Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Co. v. Washington

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 15, 2017

EMPIRE FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
QUEEN WASHINGTON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND/OR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and/or Default Judgment. Dkt. #31. Plaintiff Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Company (“Empire Fire”) moves the Court for a declaratory judgment (and/or default judgment) that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Defendants Queen Washington and John Doe Washington and the marital community thereof in the underlying state court case at issue. Id. The Washington Defendants have not appeared in this action and default has been entered by the Clerk. Dkt. #29. Likewise, Defendants Shawnika Lawrence and John Doe Lawrence and the marital community thereof have not appeared in this action, and default has also been entered against them. Id. Defendants Mindy Wiscombe and Russell Wiscombe and the marital community thereof have appeared and opposed this motion. Dkt. #33. For the reasons discussed below, the Court now GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The facts leading to the instant matter do not appear to be in dispute. On or about November 30, 2012, Defendant Shawnika Lawrence rented a 2012 Mazda 6 from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. See Dkt. #32, Ex. 8. At the time of the rental, Ms. Lawrence accepted optional Supplemental Liability Protection (“SLP”) coverage. Id. The SLP was available under an excess policy issued by Plaintiff Empire Fire. See id., Exs. 7 and 8. Enterprise Holding, Inc. administered the policy. Id., Ex. 7. On her rental agreement, Ms. Lawrence did not list any other persons as authorized drivers.[1] Id., Ex. 8.

         On the same day, the 2012 Mazda 6 was involved in an accident on Interstate 405 in Redmond, Washington, in which the Mazda rear-ended one car, which was pushed into another. See Dkt. #32, Ex. 6 at Findings of Fact 1-3. Those cars were occupied by Russell Wiscombe and Mindy Wiscombe in one car, and Mark McCrum and Pamela McCrum in the other. Dkt. #32. Exs. 1-2. At the time, it was not clear who had been driving the car, as further discussed below.

         In February 2016, the Wiscombes filed a Complaint against Ms. Lawrence and (Defendant in this action) Queen Washington, in King County Superior Court. Dkt. #32, Ex. 1. The Wiscombes alleged that, “[o]n November 30, 2012, Russell Wiscombe was driving his 2004 Ford Focus southbound on Interstate 405 in Redmond, Washington. Mindy Wiscombe was a passenger in this vehicle. Plaintiff Russell Wiscombe was stopped for congested traffic.” Dkt. #32, Ex. 1 at ¶ ¶ 6-7.

Defendant Shawnika Lawrence or Defendant Queen Washington was driving a vehicle in the same direction as Mr. Wiscombe in the same lane of travel. It is unclear whether Ms. Lawrence or Ms. Washington was the actual driver of the vehicle. The police report identifies Ms. Lawrence as the driver. The defense claims that Ms. Washington was the actual driver. Whoever was driving did not stop with traffic. Her vehicle impacted the rear of the vehicle driven by Mr. Wiscombe, causing his vehicle to be pushed into the vehicle in front.

Dkt. #32, Ex. 1 at ¶ ¶ 8. As a result of the accident, the Wiscombes alleged that they suffered certain injuries. Id. at ¶ 9.

         Subsequently, Mark McCrum and Pamela McCrum filed a Complaint against Ms. Lawrence and Ms. Washington in King County Superior Court. Dkt. #32, Ex. 2. The McCrums alleged that that they were injured in the same accident. Id. at ¶ 2.7. According to the McCrums, “either Defendant Shawnika Lawrence or Defendant Queen Washington rear ended the vehicle behind them at a high rate of speed, pushing that vehicle into the Plaintiffs' vehicle (the “Accident”).” Id. at ¶ 2.1.

         The two actions were later consolidated under Cause No. 15-2-28349-9SEA. Empire Fire retained defense counsel for Ms. Lawrence, who answered the Complaints and denied that she was driving at the time of the accident. Dkt. #32, Ex. 3. According to Ms. Lawrence, at the time of the subject accident, she was at home. Id., Ex. 4 at ¶ 3. She was not driving the vehicle that was involved in the accident, and she was not involved in the accident. Id. Ms. Lawrence contends that Ms. Washington took her vehicle and drove it without her knowledge or permission. Id. at ¶ 4.

         Shortly before trial, each of the plaintiffs in the underlying case settled their claims against Ms. Lawrence, with Empire Fire paying the following settlement amounts, and obtaining full releases for Ms. Lawrence:

Pamela McCrum

$50, 000

MarkMcCrum

$70, 000

Russell Wiscombe

$10, 000

Mindy Wiscombe

$180, 000

Dkt. #32 at ¶ 6 and Ex. 5.

         Trial against Ms. Washington began on October 10, 2017, at which Ms. Washington did not appear. Accordingly, based on the evidence in the record at that time, the state court determined that Ms. Washington was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. Dkt. #32, Ex. 6. The state court entered a default judgment against Ms. Washington on that date. Id.

         In the meantime, Empire Fire brought a declaratory judgment action in this Court. Dkt. #1. Empire Fire seeks a declaratory judgment that Ms. Washington is not an Insured under the SLP agreement and therefore Empire Fire had no duty to indemnify or defend her in the underlying state court action. Id. Empire Fire asks the Court to interpret the SLP agreement as a matter of law.

         As note above, in connection with the Enterprise car rental, Ms. Lawrence accepted optional SLP protection. Empire Fire issued SLP Policy No. RSI 5525807 to Enterprise Holdings Inc., for the period August 1, 2012 to August 1 2013. Dkt. #32, Ex. 7. The insuring agreement provides:

         A. COVERAGE

1. This policy provides excess auto liability insurance and only applies to a “loss” involving “bodily injury” . . . caused by an “accident” and resulting from the use of a covered “rental vehicle.”
2. We will indemnify any “insured” for such “loss” in excess of the “underlying insurance” for which this coverage applies during the “coverage period, ” provided our liability shall apply only to the “ultimate net loss” in excess of such “underlying insurance.”
3. We have no duty to defend any claim or “suit” made or brought against you if your “underlying ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.