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Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Devlin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 21, 2018

METROPOLITAN PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN DEVLIN, MARY DESROSIER, MATTHEW DESROSIER, and JOHN DOE, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH SIMEONE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Patti B. Saris, Chief United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         This long-running case arises from a car accident in Saugus, Massachusetts, in 2010. Susan Devlin was injured in the accident when a Ford Taurus, owned by Mary Desrosier but driven by her son Matthew Desrosier, collided with Devlin's car.[1] In state court, a jury found Matthew liable for negligent operation of a motor vehicle and Mary liable for negligent failure to secure her vehicle from the harmful effects of foreseeable criminal actions. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Company (“Metropolitan”) filed a declaratory judgment action in this Court in 2013, seeking an order that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Mary or Matthew. In 2015, the Court held that Metropolitan had no duty to defend Matthew. See Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Devlin, 95 F.Supp.3d 278, 282 (D. Mass. 2015).

         Based on the state court verdict, Metropolitan moves for summary judgment on the ground that the insurer has no duty to indemnify Mary for Devlin's injuries. Alternatively, Metropolitan argues that it is entitled to a declaratory judgment stating that its duties to indemnify and to pay any prejudgment interest are capped at the compulsory coverage limit in the policy. Devlin did not submit a cross-motion for summary judgment, but at the hearing on June 29, 2018, she agreed that there were no questions of fact for trial and that the Court could decide the remaining issues of indemnification as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(f) (allowing court to grant summary judgment for nonmovant “[a]fter giving notice and a reasonable time to respond”).

         Metropolitan's motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 112) is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and partial summary judgment is ALLOWED for Devlin. Metropolitan must indemnify Mary up to the $20, 000 compulsory coverage limit.

         FACTS

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise stated.

         I. Car Accident and State Court Trial

         In 2010, Mary owned a 1998 Ford Taurus that was insured by Metropolitan. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 2. On October 27, 2010, there was an accident at an intersection in Saugus, in which Mary's Taurus rear-ended Devlin's car. See Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 1.

         Matthew was driving Mary's Taurus at the time of the accident, Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 16, but he did not have a valid driver's license, Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 18. Mary knew that he was not licensed. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 18. On the date of the accident, Mary did not give Matthew permission to drive her car. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 18. In fact, Mary had explicitly instructed Matthew never to drive her Taurus. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 28. She did, however, leave the car keys unsecured and available to anyone in her house. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 29.

         The state court case, brought by Devlin against Matthew and Mary, [2] was tried to a jury in February 2017. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 26. Matthew was found liable for negligent operation of the car. See Docket No. 117-1 ¶¶ 22, 37. Against Mary, Devlin brought two counts: one for negligent entrustment of the Taurus, and one for negligent failure to secure her vehicle from the harmful effects of foreseeable criminal actions. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 23. Judge Krupp instructed the jury on the negligent security claim as follows:

To establish a claim for negligent security, Ms. Devlin must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following four elements:
One, that Ms. Desrosier had ownership or control of a motor vehicle; Two, that Ms. Desrosier knew or should have known that there was a reasonable possibility of criminal conduct involving the motor vehicle including the use of her motor vehicle by someone without authority to use it; Three, that Ms. Desrosier negligently failed to take steps reasonably available to prevent the foreseeable criminal conducting [sic] involving the motor vehicle; And four, the damages caused by Ms. Desrosier's failure to do so and the resulting foreseeable criminal conduct.

Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 32. Mary was found not liable for negligent entrustment, but liable for negligent failure to secure. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 35. The jury awarded Devlin $210, 601.80 for her injuries, including prejudgment interest. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 37.

         II. Insurance Policy

         A. Bodily Injury Coverage

         Mary's Taurus was insured by Metropolitan under the standard Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Policy (Seventh Edition). Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 2. The insurance contract “consist[ed] of [the standard auto policy], the Coverage Selections Page, any endorsements agreed upon, and [Mary's] application for insurance.” Docket No. 114-1 at 15. When the policy actually took effect is not clear in the record because there are multiple dates on the document. First, the policy says that it is “effective from” March 28, 2010, to March 28, 2011. Docket No. 114-1 at 8. The Coverage Selections Page is dated July 6, 2010, but it also includes the date of July 3, 2010, next to the words “Change 4.” Docket No. 114-1 at 8. Regardless of the precise effective date, at the time of the accident, Mary's Taurus was covered by Metropolitan policy number 2398528494. Docket No. 114-1 at 8.

         Under her policy, Mary had $20, 000 of compulsory coverage and up to $100, 000 of optional coverage for bodily injury to others. Docket No. 117-1 ¶ 3. The compulsory coverage section -- “Part ...


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