Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Danbury, Danbury
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION DEFENDANT SAFECO INSURANCE
COMPANY OF ILLINOIS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. NO.
Anthony D. Truglia, Jr., J.
Facts and Procedural Background
plaintiff, Jason Ayala, filed an amended complaint (the
complaint) in this action dated December 9, 2016 against
defendants Raul Sandoval, Safeco Insurance Company of
Illinois (Safeco), Sabrosura, LLC and Jose Contreras. The
plaintiff alleges the following salient facts in support of
his claims for damages from each of the defendants. In the
first count of his complaint, the plaintiff alleges that on
the evening of June 21, 2015 at approximately 11:38 p.m., he
was a pedestrian crossing Main Street in Danbury near its
intersection with White and Elm Streets. At that time,
defendant Raul Sandoval (Sandoval) " entered a
Volkswagen" automobile " that was parked near 278
Main Street, in Danbury." " At that date, time and
place, [Sandoval] put the Volkswagen into motion, went up and
over the sidewalk and grass area that separates the
northbound and southbound lanes of Main Street, and struck
the plaintiff." After striking the plaintiff with his
automobile, Sandoval fled the scene. The plaintiff alleges
that the collision, and his resulting injuries and losses,
were caused by Sandoval's negligence in one or more of
eight ways, including operating a motor vehicle under the
influence of alcohol and operating a motor vehicle at a rate
of speed greater than was reasonable under circumstances then
prevailing. The plaintiff alleges that as a direct result of
Sandoval's negligence, he sustained injuries to his right
arm, neck and lower back, some of which may be permanent.
second count of the plaintiff's complaint alleges damages
for statutory recklessness and claims double or treble
damages in accordance with General Statutes § 14-295.
The plaintiff repeats the same factual allegations of his
negligence claims and further alleges that the collision was
caused by Sandoval in that he " deliberately or with
reckless disregard to the safety of others, operated a motor
vehicle in violation of [General Statutes] § 14-227a
[and] § 14-222, as to endanger the life of the
plaintiff, and that such violation(s) was/were a substantial
factor in causing the plaintiff's injuries and
damages." The third count repeats the Allegations of the
second count and claims damages from Sandoval for common law
fourth count of the complaint, the plaintiff repeats the
eight allegations of negligent operation of
a motor vehicle against Sandoval and further alleges that at
the time of the incident, the plaintiff " was an insured
and/or a covered person under the terms of a policy of
insurance issued by Safeco (the Safeco policy). The plaintiff
alleges that at the time of the collision described in his
complaint, Sandoval did not have an applicable automobile
liability insurance coverage available to him. The plaintiff
claims that, under the terms of the Safeco policy, "
Safeco is obligated to pay to [the plaintiff] all damages
which he is legally entitled to recover from [Sandoval], up
to the uninsured motorist coverage limits of the Safeco
policy." Despite demand upon Safeco for payment of
benefits under the aforementioned policy, the plaintiff
alleges that Safeco has failed to pay damages he is entitled
to recover. Finally, in the fifth count of his complaint, the
plaintiff repeats the allegations of operating a motor
vehicle under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving
of the second count, and claims damages under the Safeco
policy for Sandoval's reckless operation of his motor
has filed an answer admitting that (1) the insurance policy
that it issued to the plaintiff contained coverage for
uninsured/underinsured motorists (UM coverage) and (2) the
policy was in effect on the day of the collision. Safeco also
filed five special defenses to the plaintiff's claims.
deposed the plaintiff on October 18, 2016. During the
deposition, the following exchange Occurred when the
plaintiff was asked to describe what happened in the moments
prior to the collision.
Q. Did he take a swing at you with that metal bar?
Q. Did he ever hit you with that bar?
Q. But he didn't actually hit you?
Q. At some point you said Edder came in and basically
grabbed the bar away from Raul?
Q. Was Raul still mad at that point?
A. Really mad.
Q. Then you said he got into his car, correct?
A. I did, correct.
Q. So Edder got in the passenger side with him?
The plaintiff also asserts a sixth count in his complaint
against the restaurant which allegedly served Sandoval
prior to the incident, Sabrosura, LLC, and its permittee,
Jose Contreras, claiming damages under the Dram Shop Act,
General Statutes § § 30-102, et seq.
Q. Then you say he directed his car right at you when he
started it up?
A. He backed it up like this and just - - he was looking at
me, he started spinning his tires And went straight at me.
Q. Did you see if Edder tried to do anything to see if he
tried to stop Raul from running you Down?
A. No. It happened so fast.
Q. From what you saw he was trying to hit you?
on this testimony, Safeco requested permission to file a
motion for summary judgment after the case had been assigned
for trial pursuant to Practice Book § 17-44 (#133). The
court granted that motion on December 2, 2016. Thereafter,
Safeco filed the motion for summary judgment (#137) that is
now before the court. Safeco argues that it is entitled to
judgment in its favor as a matter of law because there is no
genuine issue of fact as to how the collision occurred on the
evening of June 21, 2015. The plaintiff alleges in the
second, third and fifth counts of his complaint that he was
injured by the deliberate, reckless and intentional acts of
Sandoval. The plaintiff s deposition testimony leaves no
doubt that Sandoval intentionally drove into him and caused
his injuries. The plaintiff also produced, in response to
Safeco's discovery requests, a copy of the voluntary
statement he made to investigating officers four days after
the incident. In that statement, the plaintiff wrote that
Sandoval " got in his car, spun his tires, did not care
how many people was watching and ran me over with his car. He
tried to kill me, hit me so hard I was spinning in the air
landing on top [of Sandoval's car]" (Exhibit A to
Safeco's reply, #147). The undisputed evidence in this
case, Safeco argues, proves that the collision that injured
the plaintiff was not an accident. Safeco has no obligation
to pay UM coverage damages to its insured unless the injuries
are " 1. Sustained by the insured; and 2. Caused by an
accident." Therefore, because the collision was not an
accident, Safeco argues it has no liability to the plaintiff
for damages of any kind and, accordingly, summary judgment
should enter in its favor.
plaintiff makes two arguments in response to Safeco's
motion. First, the plaintiff argues that there is a genuine
issue of material fact with regard to Sandoval's conduct
that undercuts Safeco's motion. Specifically, the
plaintiff argues that " [s]imply stated, this is a drunk
driving case", and that there is no evidence to support
Safeco's assertion that Sandoval intentionally drove off
the paved portion of the road in order to injure the
plaintiff. The plaintiff further argues that there is no
evidence that Sandoval pleaded guilty To an intentional
assault upon the plaintiff and, therefore, the question of
whether his actions were intentional or just extremely
reckless remains open. Second, the plaintiff argues that
Connecticut case law, in addition to case law in other
jurisdictions, supports extending UM coverage to persons
injured as a result of an intentional
assault by an automobile. Therefore, even if Safeco were to
prove at trial that Sandoval's actions
were intentional, the plaintiff is still entitled to
Book § 17-49 provides that summary judgment " shall
be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and any
other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue as
to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." " In ruling on a
motion for summary judgment, the court's function is not
to decide issues of material fact, but rather to determine
whether any such issues exist." Nolan v.
Borkowski, 206 Conn. 495, 500, 538 A.2d 1031 (1988). The
purpose of a motion for summary judgment is to dispose of
actions lacking a triable issue of material fact. Dorazio
v. M. B. Foster Electric Co., 157 Conn. 226, 228, 253
A.2d 22 (1968). When deciding a motion for summary judgment,
the trial court views the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Rodriguez v.
Testa, 296 Conn. 1, 6, 993 A.2d 955 (2010). " The
test is whether a party would be entitled to a directed
verdict on the same facts." (Internal quotation marks
omitted.) Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. v. Carriage Lane
Associates, 219 Conn. 772, 781, 595 A.2d 334 (1991). As
a result, " [t]he courts hold the movant to a strict
standard. To satisfy his burden the movant must make a
showing that it is quite clear what the truth is, and that
excludes any real doubt as to the existence of any genuine
issue of material fact. As the burden of proof is on the
movant, the evidence must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the opponent." (Internal quotation marks
omitted.) Zielinski v. Kotsoris, 279 Conn. 312, 318,
901 A.2d 1207 (2006).Moreover, insurance coverage disputes,
which turn on the court's interpretation of the insurance
contract, are well suited for motions for summary judgment.
See, e.g., Allstate Ins. Co. v. Quito, United States
District Court, Docket No. 3:06CV1671 (PCD) (D. Conn.
July 29, 2007) (" [I]t is the function of the court to
construe the provisions of the insurance contract and, if no
material facts are at issue, the question of whether coverage
exists is a question of law that is appropriately decided on
a motion for summary judgment."). Here, the question of
whether Safeco is liable to the plaintiff is a question of
law, to be decided by comparing the Allegations of the
complaint with the terms of the policy and, therefore, is
properly before this court on a motion for summary judgment.
See, e.g., Hartford Casualty Ins. Co. v. Litchfield
Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 274 Conn. 457, 876 A.2d
1139 (2005); Imperial Casualty & Indemnity Co. v.
State, 246 Conn. 313, 324, 714 A.2d 1230 (1998) ("
An insurance policy is to be interpreted by the same general
rules that govern the construction of any written contract
and enforced in accordance with the real intent of the
parties as expressed.
language employed in the policy The determinative question is
the intent of the parties, that is, what Coverage the ...
[insured] expected to receive and what the [insurer] was to
provide, as disclosed by the provisions of the policy."
[citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted]).
first argues that the purpose of UM coverage is to place the
insured in the same position he would have been in had the
tortfeasor carried sufficient insurance to make the injured
party whole. " [U]ninsured motorist coverage ... is
statutorily intended to provide the reciprocal or mutual
equivalent of Automobile liability coverage prescribed by the
Financial Responsibility Law... To achieve this purpose. No
policy exclusions contrary to the statute of any of the class
of family insureds are permissible since uninsured motorist
coverage is intended by the statute to be uniform and
standard motor vehicle accident liability insurance for the
protection of such insureds there under as 'if the
uninsured motorist had carried the minimum limits' of an
automobile liability policy.... The public policy embodied in
these statutes favors indemnification of accident victims
unless they are responsible for the accident." (Citation
omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Harvey v.
Travelers Indemnity Co., 188 Conn. 245, 249-50, 449 A.2d
157 (1982).Nonetheless, Safeco argues that Sandoval's
actions in deliberately driving off the paved roadway and
into the plaintiff " with willful intent to hit
him" would void any policy he would have had in effect
at the time of the loss. Therefore, Safeco asserts that the
plaintiff would not have been legally entitled to recover any
damages from Sandoval, even if he had insurance in place on
the date of the incident. Safeco's policy with the
plaintiff obligates it to pay " damages which an insured
is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of
an uninsured motor vehicle or underinsured motor vehicle
because of bodily injury: 1. Sustained by that insured; and
2. Caused by an accident." In the present case, because
the plaintiff would not be " legally entitled to
recover" any damages from Sandoval's carrier, Safeco
argues that it has no contractual obligation to pay any
damages to the plaintiff. See Caulfieldv.Arnica Mutual Ins. Co., 31 Conn.App. 781, 787,
627A.2d 466, cert, denied, 227 Conn. 913, 632 A.2d 688 (1993)
(" [H]ad [the tortfeasor], the uninsured motorist,
maintained his own policy of liability insurance in this
case, [the plaintiff] would not have been able to recover
punitive damages from [the tortfeasor's]
insurer.").Next, Safeco argues that the evidence
overwhelmingly demonstrates that Sandoval's conduct was
intentional, not ...