jeffrey L. Chism
Doc. 1, p. 15 of 54 (bolding as in original). All but the
words, “Jeffery L. Chism, ” appear to be a