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U.S. Specialty Insurance Company v. Lebeau

February 22, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge



On May 31, 2009, during and in proximity to an air show held at Ontario Beach Park in the City of Rochester, defendant Shane Full, a pedestrian, was struck and seriously injured by a motor vehicle operated by a third party, Jessie Schlageter, who was driving a vehicle near the site of the air show .

On May 28, 2010, Kari Ann Full, individually and as Shane Full's guardian, filed an action in New York State Supreme Court, Monroe County, against the County of Monroe (which owns Ontario Beach Park and issued a permit to the Airport Authority for its use in the air show), the Monroe County Sheriff's Department and the Monroe County Sheriff, the Monroe County Airport Authority (which sponsored the air show) (collectively "County defendants"), LeBeau, Inc., d/b/a Beau Productions (the manager and producer of the air show), the City of Rochester, the City of Rochester Police Department, and the Town of Greece. The complaint in that action generally alleges that the parties' carelessness and negligence in controlling motor vehicle traffic and failure to afford proper safety measures for pedestrians caused Shane Full's injuries.

The permit issued to the Airport Authority by the County for the air show required LeBeau to obtain insurance, naming the County and the Airport Authority as additional insureds, to protect against claims for bodily injury, death, property damage, etc., "which may arise from the performance of work under this agreement whether or not such performance be by [LeBeau] or by any subcontractor or anyone else employed by them directly or indirectly..." (Dkt. #51-5, Permit Agreement at ¶17).

LeBeau procured that insurance (the "policy", Dkt. #51-6) through plaintiff U.S. Specialty ("USSIC"). After the underlying action was filed, USSIC denied coverage for Shane Full's injuries under the policy, due to the auto exclusion contained therein. USSIC then commenced this declaratory judgment action, seeking a judicial determination that the policy does not cover Shane Full's injuries, and further, that the defendants are not entitled to any defense or indemnification by USSIC, because Full's injuries were sustained outside of the "covered premises," and because the incident fell within the auto exclusion.

USSIC and the County defendants have separately moved for partial summary judgment with respect to the discrete issue of whether the auto exclusion (as modified by endorsements to the policy) precludes coverage for the County defendants. (Policy: Dkt. #51-6). The County defendants contend that the modified exclusion is at best ambiguous, and that a reasonable insured would not have believed that it disclaimed all coverage for any motor vehicle accident, including one caused by a vehicle which was not owned or operated by an insured, and with which none of the insured had any relationship. USSIC, on the other hand, claims that the policy exclusion and endorsement are clear and unambiguous, particularly within the context of a second endorsement that extended coverage to autos operated by the insured on airport grounds, and that anyone reading the exclusion would have understood that the policy excluded any injury caused by an automobile operated by third parties.

For the reasons set forth below, USSIC's motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. #50) is granted, the County defendants' cross motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. #51) is denied.

The Court finds that the auto exclusion at issue is clear and unambiguous, and that in light of its clear terms, USSIC is not obligated to defend or indemnify the County defendants in the underlying personal injury action.


I. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment will be granted if the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). (2000). In determining a motion for summary judgment, the Court's role is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe all inferences from underlying facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986), citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

II. The Policy's Auto Exclusion

The material facts concerning the underlying accident, and the terms of the policy itself, are undisputed. The parties agree that at the time Shane Full was ...

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