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Peace v. Rock

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

October 4, 2018

TAMARA JEAN PEACE, as Administrator of the Estate of Donald Ray Peace, Plaintiff,
v.
KEITH ROCK, et al., Defendants. COLUMBIA INSURANCE COMPANY,, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCK TRANSPORTATION, LLC, et al.,, Defendants. PROGRESSIVE NORTHERN INSURANCE COMPANY,, Plaintiff,
v.
TAMARA JEAN PEACE, et al.,, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff Columbia Insurance Company's (“Columbia”) Motion for Default Declaratory Judgment Against Certain Defendants. (Doc. 24). Columbia's complaint named Rock Transportation LLC; Rock Trans. LLC, d/b/a Rock Transportation LLC (“Rock Trans.”); Rock Trans, LLC, d/b/a Rock Transportation LLC (“Rock Trans”); Keith Rock; RDW Transport, LLC; Berkley Scrap Metal; William R. Moorer, III d/b/a Berkley Scrap Metal and/or Berkeley Scrap Metal; and Tamara Jean Peace; and it sought a declaratory judgment that it owed no party any duty to defend or indemnify under its commercial insurance policy with Rock Transportation LLC.[1] (Doc. 1 at 2, 7- 12).

         The Clerk entered default against all of the defendants except Ms. Peace. (Doc. 23). Columbia then moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 for a default judgment against those defendants who had defaulted. (Doc. 24). Because Columbia's well-pleaded allegations and the evidence support its claim for declaratory judgment, the court WILL GRANT the motion for default judgment and WILL ENTER DEFAULT DECLARATORY JUDGMENT in favor of Columbia and against Rock Transportation, Rock Trans., Rock Trans, Mr. Rock, RDW Transport, Berkley Scrap Metal, and Mr. Moorer.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A defaulting defendant “admits the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact” for purposes of liability. Buchanan v. Bowman, 820 F.2d 359, 361 (11th Cir. 1987) (quotation marks omitted)). Accordingly, the court takes as true the well-pleaded allegations of Columbia's complaint.

         A. The Insurance Policy

         Columbia issued a commercial auto insurance policy with a cross-reference number of 71 APS 070989 to Defendant Rock Transportation. (Doc. 24-1 at 9). The policy provided coverage for a 1988 Peterbilt tractor from February 24, 2017 to February 24, 2018. (Id.).

         The policy provides that Columbia “will pay all sums an ‘insured' legally must pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage' to which this insurance applies, caused by an ‘accident' and resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered ‘auto.'” (Id. at 13). The policy further provides that Columbia has “the right and duty to defend any ‘insured' against a ‘suit' asking for such damages.” (Id.). But the policy also includes exclusions. One endorsement titled “Truckers - Insurance for Non-Trucking Use” provides, among other exclusions:

This insurance does not apply while the power unit (tractor) is used for the towing or transporting of any trailer or semi-trailer, or while in the process of having a trailer or semi-trailer attached to or detached from it, unless such trailer or semi-trailer is owned by you and specifically described in the policy at time of loss.

(Doc. 24-1 at 38) (emphases in original). The only vehicle identified in the policy is the 1988 Peterbilt tractor. (Id. at 9).

         B. The State Court Lawsuit

         In November 2017, Ms. Peace filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Alabama, against, among others, Mr. Rock, RDW Transport, Rock Trans, and Berkeley Scrap Metal. (Doc. 24-2 at 2). She alleged that on May 23, 2017, while traveling in St. Clair County, Alabama, Donald Ray Peace and Mr. Rock were involved in a car accident that resulted in Mr. Peace's death. (Id. at 7-8). At the time of the accident, Mr. Rock was driving the 1988 Peterbuilt tractor covered under Columbia's insurance policy. (Id. at 8-9, 13; see also Doc. 24-1 at 9). He was towing a trailer. (Doc. 24-2 at 8-9, 13). Ms. Peace asserted various state law torts against Mr. Rock, RDW, Rock Trans, and Berkeley Scrap Metal. (Id. at 11- 17).

         C. The Federal Lawsuit

         In reaction to Ms. Peace's state court lawsuit, Columbia Insurance Company filed this federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that it has no obligation to defend or indemnify any party under its policy with Rock Transportation LLC. (Doc. 1). It timely served RDW Transport, Berkley Scrap Metal, Mr. Moorer, Mr. Rock, Rock Trans., Rock Trans, and Rock Transportation. (Docs. 7, 15, 17, 18). After those defendants failed to plead or otherwise defend the action, Columbia moved for entry of default against them, which the Clerk granted. (Docs. 22, 23). Columbia then ...


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