United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
JOSEPH LEE CUNNINGHAM, deceased, and CARRIE D. CUNNINGHAM, as administrator of the estates of JOSEPH LEE CUNNINGHAM, Plaintiffs,
USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sargent Joseph Lee Cunningham died on August 7, 2014 when his
car was struck by an uninsured driver. As executrix of her
husband's estate, Carrie Cunningham brings this action
against defendant USAA Casualty Insurance Company, the
company that provided uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to the
couple under their auto insurance policy. Ms. Cunningham
contends that because she and her late husband purchased
coverage for multiple vehicles under the same USAA policy,
Alabama's uninsured motorist coverage statute permits her
to stack the coverage limits for each insured vehicle. On
this basis, Ms. Cunningham seeks a total of $300, 000 from
USAA, $200, 000 more than the company has paid on her claim.
USAA contends that the Cunningham's policy does not allow
internal stacking and that Alabama's law allowing
internal stacking does not apply to this case. USAA asks the
Court to enter judgment in its favor on these grounds. For
the reasons explained below, the Court grants USAA's
motion and enters judgment in USAA's favor.
member of the armed forces, Mr. Cunningham was stationed in
various locations during his career. (Doc. 21-1, pp. 153-54).
Mr. Cunningham purchased the USAA auto insurance policy at
issue in 2011 while he was stationed at Fort Benning in
Georgia, where he and his family had lived for several years.
(Doc. 21-1, pp. 154-55, 182, 198). In November 2011, Mr.
Cunningham was transferred to a duty station in Kansas. (Doc.
21-1, pp. 182, 189). The first address Mr. Cunningham listed
on the auto policy was in Junction City, Kansas. (Doc. 21-1,
Cunningham's family joined him in Ogden, Kansas in June
2012. The Cunninghams then bought a home in Trussville,
Alabama, and in August of 2013, Ms. Cunningham and the
couple's four daughters moved to the Trussville home.
(Doc. 21-1, pp. 154, 170, 177). Mr. Cunningham remained in
Kansas. (Doc. 21- 1, p. 168). Mr. Cunningham moved to
Manhattan, Kansas after his family's departure. (Doc.
21-1, pp. 177-78). According to Ms. Cunningham, Mr.
Cunningham visited the Trussville home on six occasions and
stayed for multiple days each time while he was stationed in
Kansas. (Doc. 21-1, pp. 168-69).
Cunningham completed his assignment in Kansas in June of
2014. (Doc. 21-1, p. 70). He spent the month of July with his
family in Trussville before moving in August to his new duty
station in Georgia. (Doc. 21-1, pp. 169-70). Mr. Cunningham
was driving in Tattnall County, Georgia at the time of his
death. (Doc. 25, p. 25).
time of Mr. Cunningham's death, his auto insurance policy
covered three vehicles: a Honda minivan, a Chevrolet pickup
truck, and a Lexus sedan, the vehicle involved in Mr.
Cunningham's fatal crash. (Doc. 21-1, p. 6). Before the
accident, USAA mailed the final policy renewal notice to Mr.
Cunningham's address in Manhattan, Kansas. (Doc. 21-1,
pp. 6, 54-55). The policy was designated as a “Kansas
Auto Policy.” (Doc. 21-1, p. 6). The policy stated that
each insured vehicle was garaged in Manhattan, Kansas, though
Ms. Cunningham testifies that the garage location for the
minivan was later changed to Alabama. (Doc. 21-1, pp. 6,
leaving Kansas, Mr. Cunningham updated his USAA policy
information once with a new address in Glennville, Georgia
near his new duty station at Fort Stewart. (Doc. 21-1, pp.
104, 120). When USAA processed the UM claim arising from the
fatal accident, the company was aware of Mr. Cunningham's
Georgia address and of the USAA homeowner's policy on the
family's Trussville home. (Doc. 21-1, pp. 94, 99). When
USAA reviewed the UM claim on Mr. Cunningham's policy,
the company concluded that Mr. Cunningham's Lexus was
primarily garaged in Georgia and that internal stacking did
not apply to the claim. (Doc. 21-1, pp. 77, 98).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary
judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must
cite “to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). When considering a summary judgment
motion, the Court must view the evidence in the record and
draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply,
Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). “The
court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
Cunningham's USAA auto insurance policy does not permit
internal stacking of coverage limits. (Doc. 21-1, p. 22). Ms.
Cunningham contends that Alabama's Uninsured Motorist
Coverage Statute modifies the policy to permit internal
stacking. The Court disagrees.
Alabama's Uninsured Motorist Coverage Statute
dispute over a claim for insurance coverage is governed by
the common law of contracts. Strength v. Ala. Dept. of
Fin., Div. of Risk Mgmt., 622 So.2d 1283, 1289 (Ala.
1993). A federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction over
a state law contract claim applies the choice of law
principles of the state in which it sits. Michel v. NYP
Holdings, Inc., 816 F.3d 686, 694 (11th Cir. 2016).
Although Alabama courts generally apply the substantive law
of the state where the parties made their contract, the
general rule is displaced “when the case involves a