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Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Co. v. Richardson

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

May 16, 2019




         This is a declaratory judgment action filed by Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company, seeking a declaration that it does not owe any indemnity or duty to defend to defendant Matthew Richardson in separate lawsuit filed in Indiana state court. That separate lawsuit is a wrongful death action, brought against Richardson by the Estate of Joshua C. Smith. Before me are two motions, defendant Richardson's Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Stay the Proceedings [DE 50], and plaintiff Allstate's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 62.] For the reasons outlined below, I will deny Richardson's motion to dismiss/stay and grant Allstate's motion for summary judgment on its declaratory judgment claims.


          This case began with a road rage incident which occurred on December 18, 2015. After the incident-and the exact timeline of events and reasons for them remain unclear-Richardson drove home and Joshua C. Smith, the other motorist, drove to the same address. From there things got tragic. There was an altercation between Smith and Richardson, and at some point, Richardson came outside of his home with a loaded firearm. A bullet was fired from Richardson's gun which struck Smith in his femoral artery. Smith later died from his injuries.

         Richardson was charged with multiple crimes. He proceeded to trial, and Richardson was found guilty of and convicted of murder under Indiana Code 35-42-1-1(1) and pointing a firearm at another under Indiana Code 35-47-4-3(b). Specifically, Richardson was found to have “knowingly or intentionally kill[ed] another human being.” I.C. 35-42-1-1(1). As a result of these convictions, Richardson was sentenced to 55 years in prison. [DE 64-6 at 4 (Def.'s Resps. to Pl.'s Reqs. for Admissions).] Richardson remains in prison at this time.

         Richardson appealed his criminal convictions, but his appeal was dismissed with prejudice by the Court of Appeals of Indiana on September 28, 2017. [DE 52-1.] The dismissal order indicates that the appeal was dismissed because Richardson failed to timely file his brief. There is no evidence that Richardson sought review of his conviction or the Court of Appeals' order with the Indiana Supreme Court. Nor is there evidence that he has filed any other post-conviction relief, let alone any such relief that has been granted.

         On August 24, 2017, (after the time for Richardson to file his brief had expired), the Estate of Joshua C. Smith filed a wrongful death action against Richardson. In this lawsuit, Smith's estate alleges that Richardson “accidentally” shot Smith and that Smith's death was “directly and proximately caused by the negligent act of Richardson discharging the semi-automatic rifle and striking Smith in the leg.” [DE 64-3, Wrongful Death Compl. at ¶¶ 10, 13.] Allstate has provided counsel to Richardson in that case, under a reservation of rights, and at present, the case has not proceeded much beyond the pleading stage.

         On March 22, 2018, Allstate filed this lawsuit, claiming it has no duty to defend or duty to indemnify Richardson because the conduct at issue in the wrongful death lawsuit is excluded under the relevant insurance policy. [DE 1.] The insurance policy at issue contains the following exclusion:

We do not cover any bodily injury or property damage intended by, or which may reasonably be expected to result from the intentional or criminal actions omissions of, any insured person. The exclusion applies even if:
such insured person lacks the mental capacity to govern his or her conduct;
such bodily injury or property damage is of a different kind or degree than intended or reasonably expected; or
such bodily injury or property damage is sustained by a different person than intended or reasonably expected. This exclusion applies regardless of whether or not such insured person is actually charged with, or convicted of a crime.

[DE 64-2 at 51, 53.] The parties all agree that the terms of the insurance policy control; the question is simply whether, as a matter of undisputed fact, Richardson's conduct is excluded (entitling Allstate to summary judgment) or if fact issues remain to be decided, either in this court, or before an Indiana ...

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