United States District Court, E.D. Washington
MOUNTAIN WEST FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a Wyoming corporation, Plaintiff,
J. TIM JACKSON and ROBERTA JACKSON, husband and wife; IBEX CONSTRUCTION, INC., a Washington corporation; STEVEN O. ANDERSON as personal representative of the ESTATE OF EDWARD K. DUMAW, on behalf of the Estate and surviving family members, CARRIE DUMAW, KRISTEN DUMAW, MEGAN DUMAW, and ANNA DUMAW, individually; RICHARD WAGONER and VALERIE WAGONER, husband and wife; THEODORE LISTER; DALE RANDALL HILL; JACK STEGALL, JR.; FELIX W. SCHUCK; INLAND NORTHWEST EQUIPMENT AUCTION, INC., d/b/a REINLAND AUCTIONEERS, a Washington corporation; REINLAND, INC., d/b/a REINLAND EQUIPMENT AUCTION, an Idaho corporation; REINLAND PROPERTIES, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; THOMAS REINLAND and KUNYA REINLAND, husband and wife; ASHLY REINLAND and JOHN DOE REINLAND, husband and wife; PACIFIC HIDE & FUR DEPOT, d/b/a PACIFIC STEEL & RECYCLING, a Montana corporation; PACIFIC HIDE & FUR DEPOT, INC., a Washington corporation; GORDON BECK and JANE DOE BECK, husband and wife, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Stanley A. Bastian, United States District Judge.
the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment,
ECF No. 26, and the parties' Stipulation for Entry of
Declaratory Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff, ECF No. 33. The
motions were heard without oral argument.
an action for declaratory judgment brought by the insurance
company that insured Defendants J. Tim and Roberta Jackson.
This lawsuit arises out of the explosion at a recycling
facility of a 55-gallon unmarked metal tank that contained
chlorine gas, causing significant and injuries and death to
persons who were working at the recycling facility.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant 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). There is no genuine issue for trial
unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving
party for a jury to return a verdict in that party's
favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 250 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of
showing the absence of a genuine issue of fact for trial.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
If the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-moving
party must go beyond the pleadings and “set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
addition to showing there are no questions of material fact,
the moving party must also show it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Smith v. Univ. of Wash. Law Sch.,
233 F.3d 1188, 1193 (9th Cir. 2000). The moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the non-moving
party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential
element of a claim on which the non-moving party has the
burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The
non-moving party cannot rely on conclusory allegations alone
to create an issue of material fact. Hansen v. United
States, 7 F.3d 137, 138 (9th Cir. 1993).
considering a motion for summary judgment, a court may
neither weigh the evidence nor assess credibility; instead,
“the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and
all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his
favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
case is a companion case to three cases proceeding in Spokane
County Superior Court. Plaintiff Mount West Farm Bureau
Mutual Insurance Company comes to federal court seeking a
declaratory judgment that it does not have a duty to defend
or otherwise provide coverage for any claims asserted against
its insured, Defendant J. Tim and Roberta Jackson.
Jackson Defendants own Defendant Ibex Construction, which is
located in Spokane, Washington. The Jackson Defendants
contracted with Defendant Reinland Auctioneers to clear the
Ibex Construction property of scrap metal and old equipment.
Defendant Reinland Auctioneers contracted with Defendant
Gordon Beck to remove certain pieces of scrap metal off the
property. Defendant Beck loaded the bigger pieces of the
scrap metal, including a 55-gallon unmarked metal tank, into
a dump truck owned by Defendant Pacific Steel &
Recycling. (“PS&R”). An employee of Defendant
PS&R drove the truck to its recycling facility. The
metal, including the unmarked tank, was loaded into a
crusher. When the tank was crushed, it exploded and chlorine
gas was released, causing considerable injuries and death to
law applies to the interpretation of the insurance
contract. The interpretation of an insurance
contract is a question of law. Fisher v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., 305 P.3d 861, 865 (Mont. 2013). When
interpreting an insurance contract, Montana courts accord the
usual meaning to the terms and the words used and construe
them using common sense. Id. An insurance contract
is ambiguous if it is “reasonably subjected to two
different interpretations.” Id. (citation
omitted). Whether a provision of an insurance contract is
“reasonably susceptible to two different
interpretations, ” is determined from “the
viewpoint of a consumer with average intelligence, but
untrained in the law or the insurance business.”
Id. (citation omitted). That said, a provision is
not ambiguous “just because a claimant says so or just
because the parties disagree as to its meeting.”
Id. (citation omitted). Id. at 866.
“Courts should not ... ‘seize upon certain and
definite covenants expressed in plain English with violent
hands, and distort them so as to include a risk clearly
excluded by the insurance contract.'” Id.
(citation omitted). Because insurers draft the language of
insurance contracts and the object of an insurance contract
is to give protection to the insured, Montana courts construe
ambiguous provisions “against the insurer and in favor
of extending coverage.” Id.
from coverage will be narrowly and strictly construed because
they are contrary to the fundamental protective purpose of an
insurance policy.” Revelation Indus., Inc. v. St.
Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 206 P.3d 919, 929
Policy at Issue
Jackson Defendants purchased an insurance policy from
Plaintiff. ECF No. 1, Ex. 1. The policy included property
coverage, liability coverage, automobile coverage, and an
umbrella coverage, although only the scope of the liability
coverage and umbrella coverage are at issue in this case.
Id. at 23. The policy declarations indicate the
Insured Location was S20, T3S, R1W, Madison County, MT--330
Sterling Rd., Norris MT 59745. Id. Under Additional
Policy Declaration Schedule of Coverage - Section II -
Liability Coverages, it lists the “Insured
Location” as s20, T3S, R1W, Madison County, Montana.
Id. at 28.
Under Section II- “Farm” Liability
Coverage, the policy states:
“We” will pay all sums for which an
“insured” is legally liable because of
“bodily injury” or “property damages”
caused by an “occurrence” to which this coverage
Id. at 58.
the Exclusions section, damages for bodily
injury or property damages are not ...