United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Honorable Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Allstate Indemnity
Company's (“Allstate” or
“Plaintiff”) Motions for Default Judgment Against
Defendants Sarah Bruner and Pamela Rummel (Dkt. # 14) and
Defendant Jessica Lyons (Dkt. # 21). There has been no
response to Plaintiff's Motions. For the reasons stated
below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's
Motions for Default Judgment.
provides the following facts in support of both its Motions,
which Defendants have not disputed. This case involves a
motor vehicle accident that occurred on December 14, 2017.
Defendant Rummel filed a complaint in Snohomish County
Superior Court Case # 18-2-03305-31 against Defendants Sara
Bruner and Jessica Lyons. Dkt. # 15, Ex. 1. Defendant
Rummel's complaint alleges that Defendant Lyons,
permissively driving a 1990 Ford F-150 Truck owned by
Defendant Bruner, negligently collided with the rear of a car
Defendant Rummel was driving. Id. at ¶¶
2.1-3.7. The police report for the accident shows that the
1990 Ford Truck was the vehicle involved in the accident and
that Defendant Lyons was the driver. Dkt. # 15, Ex. 3.
Sara Bruner was insured under an Allstate Automobile Policy
at the time of the accident. Dkt. # 15, Ex. 2. The Policy on
December 14, 2017 only provided comprehensive coverage for
the 1990 Ford Truck, and liability coverage was suspended.
Id. at 8-10. Defendant Bruner attempted to add
liability insurance on the Ford Truck after the accident on
December 14, 2017. Dkt. # 15, ¶¶ 5-6. According to
the police report, the accident occurred in the morning of
December 14, 2017 at 9:37 AM. Id. On that same date,
Defendant Bruner contacted her agent at 4:02 PM and asked to
add liability coverage to the 1990 Ford Truck. Id.
Plaintiff declined coverage for this loss, arguing there was
no liability coverage in force and effect for this vehicle on
the time and date the accident occurred. Id.
filed this suit for declaratory relief on June 7, 2018. Dkt.
# 1. Plaintiff served each Defendant. Dkt. ## 7, 8, 16. No.
Defendant has appeared or filed any answer. This Court
entered default against Defendants Bruner and Rummel on
January 2, 2019, and against Defendant Lyons on March 13,
2019. Dkt. ## 13, 20.
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) authorizes a district court to
grant default judgment after the Clerk enters default under
Rule 55(a). Upon entry of default, the defendant's
liability is established and the well-pleaded allegations in
the complaint are accepted as true. Televideo Sys., Inc.
v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987).
Where those facts establish a defendant's liability, the
court has discretion, not an obligation, to enter a default
judgment. Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th
Cir. 1980); Alan Neuman Productions, Inc. v.
Albright, 862 F.2d 1388, 1392 (9th Cir. 1988). The
plaintiff must submit evidence supporting a claim for a
particular sum of damages. TeleVideo Sys., 826 F.2d
at 917-18; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2)(B). If
the plaintiff cannot prove that the sum it seeks is “a
liquidated sum or capable of mathematical calculation,
” the court must hold a hearing or otherwise ensure
that the damage award is appropriate. Davis v.
Fendler, 650 F.2d 1154, 1161 (9th Cir. 1981).
case, Plaintiff requests that the Court issue a Default
Judgment providing for a Declaratory Judgment that there was
no insurance policy providing coverage or a duty to defend
for Defendants Sarah Bruner or Jessica Lyons for the motor
vehicle accident that occurred on December 14, 2017, and that
Defendant Pamela Rummel is owed nothing under the Policy.
Dkt. # 14 at 1-2; Dkt. ## 21 at 1-2. As a federal court
sitting in diversity, the Court applies state substantive law
and federal procedural law. Erie R.R. Co. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78-79 (1938); see also
Gasperini v. Center for Humanities, Inc., 518 U.S. 415,
427 (1996); State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v.
Smith, 907 F.2d 900, 902 (9th Cir. 1990). The Court
finds that, in this case, Washington State law governs the
parties' controversy, as stated in the Policy. Dkt. # 15,
Ex. 2 at 15.
Washington law, “[i]nsurance policies are to be
construed as contracts, and interpretation is a matter of
law.” State Farm General Ins. Co. v. Emerson,
102 Wash.2d 477, 480, 687 P.2d 1139 (1984). “The entire
contract must be construed together in order to give force
and effect to each clause, ” and be enforced “as
written if the language is clear and unambiguous.”
Washington Pub. Util. Districts' Utils. Sys. v. Pub.
Util. Dist. No. 1 of Clallam County, 112 Wash.2d 1, 10,
771 P.2d 701 (1989); see also Transcon. Ins. Co. v.
Washington Pub. Utils. Dists.' Util. Sys., 111
Wash.2d 452, 456, 760 P.2d 337 (1988) (if insurance contract
language is clear and unambiguous, court “may not
modify the contract or create ambiguity where none
exists”). If, on the other hand, “a policy
provision on its face is fairly susceptible to two different
but reasonable interpretations, the policy is ambiguous and
the court must attempt to discern and enforce the contract as
the parties intended.” Transcon. Ins. Co., 111
Wash.2d at 456-57; see also Kish v. Ins. Co. of N.
Am., 125 Wash.2d 164, 171, 883 P.2d 308 (1994). An
insurance contract “will be given a practical and
reasonable interpretation that fulfills the object and
purpose of the contract rather than a strained or forced
construction that leads to an absurd conclusion, or that
renders the contract nonsensical or ineffective.”
Washington Pub., 112 Wash.2d at 11; see also
Transcon. Ins. Co., 111 Wash.2d at 457, 760 P.2d 337.
Further, insurance contracts are interpreted “as an
average insurance purchaser would understand them and give
undefined terms in these contracts their ‘plain,
ordinary, and popular' meaning.” Kish, 125
Wash.2d at 170, 883 P.2d 308 (quoting Boeing Co. v. Aetna
Cas. & Sur. Co., 113 Wash.2d 869, 877, 784 P.2d 507
(1990)); see also Emerson, 102 Wash.2d at 480, 687
P.2d 1139 (insurance contract interpreted “according to
the way it would be understood by the average insurance
Court concludes that default judgment against all Defendants
is appropriate. The allegations of the Complaint, accepted as
true, establish Plaintiff's right to a declaratory
judgment that there is no coverage under the Policy for the
1990 Ford Truck at issue in this case. The Policy that was in
effect at the time of the accident explicitly did not include
liability coverage for the 1990 Ford Truck, as such coverage
was suspended. Dkt. # 15, Ex. 2 at 8-10. The record instead
reflects that Defendant Bruner attempted to add such coverage
after the accident had already occurred. Dkt. # 15, at ¶
6. There was thus no coverage for this accident and Plaintiff
has no duty to indemnity or defend Defendant Bruner as she
did not have then-active liability coverage for the 1990 Ford
Truck. There is no coverage provided for Defendant Lyons as
the operator of the motor vehicle for the same reason.
Without any such coverage, Defendant Rummel is owed nothing
under the Policy for claims arising out of the accident
involving the 1990 Ford Truck. The Court accordingly
GRANTS Plaintiff's Motions for Default
Judgment against all Defendants.
foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiff's Motions for Default Judgment. Dkt. ## 14, 21.
The Court finds that there is no coverage under the Allstate
Policy for Defendants Sara Bruner and Jessica Lyons, and
Defendant Pamela Rummel is owed nothing under the Policy, for
the motor vehicle accident that occurred on ...