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Cummings Properties, LLC v. Public Service Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 26, 2018




         Plaintiff Cummings Properties, LLC leases an office suite in a commercial building to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (“DOR”). A DOR employee has sued Plaintiff in state court for an alleged slip and fall in the parking lot of the leased premises. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Public Service Insurance Company (“PSIC”) issued a commercial general liability insurance policy pursuant to which it must defend plaintiff in the pending state court lawsuit and indemnify plaintiff. Defendant disclaims as a matter of law any duty to defend or indemnify and argues that the policy covered the leased office suite but not the adjacent parking lot where the incident occurred. Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Docket ## 30, 40.

         I. Factual Background [1]

         A. Lease and Insurance Policy

         In October 2010, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on behalf of DOR, entered a five-year lease with plaintiff for Suite 760 at 100 Trade Center in Woburn, Massachusetts. The lease required plaintiff, as the landlord, to “use reasonable efforts to ensure [that] snow and ice are removed from all entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking areas before the hours of operation and during such hours if snow, ice, or both accumulate.” Docket ## 32 ¶ 7, 34 at 51.

         The policy in issue covers the period January 20, 2013, to January 20, 2014, and identifies DOR as the “named insured.” It states that, subject to various limitations, defendant will “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury'” and will “defend the insured against any ‘suit' seeking those damages.” Docket # 32 ¶ 13. The policy names plaintiff as an “additional insured, ” “but only with respect to liability arising out of [DOR's] operations or premises owned by or rented to [DOR].” Docket # 42 at 5 (“Additional Insured endorsement”). This endorsement specifically identifies Suite 760 as the location for which Plaintiff was the additional insured.

         B. State Court Lawsuit and Coverage Dispute

         On January 30, 2013, Joyce Barresi, a DOR employee, allegedly slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot of 100 Trade Center. She eventually sued plaintiff in the Massachusetts Superior Court for breach of its duty to maintain the parking lot in a reasonably safe condition and claims damages for incurred and anticipated medical expenses and lost wages. Joyce A. Barresi v. Cummings Properties, LLC, 1677-CV- 00120 (Mass. Super. Ct., filed Jan. 28, 2016).

         Plaintiff sought coverage by defendant as an additional insured under DOR's policy, but defendant refused.[2] Plaintiff then filed suit in this court seeking a declaratory judgment that defendant must defend and indemnify plaintiff in the state court action (Count I) and damages for breach of contract (Count II).

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows 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). “An issue is ‘genuine' for purposes of summary judgment if ‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party,' and a ‘material fact' is one which ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.'” Poulis-Minott v. Smith, 388 F.3d 354, 363 (1st Cir. 2004) (quoting Hayes v. Douglas Dynamics, Inc., 8 F.3d 88, 90 (1st Cir. 1993)).

         “Cross-motions for summary judgment do not alter the basic Rule 56 standard, but rather simply require [the court] to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on facts that are not disputed.” Ferguson v. Gen. Star Indem. Co., 582 F.Supp.2d 91, 98 (D. Mass. 2008) (alteration in original) (quoting Adria Int'l Grp., Inc. v. Ferré Dev., Inc., 241 F.3d 103, 107 (1st Cir. 2001)). “When facing cross-motions for summary judgment, a court must rule on each motion independently, deciding in each instance whether the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56.” Id. (quoting Dan Barclay, Inc. v. Stewart & Stevenson Servs., Inc., 761 F.Supp. 194, 197-98 (D. Mass. 1991)).

         Interpretation of an insurance contract is a question of law appropriately decided at summary judgment. Cody v. Connecticut Gen. Life Ins. Co., 439 N.E.2d 234, 237 (Mass. 1982); see Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Herbert H. Landy Ins. Agency, Inc., 820 F.3d 36, 41 (1st Cir. 2016).

         A. Insurer's Duty to ...

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