United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
JEANETTE LUZE, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Charles Edward Luze; Plaintiff,
ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jeanette Luze, brought this action naming Zurich American
Insurance Company as the defendant. Jeanette Luze moves for
partial summary judgment (Docket 12), and Zurich filed a
cross motion for summary judgment. Docket 17.
undisputed facts are:
is headquartered in Carroll, Iowa, and Charles Luze was a
resident of South Dakota at the time of this incident. Docket
14 ¶ 2. Farner-Bocken employed Charles Luze as a driver.
Id. ¶ 1. On September 14, 2014, Charles Luze
died in a motor vehicle accident while driving a company
vehicle that was owned by Farner-Bocken and insured by
Zurich. Id. ¶¶ 1-2. The liability limit in
place on the vehicle at the time of the crash was $1 million.
Id. ¶ 3. Zurich has not produced any evidence
showing that either Farner-Bocken or Charles Luze rejected
underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in writing. Id.
¶ 4. The term “auto” in the policy included
trailers and semi-trailers. Id. ¶ 6. The
Business Auto Coverage form defines category 1 autos as
“any autos, ” id. ¶ 7, and it
defines category 3 autos as “owned private passenger
autos.” Docket 15-1 at 8. The policy endorsement
defines uninsured motor vehicles as an underinsured motor
vehicle, and an underinsured motor vehicle is defined as
“a land motor vehicle or trailer for which the sum of
all liability bonds or policies at the time of the accident
do not provide at least the amount an insured is legally
entitled to recover as damages resulting from bodily
injury.” Docket 14 ¶¶ 9-10.
of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or
defenses[.]” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment is proper “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); Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 323 (“[A] party seeking summary
judgment always bears the initial responsibility of . . .
demonstrat[ing] the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” (internal quotations omitted)). The moving party
must inform the court of the basis for its motion and also
identify the portion of the record that shows there is no
genuine issue in dispute. Hartnagel v. Norman, 953
F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).
the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving
party must establish “that a fact . . . is genuinely
disputed” either by “citing to particular parts
of materials in the record, ” or by “showing that
the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a
genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “The
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, 415 F.3d 908,
910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. Cty. of Le
Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)). For purposes
of summary judgment, the facts and inferences drawn from
those facts are “viewed in the light most favorable to
the party opposing the motion.” Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc.,
369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)).
IOWA UNDERINSURED MOTORIST INSURANCE
case deals with a question of law as to whether Charles Luze
was covered by his employer's underinsured motorist
insurance policy. The interpretation of an insurance policy
is a matter of law to be determined by the court. A.Y.
McDonald Indus., Inc. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 475 N.W.2d
607, 618 (Iowa 1991). In an action based on diversity of
citizenship, a federal district court must apply the
substantive law of the state in which it sits, including its
conflict-of-law rules. Drinkall v. Used Car Rentals,
Inc., 32 F.3d 329, 331 (8th Cir. 1994). So this court
will apply South Dakota's conflict-of-law rules to
determine which state's insurance laws govern.
Dakota applies the provisions of the Restatement (Second) of
Conflicts of Laws in order to resolve questions about which
state's laws govern in particular factual
situations.” Stockmen's Livestock Exch. v.
Thompson, 520 N.W.2d 255, 257 (S.D. 1994). The
Restatement (Second) Conflict of Laws generally recognizes
that “[t]he law of the state chosen by the parties to
govern their contractual rights and duties will be
applied.” Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws
§ 187. “A contract must be construed in accordance
with the law of the place where made unless it is shown that
it was the intention of the parties to be bound by the law of
some other place.” Briggs v. United Servs. Life
Ins. Co., 117 N.W.2d 804, 806 (S.D. 1962). “The
test of the place of a contract is the place where the last
act is done by either of the parties which is necessary to
complete the contract and give it validity.”
Id. at 807.
the parties have not pointed to a governing choice-of-law
provision in the insurance policy, and the court did not find
a choice of law provision upon review of the policy. But the
UIM endorsement that was added to the policy is titled the
“Iowa Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
Coverage.” Docket 20-3. The language in the
endorsement indicates the parties' intention to be bound
by the law of Iowa, and no other provisions within the policy
indicate otherwise. Also, Zurich prepared the policy and sent
it to Farner-Bocken at its headquarters in Carroll, Iowa.
Docket 20-1. It appears the policy was then executed in Iowa,
so the final act necessary to make the policy valid occurred
in Iowa. Based on the intention of the parties as expressed
in the UIM endorsement and the location where the policy was
executed, Iowa law applies.
Whether Charles Luze was a covered insured under the policy
issued by Zurich at the time of his death?
first issue for the court to address is whether Charles Luze
was a covered insured under the insurance policy at the time
of his death. Because the named insured on this policy was a
corporation, the court looks to Section (B)(2) of the policy
for the definition of an “insured.” Docket 16-6.
This section states that an “insured” under the
uninsured and underinsured policy includes anyone “
‘occupying' a ‘covered auto.' ”
Id. at 2. “Covered autos” as described
on the Schedule of Coverages and Covered Autos page of the
policy lists only category 3 autos. Docket 15-1 at 21.
Category 3 autos are defined as “private passenger
autos only.” Id ...