United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND/OR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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
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. Id., Ex. 8.
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.
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 ¶ ¶
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.
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.
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.
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:
Dkt. #32 at ¶ 6 and Ex. 5.
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
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.
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:
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
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