Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

American Family Mutual Insurance Co. v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 30, 2015

AMERICAN FAMILY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID WILLIAMS, ANTHONY VAN DE VENTER, JEANETTE VAN DE VENTER, Defendants

Page 835

          For AMERICAN FAMILY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff: Robert Scott O'Dell, O'DELL & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Carmel, IN.

         For DAVID WILLIAMS, Defendant: Christopher D. Wyant, BROWN TOMPKINS LORY & MASTRIAN, Indianapolis, IN.

         For ANTHONY VAN DE VENTER, JEANETTE VAN DE VENTER, Defendants: Christine L. Bartlett, Megan J. Schueler, FERGUSON & FERGUSON, Bloomington, IN.

Page 836

         ORDER ON PARTIES' CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         SARAH EVANS BARKER, United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before us on cross Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Anthony and Jeanette Van De Venter [Dkt. No. 50] and Plaintiff American Family Mutual Insurance Company [Dkt. No. 47]. The motions are fully briefed, including an opposition to American Family's motion filed by Defendant David Williams.[1] For the following reasons we GRANT Defendants Anthony and Jeanette Van De Venter's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENY Plaintiff American Mutual Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Background and Facts

         The Plaintiff in this case, American Family Mutual Insurance Company (" American Family" ) seeks a declaratory judgment that an insurance claim made by Anthony and Jeanette Van De Venter (the " Van De Venters" ) is outside the scope of their homeowner's insurance policy and American Family owes no duty to defend or duty to indemnify the defendants. On October 23, 2012, David Williams, a houseguest of the Van De Venters, was injured when he took the Van De Venters' Labrador, Emma, into the Van De Venters' backyard on a leash. The Van De Venters seek insurance coverage for Mr. Williams's injuries and demand that American Family

Page 837

provide them with a defense in a state court lawsuit against them filed by Mr. Williams.

         A. Mr. Williams Was Injured When Taking Emma Into the Backyard on a Leash.

         Mr. Williams and the Van De Venters have been friends for many years. [A. Van De Venter Dep. at 45, 48.] Mr. Williams lived in San Diego, California when the Van De Venters invited him to visit them at their home located at 6370 May Road, Bloomington, Indiana. Mr. Williams arrived at the Van De Venters home for a five-day visit on October 20, 2012. [Williams Dep. at 93.] At the time of Mr. Williams's visit, the Van De Venters owned a black Labrador, Emma. [J. Van De Venter at 14, 52.]

         The Van De Venters had to be away from home for their jobs on October 23, 2012 during Mr. Williams' visit. They offered Mr. Williams their vehicle in order to get into town and to the gym. [Williams Dep. at 119.] Mr. Williams declined the offer and chose to stay at the Van De Venters' home. [ Id. ] The Van De Venters told Mr. Williams that Emma would be fine staying inside while they were working, but that she might signal her need to go outside by ringing a bell by the front door. [J. Van De Venter Dep. at 39.] Typically during colder weather, Emma was left alone in the home, either enclosed in the laundry room or free to roam the home. [A. Van De Venter Dep. at 29.] According to Mr. Williams, Mr. Van De Venter asked him to take Emma outside the next morning because the Van De Venters would again be working. [Williams Dep. at 107-08.]

         The Van De Venters' yard is not enclosed with a fence. [Williams Resp. to Req. for Admis. at 18-19; Van De Venters' Resp. to Req. for Admis. at 18-19.] A dispute exists with respect to the Van De Venters' instructions to Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams claims that Mr. Van De Venter showed him the retractable leash and instructed him on how to attach it to Emma's collar. [Williams Dep. at 108-09, 111, 114; A. Van De Venter Dep. at 58-59.] The Van De Venters claim that Mr. Williams was instructed not to walk the dog and that if he wanted to let Emma outside, he was to attach her collar to the chain connected to a stake in the ground near the door to the garage. [A. Van De Venter Dep. at 54-55.][2] It is the Van De Venters' contention that on October 22, 2012, Mrs. Van De Venter attempted to instruct Mr. Williams on how to use the outdoor chain for Emma, but that Mr. Williams " would not listen and said he did not need instructions since he had handled dogs before." [Dkt. No. 48 at 8 (citing A. Van De Venter Dep. at 70-71; J. Van De Venter Dep. at 39-40).] Mr. Williams denies that he was instructed to put Emma on the chain outside and denies that he was told not to walk Emma. [Williams Dep. at 109.] It is undisputed that the Van De Venters did not ask Mr. Williams to provide food or water to Emma during his visit. [J. Van De Venter Aff. at ¶ 10; A. Van De Venter Aff. at ¶ 10.] The Van De Venters also did not ask Mr. Williams to care for Emma (aside from the conversation regarding letting Emma outside, which is in dispute), nor did they pay or offer to pay Mr. Williams to care for Emma. [ Id. ]

Page 838

          On October 23, 2012, Mrs. Van De Venter gave Emma food and water before leaving for work. [J. Van De Venter Dep. at 44.] Mr. Williams was at home by himself with Emma. [A. Van De Venter Dep. at 53.] Sometime in the morning, Mr. Williams, while lying in bed watching television, heard Emma scratching at the door. [Williams Dep. at 112-13.] Mr. Williams went downstairs, put the leash on Emma's collar and took Emma outside. [ Id. at 113.] This task was performed by him more than once. [ Id. at 115.]

         The second time that Mr. Williams took Emma outside, he took her away from the road towards the Van De Venters' garden. [Williams Dep. at 121-22; Williams Interrog. Resp. at 3.][3] While holding Emma's leash, Mr. Williams heard another dog bark. [Williams Dep. at 123, 125.] Emma pulled away from Mr. Williams causing him to fall on his right shoulder, which injury caused Mr. Williams intense pain (the " Incident" ). [ Id. at 125-27, 137.]

         As a result of the Incident, Mr. Williams filed a lawsuit against the Van De Venters in the Monroe County Circuit Court, cause number 53C06-1308-CT-1435 (the " Underlying Suit" ). In his complaint, Mr. Williams alleges the Van De Venters were negligent in failing to properly train, restrain and supervise Emma; for failing to warn him of Emma's dangerous propensities; for failing to instruct or warn him about the use of the retractable leash; for failing to provide an adequate leash for Emma; and for failing to exercise reasonable care for his safety while he was a guest at the Van De Venters' Home. Mr. Williams alleges that as a direct and proximate cause of the Van De Venters' negligence he suffered personal injuries, incurred medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. The Van De Venters seek to have their homeowners insurance policy cover any losses and the insurance company provide a defense to the suit filed by Mr. Williams.

         B. The Van De Venters' Insurance Policy with American Family.

         At the time of the Incident, the Van De Venters were insured by American Family pursuant to an Indiana Homeowners Policy for the residence at 6370 West May Road, Bloomington Indiana, policy number 13-BJ8536-01 (" the Policy" ). The Policy extends the following liability coverage to the Van De Venters:

COVERAGE D -- PERSONAL LIABILITY COVERAGE
We will pay, up to our limit, compensatory damages for which any insured is legally liable because of bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence covered by this policy.
Defense Provision.
If a suit is brought against any insured for damages because of bodily injury or property damage caused by an occurrence to which this policy applies, we will provide a defense at our expense by counsel of our choice. We will defend any suit or settle any claim for damages payable under this policy as we think proper.
OUR OBLIGATION TO DEFEND ANY CLAIM OR SUIT ENDS WHEN THE AMOUNT WE HAVE PAID FOR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE OCCURRENCE EQUALS OUR LIMIT.

         [Policy at Liability Coverages -- Section II, Coverage D -- Personal Liability Coverage, page 9 of 16 (emphasis in original).]

         The Policy defines " bodily injury" as " bodily harm, sickness or disease. It includes

Page 839

resulting loss of services, required care and death." [Policy at Definitions, paragraph 1, page 1 of 16.] " Occurrence" means " an accident, including exposure to conditions, which results during the policy period, in:" (a) bodily injury; or (b) property damage. [ Id. at Definitions, paragraph 9, page 2 of 16.] The Policy defines an insured as follows:

DEFINITIONS -- INSURED
a. Insured means you and, if residents of your household:
(1) your relatives; and
(2) any other person under the age of 21 in your care or in the care of your resident relatives.
b. Under Personal Liability and Medical Expense Coverages, insured also means:
(1) Any person or organization legally responsible for a watercraft or animal owned by any person included in paragraph a. to which Section II Coverages apply. This does not include a person or organization using or having custody[4] of the watercraft or animal in the course of business or without your specific permission.

[ Id. at Definition, page 1 of 16 (emphasis in original).] The Policy contains the following exclusions from liability coverage:

Coverage D -- Personal Liability and Coverage E -- Medical Expense do not apply to:
* * *
11. Intra-insured Suits. We will not cover bodily injury to any insured.
* * *
17. Violation of Law. We will not cover bodily injury or property damage arising out of:
a. violation of any criminal law for which any insured is convicted;
b. violation of any building or housing code for which any insured is convicted; or
c. violation of any criminal law for which any insured is not convicted due to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.