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Auto-Owners Insurance Co. v. Shroyer

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 19, 2019

Auto-Owners Insurance Company, Appellant,
v.
Travis Shroyer, Appellee.

          Appeal from the Henry Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 33C01-1407-CT-22 The Honorable Bob A. Witham, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Stephen C. Wheeler Smith Fisher Maas Howard & Lloyd, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee P. Gregory Cross The Cross Law Firm, P.C. Muncie, Indiana

          Pyle, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Brena Berardicelli ("Berardicelli"), on behalf of her three-year-old son ("J.B."), filed a complaint for damages, alleging that Travis Shroyer ("Shroyer") caused injuries to J.B. by negligently operating a skid loader on his premises. Shroyer's homeowner's insurance company, Auto-Owners Insurance Company ("Auto-Owners"), denied coverage for the accident as well as any duty to indemnify or defend Shroyer.

         [¶2] Shroyer brought an insurance coverage declaratory judgment action requesting Auto-Owners indemnify and defend him pursuant to the Personal Liability Protection Coverage under his homeowner's insurance policy (the "Policy"). In response, Auto-Owners filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that it had no duty to indemnify or defend Shroyer's liability claims because the undisputed evidence demonstrates that J.B. was an "insured" under the Policy and that, as a matter of law, the coverage for bodily injury to J.B. was excluded. The trial court denied Auto-Owners' motion for summary judgment.

         [¶3] On appeal, Auto-Owners argues that the trial court erred in denying the motion and that it was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law because J.B. qualifies as an "insured" under the Policy. Concluding that J.B. was an "insured" as defined in the Policy at the time of the accident, we reverse the denial of summary judgment and remand to the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Auto-Owners.

         [¶4] We reverse and remand.

         Issue

         Whether the trial court erred in denying summary judgment to Auto-Owners.

         Facts

         [¶5] Beginning in the summer of 2013 until April 2014, Berardicelli and her two sons resided with Shroyer at his residence. Berardicelli and Shroyer were "together" and shared a bedroom at the residence. (App. Vol. 2 at 194). On April 26, 2014, Shroyer moved a Caterpillar skid loader out of his barn. Shroyer planned to use the skid loader to move stone, put in a garden, and do some other landscaping. At some point, Shroyer "thought he had backed over the pile of dirt he had just left behind him, but got off the machine to check and noticed [J.B.'s] battery operated four-wheeler under the machine and [J.B.] laying on the ground injured." (App. Vol. 2 at 183). As a result, J.B. suffered serious injuries.

         [¶6] Property-Owners Insurance Company, which is an affiliate of Auto-Owners, insured Shroyer. The Policy identifies the insured premises as Shroyer's residence, which was the location of the accident. The Policy provides personal liability coverage with limits of $500, ...


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