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Allstate Insurance Co. v. Tarantino

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 23, 2016

JAMES DIMON, Intervenor.


          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         This insurance coverage dispute arises out of a personal injury action filed by James M. Dimon against Louis Tarantino III in Milford Superior Court, Docket No. AAN-cv-14-6016923-S. Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") seeks a declaratory judgment that it does not owe a duty to defend or indemnify Tarantino under a homeowners‘ insurance policy issued to his parents. (doc. 1) On October 15, 2015, Allstate filed a motion for summary judgment. (doc. 20) Because Tarantino has failed to defend himself in this suit in any meaningful way, Dimon was granted permission to intervene, (doc. 27), and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on February 29, 2016, (doc. 28). I held a hearing on the motions for summary judgment on May 16, 2016. (doc. 34)

         For the following reasons, I deny in part Allstate‘s motion for summary judgment with respect to the duty to defend Tarantino, and grant in part Dimon‘s motion for summary judgment on that issue. I have determined that it is premature to rule on whether Allstate has a duty to indemnify Tarantino, and accordingly, both motions are denied without prejudice with respect to whether Allstate has a duty to indemnify Tarantino.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment).

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the facts of record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d. 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is required to "resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party"). When a motion for summary judgment is properly supported by documentary and testimonial evidence, however, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, but must present sufficient probative evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995).

         "Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see also Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits evidence that is "merely colorable, " or is not "significantly probative, " summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

Id. at 247-48. To present a "genuine" issue of material fact, there must be contradictory evidence "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. at 248.

         If the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof at trial, then summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In such a situation, "there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact, ‘ since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party‘s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 322-23; accord Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant‘s burden satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of nonmoving party‘s claim). In short, if there is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may enter. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         II. Background

         A. Relevant Insurance Policy Provisions

         Louis Tarantino, Jr. and Marylynne Tarantino carry a homeowners‘ insurance policy through Allstate in the amount of $500, 000 (the "Policy"), which was in effect during all relevant periods. Pl.‘s Br., Ex. A.

         The Policy includes the following relevant definitions:

"Insured person(s)" - means you and, if a resident of your household:
(a) any relative; and
(b) any dependent person in your care.

Id. at 19. The parties apparently agree that Louis Tarantino III ("Tarantino"), the adult son of Louis and Maylynne Tarantino, falls under the definition of an "insured person."

"Occurrence" - means an accident including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions during the policy period, resulting in bodily injury or property damage.

Id. at 20. The word "accident" is not defined.

         Under Section II of the Policy, entitled "Family Liability and Guest Medical Protection, " the Policy includes "Family Liability Protection" under Coverage X and "Guest Medical Protection" under Coverage Y. Id. at 38, 40. Both provisions appear to cover a claim for a suit for damages against an insured person caused by the activities of the insured person and both include substantially similar relevant language[1] as follows (from Coverage X):

Subject to the terms, conditions and limitations of this policy, Allstate will pay damages which an insured person becomes legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury . . . arising from an occurrence to which this policy applies, and is covered by this part of the policy.
. . . .
Losses We Do Not Cover Under Coverage X

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