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Brooks v. The Phoenix Insurance Co.

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

October 4, 2019

CARL W. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE PHOENIX INSURANCE COMPANY and KEVIN CHARLES LOVITT, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICHARD L. YOUNG, JUDGE United State District Court

         In this diversity action, Plaintiff, Carl W. Brooks, was driving a rental vehicle during the course of his employment when another vehicle, driven by uninsured motorist Kevin Lovitt, collided with his car. Plaintiff thereafter filed the present lawsuit[1] against The Phoenix Insurance Company, his employer's insurer, seeking uninsured motorist coverage. The parties cross-move for summary judgment. The court, having read and reviewed the parties' submissions, the designated evidence, and the applicable law, now GRANTS Phoenix's cross-motion for summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Factual Background

         A. The Accident

         Plaintiff was an employee of Black and Pendleton, Inc. (“B&P”) d/b/a Case Engineering, Inc. In October 2016, he was directed by his supervisor to drive to Parma, Michigan to service a customer. Plaintiff was told to rent a car from Enterprise Rental Company and to waive additional automobile insurance because B&P's insurance policy covered rental cars.

         On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff rented the car from Enterprise and began his business trip. As he was driving through Jackson County, Michigan, a truck driven by Lovitt hit Plaintiff's rental car head on, causing Plaintiff serious medical injuries. Lovitt was uninsured.

         B. The Phoenix Policy

         At the time of the accident, Phoenix had issued B&P a commercial automobile insurance policy. (See Filing Nos. 36-3 and 36-4, Policy). The Common Declarations Page identifies the “Named Insured” as “Blake & Pendleton, Inc., And As Per IL T8 00, ” and the “Mailing Address” as 269 North Street, Macon, Georgia 31206. (Id. at 2). The Policy contains the endorsement IL T8 00, which includes Case Engineering, Inc., as a “Named Insured.” (Id. at 8). Case Engineering's address in Indiana is 1401 West Franklin Street, Evansville, Indiana, 47711. (Filing No. 36, Am. Compl. ¶ 3).

         Pursuant to the Business Auto Coverage Part Declarations, the Policy provides liability coverage for covered autos identified by “Covered Auto Symbol 1, ” defined as “Any ‘Auto.'” (Id. at 13, 20). Those Declarations also state that “Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Coverage” is provided for covered autos identified by “Covered Auto Symbol 2, ” defined as “Owned ‘Autos' Only: Only those ‘autos' you own.” (Id.). The declarations also indicate that the Policy provides comprehensive and collision coverage for covered autos identified by both “Covered Auto Symbol 2 and 8.” Symbol 2, again, is only for “Owned Autos, ” and Symbol 8 is defined in the Policy, in pertinent part, as “Hired ‘Autos' Only: Only those ‘autos' you hire, rent or borrow.” (Id.).

         The Policy includes Uninsured Motorists (“UM”) endorsements for North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. (Id. at 14). Each UM endorsement contains UM coverage “[f]or a covered ‘auto' licensed or principally garaged in” the state indicated by the endorsement-i.e., North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia-in the amount of $1, 000, 000. (See Id. at 18). For reasons unknown, the Policy does not contain a UM endorsement for Indiana or Kentucky. The parties agree the rental car was licensed in Kentucky; Plaintiff asserts the vehicle was principally garaged in Indiana.

         II. Discussion

         As an employee of Case Engineering, Plaintiff argues he is an insured under the Policy and is entitled to UM benefits pursuant to Indiana law. See Ind. Code § 27-7-5-2 (providing uninsured motorist coverage applies “to any motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this state” unless the insured specifically rejects uninsured motorist coverage in writing). Phoenix disagrees and argues Georgia law applies.

         A. Choice-of-Law

         The parties disagree on whether Georgia or Indiana law applies to this coverage dispute. As the factual background indicates, the insurance policy was issued to B&P in Georgia; Plaintiff is an Indiana resident employed by Case Engineering, a named insured; the rental vehicle at issue was registered in Kentucky; and the accident took place in Michigan. The court's choice-of-law analysis is governed by the laws of the forum state; here, Indiana. State Farm Mut. ...


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