SOUTHERN-OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Appellee,
EASDON RHODES & ASSOCIATES LLC, et al., Defendants-Counter Claimants, LINNIE D. RHODES, Defendant, DAVID W. MOORE, DENISE MOORE, Defendants-Counter Claimants-Appellants.
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 3:12-cv-00601-RV-EMT
TJOFLAT and ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,
TJOFLAT, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
case arises from a dispute over the scope of the insurance
coverage provided by a standard form Hired Auto and Non-Owned
Auto Liability Endorsement to a corporate general liability
insurance policy (the "Endorsement") issued by
Southern-Owners Insurance Company
("Southern-Owners") to Easdon Rhodes &
Associates, LLC ("Easdon Rhodes"). Following an
auto accident involving one of its members, Joshua Rhodes,
Easdon Rhodes was named as one of several defendants in a
state court negligence action filed by David Moore, who
suffered serious injuries in the crash. Southern-Owners
agreed to defend the suit in state court but reserved its
rights to deny coverage under the terms of the Endorsement.
Subsequently, Southern-Owners filed an action in the United
States District Court for the Northern District of Florida
seeking a declaratory judgment absolving it of the duty to
indemnify or defend Easdon Rhodes, or the other defendants,
against Moore's negligence suit. After Southern-Owners
moved for summary judgment, the District Court held that the
vehicle driven by Joshua Rhodes did not qualify for coverage
under the terms of the Endorsement, and, even if the vehicle
had qualified, the existence of a separate insurance policy
also covering the accident triggered the Endorsement's
exclusion clause absolving Southern-Owners of its duties
under the policy. Easdon Rhodes appealed, arguing the vehicle
driven by Joshua Rhodes qualified for coverage and that the
Endorsement's exclusion clause was ambiguous and could
not provide Southern-Owners with a basis to deny coverage for
the accident under Florida law. With the benefit of oral
argument, and after a searching review of the parties'
briefs and the record, we affirm the District Court's
Rhodes and Mark Easdon formed Easdon Rhodes, a limited
liability company, to provide a variety of maintenance- and
construction-related services. Shortly after formation, the
company purchased a corporate general liability insurance
policy from Southern-Owners. Automobiles were specifically
excluded from coverage under the original policy, but Easdon
Rhodes purchased an Endorsement which expanded coverage to
include certain categories of automobiles. The text of the
Endorsement included an exclusion clause explaining coverage
was only provided under the provision if "you do not
have any other insurance available to you which affords the
same or similar coverage." The policy limit for bodily
injury and property damage claims covered by the Endorsement
was $1, 000, 000.00.
April 1, 2011, a Chevrolet Silverado driven by Joshua Rhodes
collided with a motorcycle driven by David Moore, causing
Moore serious injuries. At the time of the accident, the
Silverado was protected by a personal auto insurance policy
issued by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (the
"Nationwide policy"). In addition to the Silverado,
that policy also insured two other vehicles and provided,
among other things, coverage for bodily injury and property
damage. The Nationwide policy limit for bodily injury was
the collision, David Moore and his wife Denise Moore filed a
negligence suit against Joshua Rhodes in state court.
Approximately a year later, the action was amended to name
Easdon Rhodes as an additional defendant. In response to
Moore's filings, Nationwide tendered its policy limit of
$25, 000, and, under a reservation of rights, Southern-Owners
agreed to provide Easdon Rhodes with a defense.
Southern-Owners then filed this action in the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Florida seeking a
declaration that it has no obligation to defend or indemnify
Easdon Rhodes, or the other defendants, against Moore's
moved for summary judgment on April 1, 2014, arguing the
Nationwide policy provided coverage similar to that available
under the Endorsement and consequently relieved
Southern-Owners of any duty to defend or indemnify Easdon
Rhodes under the plain terms of the insurance contract.
Southern-Owners also argued the Silverado driven by Joshua
Rhodes was not covered by the Endorsement in the first
instance because it did not meet the policy's definition
of a hired or non-owned auto. The District Court agreed with
Southern-Owners' interpretation of the Endorsement and,
on October 30, 2014, granted summary judgment in
Southern-Owners' favor, absolving the insurer of any duty
to defend or indemnify Easdon Rhodes against Moore's
underlying negligence suit.
review "a district court's grant of summary judgment
de novo applying the same legal standards used by the
district court." Galvez v. Bruce, 552 F.3d
1238, 1241 (11th Cir. 2008). "Summary judgment is
appropriate where 'there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment
as a matter of law.'" Wooden v. Bd. of Regents
of the Univ. Sys. of Ga., 247 F.3d 1262, 1271 (11th Cir.
2001) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). We also review de
novo a district court's interpretation of contract
language. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co. v. Fortune Constr.
Co., 320 F.3d 1260, 1267 (11th Cir. 2003).
diversity action, we must apply "the substantive law of
the forum state." Tech. Coating Applicators, Inc. v.
U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 157 F.3d 843, 844 (11th Cir.
1998). Here, we look to Florida law to determine whether
Southern-Owners owed a duty to indemnify or defend its
insured against Moore's suit in state court. In Florida,
the terms used in an insurance contract are given their
ordinary meaning, and the policy must be construed as a whole
"to give every provision its full meaning and operative
effect." Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Anderson, 756
So.2d 29, 34 (Fla. 2000). The Florida Supreme Court has
emphasized the necessity of interpreting the "terms of
an insurance policy . . . in their ordinary sense [to
provide] a reasonable, practical and sensible interpretation
consistent with the intent of the parties." Siegle
v. Progressive Consumers Ins. Co., 819 So.2d 732, 736
(Fla. 2002) (quoting Gen. Accident Fire & Life
Assurance Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 260 So.2d 249,
253 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. ...