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Jones v. Regent Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

June 2, 2014

DENNIS JONES, Plaintiff,


KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Dennis Jones, brought this suit against defendant, Regent Insurance Company, to recover for injuries sustained while he tried to assist an uninsured motorist. Regent moves for summary judgment.[1] Jones resists the motion. The motion is denied.


The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Jones, the nonmoving party, are as follows:

At all relevant times, Jones was employed by Vern Eide, a local car dealership, where he began working in 2004. As part of his job, Jones regularly drove Vern Eide's courtesy shuttle to deliver parts and pick up and drop off customers. Vern Eide purchased uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for its courtesy shuttle through Regent.

On July 6, 2011, Jones was making a work delivery when his wife asked him to pick up a prescription at the Avera McKennan campus. Jones decided to pick up her prescription on his way back to Vern Eide's Acura dealership. When Jones neared Avera, he encountered a couple, Michelle and Jeffrey Bigelow, pushing a stranded vehicle in the street. The Bigelows did not ask Jones for help, but Jones stopped to offer assistance both because he wanted to help and because his supervisors had instructed him to assist any stranded motorist he came across.

Jones parked the courtesy shuttle behind the disabled vehicle, turned on his flashers, and exited the courtesy shuttle, leaving its engine running. Jeffrey informed Jones that the disabled car was experiencing transmission problems and Jones observed a trail of fluid leaking from the car. With Michelle pushing from the driver's side door and steering, and Jeffrey and Jones pushing from the rear of the vehicle, the three managed to move the vehicle and turn it into the entrance of a nearby parking lot.[2]

Once the vehicle reached the parking lot, Michelle began to turn the car right again to maneuver it into a vacant parking spot. At this time, the car began to roll downhill. During this second turn, Michelle attempted to get inside the vehicle and became stuck in the driver's side door, fell down, and was dragged by the vehicle as it continued to roll. As Jeffrey tended to the injured Michelle, Jones ran after the vehicle as it continued to roll downhill and pick up speed.[3] Reaching through the open driver's window, Jones attempted to shift the car into park, but it did not stop. During a second attempt to put the vehicle in park, Jones somehow fell or was knocked to the ground and suffered injuries including a broken jaw, a fractured ear drum, nerve damage, and lost teeth. The Bigelows's vehicle continued to roll until it struck another vehicle in the parking lot.

Following this accident, Jones filed a claim with his automobile insurer. Subsequently, Jones filed another claim with Regent under Vern Eide's insurance policy. Regent denied the claim, and Jones filed this suit, seeking damages pursuant to the uninsured motorists provision in the policy. The uninsured motorists provision in Vern Eide's policy reads as follows:

We will pay all sums the "insured" is legally entitled to recover as compensatory damages from the owner or driver of an "uninsured" or "underinsured motor vehicle". The damages must result from "bodily injury" sustained by the "insured" caused by an "accident". The owner's or driver's liability for these damages must result from the ownership, maintenance or use of the "uninsured" or "underinsured motor vehicle".

Docket 10-4 at 4. When an organization is the named insured party, the policy defines an "insured" as "[a]nyone occupying' a covered auto' or a temporary substitute for a covered auto'." Id. The policy defines "occupying" as "in, upon, getting in, on, out or off." Docket 15-2 at 3.


Summary 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). The movant is required to present admissible evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact or must show that the nonmoving party has not presented admissible evidence to support an element of the case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). If the movant meets its burden, "[t]he nonmoving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.'" Mosley v. City of Northwoods, Mo., 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. Cnty. of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)).

Summary judgment should not be granted if there is a material factual dispute that could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court views the facts and the inferences drawn from such facts "in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986).

"It is, of course, well-settled that in a suit based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction the federal courts apply federal law as to matters of procedure but the substantive law of the relevant state.'" In re Baycol Prod. Litig., 616 F.3d 778, 785 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hiatt v. Mazda Motor Corp., 75 F.3d 1252, 1255 (8th Cir. 1996)). Both parties agree that South Dakota substantive law governs the ...

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