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American Family Mutual Insurance Co. v. Brenton

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

July 2, 2019

AMERICAN FAMILY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT BRENTON, JR., JAMES BRENTON, Clerk's Entry of Default entered on 9/4/18, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 47)

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II JUDGE

         This matter is set for trial on September 30, 2019. Plaintiff American Family Mutual Insurance Company, by counsel, filed its Motion for Summary Judgment in its action seeking declaratory judgment that it has no duty to defend or indemnify against Defendants, Robert Brenton, Jr. and James Brenton. James Brenton has not appeared in this matter. Accordingly, the Court, having considered the Motion, now finds that the Motion should be GRANTED with respect to Robert Brenton, Jr. and DENIED with respect to James Brenton.

         I. Background

         A. The Underlying Action On September 12, 2015, Robert Brenton, Jr. (“Robert”) engaged in a physical altercation (the “Incident”) with his brother, James Brenton (“James”), at James' home.[1] (See ECF No. 50-1, James Dep. 7:4-25, 8:1-12; ECF No. 50-4, Robert Dep. 8:6-11, 9:8-9.) Robert arrived at James' home to settle a dispute regarding a watch broken by Robert's son. (See ECF No. 50, Br. Supp. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. (hereinafter Pl.'s Br.) 4; ECF No. 50-1, Ex. A, James Dep. (hereinafter James Dep.) 6:18-8:4.) Robert and James moved into the kitchen, where they started to wrestle. (See ECF No. 50-1, James Dep. 8:5-10; 9:3-10.) During the altercation, James grabbed a crossbow arrow and stabbed Robert. (See Id. at 10:10-19.) The Vigo County prosecutor brought five charges against James resulting from the Incident. (ECF No. 50, Pl.'s Br. 7.) To those charges, James pleaded guilty to “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally, with a deadly weapon, perform[ing] an act that created a substantial risk of bodily injury to Robert Brenton, Jr. in violation of Indiana law.” (Id.) The Vigo Superior Court subsequently found James guilty of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon. (See ECF No. 50-1, James Dep. 22:1-25:12, 26:20-27:9.) In an underlying action filed in the Clay (Indiana) Circuit Court (Cause No. 11C01-1709-CT-00058) (“Underlying Action”), Robert claims damages from injuries allegedly caused by James during the Incident. (See ECF No. 28-1, Underlying Compl. 3.)

         B. The Insurance Policies

         James reported the Incident to an insurance agent of Plaintiff, American Family Mutual Insurance Company (“American Family”). (See ECF No. 28, Compl. ¶ 17.) American Family issued two insurance policies to James, effective September 12, 2015: the Homeowners Policy and the Umbrella Policy. (See ECF 50, Pl.'s Br. 7, 9; ECF No. 1-2, Ex. B; ECF No. 28-2, Homeowners Policy; ECF No. 28-3, Umbrella Policy.) Both the Homeowners Policy and the Umbrella Policy contain identical provisions describing their coverage for personal liability and American Family's obligation to provide a legal defense to the insured. Those provisions state, in relevant part:

LIABILITY COVERAGES - SECTION II
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 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.

(ECF No. 28-2, Homeowners Policy 12; ECF No. 28-3, Umbrella Policy 5.)

         Each policy sets forth definitions to control interpretation of the policy language.

         The Umbrella Policy states, in relevant part:

DEFINITIONS
* * *
13. Occurrence means:
a. Under Personal Liability Coverage, an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions, which results, during the policy period, in personal injury and/or property damage[.]

(ECF No. 28-3, Umbrella Policy 5.) The Homeowners Policy provides a substantially similar definition. (See ECF No. 28-2, Homeowners Policy 4.)

         The Homeowners Policy and the Umbrella Policy also contain exclusions. The Homeowners Policy excludes coverage for the following:

EXCLUSIONS - SECTION II
Coverage D - Personal Liability and Coverage E - Medical Expense do not apply to:
1. Abuse. We will not cover bodily injury or property damage arising out of or resulting from any ...

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