United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
AUTO-OWNERS INS. CO., Plaintiff,
BRIAN AND CHERISE MORRIS, Defendants,
THE PARNELL INS. AGENCY, INC., Third-Party Defendant.
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
declaratory-judgment action involves the interpretation of
policy provisions related to uninsured motorist coverage. It
comes before the court on Plaintiff Auto-Owners Insurance
Company's “Motion for Summary Judgment” (doc.
44) and Third-Party Defendant The Parnell Insurance
Agency's “Motion for Summary Judgment” (doc.
43). The court will GRANT both motions.
2013, Brian Morris and his business, “B&C
Industries, ” obtained automobile insurance with
Auto-Owners through Parnell Insurance Agency. The original
named insured on that Policy was “B&C Industries,
” the trade name of a sole proprietorship run by Mr.
Morris. In March 2014, Parnell Insurance changed the named
insured on the Policy from B&C Industries to “BC
Industries LLC, ” a limited liability company
incorporated by Brian Morris's wife, Cherise Morris.
2014, the Morrises, while riding a motorcycle owned by Ms.
Morris, suffered injuries in a wreck. Because the at-fault
motorist had insufficient coverage to pay the Morrises'
bills and because the Morrises did not have their own
uninsured motorist coverage on the motorcycle, the Morrises
claimed uninsured motorist benefits from Auto-Owners based on
the Policy's uninsured motorist coverage.
asks for a declaratory judgment that the Policy does not
provide the Morrises uninsured motorist coverage for damage
or injuries relating to the motorcycle accident. Auto-Owners
asserts that the Morrises are not entitled to uninsured
motorist coverage under the Policy because the first named
insured on the Policy was BC Industries LLC, a limited
liability company, and, in this case, the uninsured motorist
coverage provision only covers the Morrises if the first
named insured is an “individual.” The Morrises
have filed counterclaims, asserting breach of the Policy and
contract reformation. The Morrises want the court to reform
the Policy to the original named insured, B&C Industries,
a sole proprietorship. To that end, the Morrises claim that
both they and Auto-Owners understood and intended the Policy
to insure B&C Industries, a sole proprietorship; the
Morrises say that Parnell Insurance unilaterally changed the
named insured to BC Industries LLC without their consent.
Alternatively, the Morrises claim uninsured motorist coverage
under the Policy's “Comprehensive Automobile
Liability” endorsement, which, they say, expands the
scope of the Policy's coverage.
the Morrises bring a claim against Parnell Insurance as a
third-party defendant, alleging that Parnell Insurance acted
negligently or wantonly when it told Auto-Owners to change
the named insured on the Policy from B&C Industries to BC
moves for summary judgment on all of its claims and all of
the Morrises' counterclaims against it. Parnell Insurance
moves for summary judgment on the Morrises' sole claim
against it. For the reasons discussed below, the court will
GRANT both motions. The court will ENTER judgment in
Auto-Owners's favor. The court finds that Auto-Owners
does not owe the Morrises uninsured motorist coverage under
the Policy for the May 6, 2014, motorcycle accident.
judgment is an integral part of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Summary judgment allows a trial court to decide
cases when no genuine issues of material fact are present and
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. When a district court
reviews a motion for summary judgment, it must determine two
things: (1) whether any genuine issues of material fact
exist; and if not, (2) whether the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
moving party “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). The moving
party can meet this burden by offering evidence showing no
dispute of material fact or by showing that the non-moving
party's evidence fails to prove an essential element of
its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof.
Id. at 322-23.
the moving party meets its burden of showing the district
court that no genuine issues of material fact exist, the
burden then shifts to the non-moving party “to
demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact
that precludes summary judgment.” Clark v. Coats
& Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991).
In reviewing the evidence submitted, the court must
“view the evidence presented through the prism of the
substantive evidentiary burden, ” to determine whether
the nonmoving party presented sufficient evidence on which a
jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254
(1986); Cottle v. Storer Commc'n, Inc., 849 F.2d
570, 575 (11th Cir. 1988). Furthermore, all evidence and
inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Graham
v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 193 F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th
and Brian Morris are entrepreneurs. Brian Morris is the sole
proprietor of a business that he calls “B&C
Industries.” Cherise Morris filed articles of
organization for a limited liability corporation in Alabama
called “BC Industries LLC” in October 2013.
According to the Morrises, their businesses are separate and
conduct different operations. BC Industries LLC employed both
2013, Brian Morris obtained insurance for his business,
B&C Industries, through an agent, third-party defendant
Parnell Insurance. Although he ran B&C Industries as a
sole proprietor, the Morrises do not dispute that Brian
Morris represented to Parnell Insurance that B&C
Industries was a partnership. In response to Parnell
Insurance's subsequent inquiry, Auto-Owners provided two
“New Business Proposals, ” dated May 23 and 24,
2013, to provide automobile insurance coverage to B&C
Industries. Auto-Owners noted in both proposals that it
understood B&C Industries to be a partnership.
Industries accepted Auto-Owners's proposal for auto
insurance. The named insured on the Policy was B&C
Industries. The Policy itself does not indicate whether
B&C Industries was a partnership or sole proprietorship.
March 2014, Parnell Insurance sent an e-mail to Auto-Owners
requesting an update for the Policy's mailing address.
The parties dispute whether the Morrises requested any
updates to the Policy. Auto-Owners changed the Policy's
mailing address to the address of BC Industries LLC, the
limited liability company incorporated by Cherise Morris.
days later, Parnell Insurance sent another e-mail to
Auto-Owners requesting that the insurer change the named
insured on the Policy to “BC Industries LLC.”
Parnell Insurance claimed that “[t]here has been no
ownership change just the name.” (Doc. 44-6 at 144).
Auto-Owners confirmed the name change to Parnell Insurance,
but the parties dispute whether Parnell Insurance or
Auto-Owners successfully or sufficiently notified the
Morrises about the change in the named insured on the Policy.
6, 2014, Brian and Cherise Morris were injured in an accident
when the motorcycle they were driving collided with another
vehicle. At the time of the accident, the motorcycle was
owned by Cherise Morris and being used in the business of BC
Industries LLC. The Morrises accrued damages exceeding the
at-fault driver's own insurance coverage, and the
Morrises did not have uninsured motorist coverage for Ms.
Morris's motorcycle under any policy of their own. The
Morrises thus claimed uninsured motorist benefits under the
Policy with Auto-Owners. Auto-Owners denies that it owes the
Morrises such coverage.
to the issues in this case, the Policy contains two
provisions each of which the Morrises say independently
covers the May 6, 2014, accident: the Policy's standard
uninsured motorist coverage and the ...