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Haque v. Commerce and Industry Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 13, 2013




Plaintiff Reshwat Haque ("Plaintiff" or "Haque") brings this action against Commerce and Industry Insurance Company, the American International Companies and Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. (collectively "Defendants"), seeking a declaratory judgment regarding Defendants' obligation to make payments under an automobile insurance contract. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56. This Court has jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Court has reviewed thoroughly all of the parties' submissions. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.


The following facts are undisputed. At all times relevant to the instant case, Plaintiff Reshwat Haque, a resident of the state of Arizona, worked as a mechanical engineer in the Phoenix, Arizona offices of Defendant Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. ("Pirnie"). (Reshwat Decl. ¶¶ 2-5.) Plaintiff's work brought him to New York City in January 2009, at which time he rented an automobile from Enterprise Rent-A-Car through Pirnie's business account. (Reshwat Decl. ¶¶ 9-10.) On January 20, 2009, Plaintiff's automobile was rear-ended while he waited at a traffic light in Kings County, causing him "severe and permanent" physical injuries. (Reshwat Decl. ¶¶ 9, 11.) The offending vehicle carried an insurance policy with a limit of $25, 000 per person, which amount has already been tendered to Plaintiff. (Plaintiff's Ex. J.) Plaintiff seeks a declaration that he is entitled to additional benefits under the terms of his employer's insurance policy (the "Pirnie Policy, " Defendants' Ex. D), which was issued by Defendants Commerce and Industry Insurance Company and the American International Companies. (Plaintiff's Memo. at 3-4.)


Summary judgment is to be granted in favor of a moving party 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 non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts... [T]he non-moving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Caldarole v. Calabrese , 298 F.3d 156, 160 (2d Cir. 2002). When deciding cross-motions for summary judgment, the standard to be used "is the same as that for individual motions for summary judgment and the court must consider each motion independent of the other." Schultz v. Stoner , 308 F.Supp.2d 289, 298 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (internal quotations omitted).

The facts of this case are essentially undisputed (Plaintiff's Memo. at 6, Defendant's Reply Memo. at 1), and, accordingly, its disposition turns on interpretation of the language of the insurance policy. Under New York state law, which governs this case, "the interpretation of an insurance policy generally presents a question of law." Allianz Ins. Co. v. Lerner , 416 F.3d 109, 115-16 (2d Cir. 2005). The Court must give plain and unambiguous provisions their ordinary meaning and construe the policy liberally in favor of the insured. See id.

Plaintiff advances three theories as to why he is entitled to additional payments under the Pirnie Policy.

The Pirnie Policy's Liability Coverage

Plaintiff first contends that his claim is covered by the Pirnie Policy's liability provision, which offers coverage up to $1, 000, 000. (Plaintiff's Memo. at 6-7.) In support of this contention, Plaintiff points to Item Two of the insurance policy's Business Auto Declarations, titled "Schedule of Coverages and Covered Autos, " which states that the Pirnie Policy's "Liability" coverage extends to autos within category "1." (Plaintiff's Memo. 6-7; Defendants' Ex. D at CA DS 03 03 06[1].) Because category 1 refers to "any auto, " Plaintiff asserts that his claim must be covered thereunder.

Plaintiff's argument disregards plain language elsewhere in the insurance contract. Page 2 of the Business Auto Coverage Form, at "Section II - Liability Coverage, " sets forth the scope of the Pirnie Policy's Liability provisions. (See Defendants' Ex. D at CA 00 01 03 06.) The insurer is obligated to pay "all sums an insured' legally must pay as damages because of bodily injury' or property damage' to which this insurance applies, caused by an accident' and resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered auto'." (Id.) The Pirnie Policy's Liability provisions benefit Plaintiff only to the extent that he may have been obligated to make damages payments to a third party in satisfaction of his own liability. The record provides no indication that Plaintiff is or was liable to any third parties for damages arising out of the January 20, 2009 collision. The Pirnie Policy's plain language thus forecloses Plaintiff from obtaining benefits under its Liability provisions.

Supplementary Arizona Underinsured Motorists Coverage Endorsement

Plaintiff next claims that he is entitled to benefits under the policy's Arizona Underinsured Motorists Coverage ("Arizona SUM") endorsement due to "several significant contacts" between Arizona and the parties. (See Plaintiff's Memo. at 14; Defendants' Ex. D at CA 21 40 06 07.) The Arizona SUM endorsement entitles an applicable insured to receive up to $1 million in compensation for damages caused by the driver of an underinsured vehicle. (Defendants' Ex. D. CA 21 40 06 07.) The first line of the Arizona SUM endorsement states, however, that it modifies the terms of the Business Auto Coverage Form only with respect to "a covered auto' licensed or principally garaged in... Arizona." (Defendants' Ex. D at CA 21 40 06 07.) It is undisputed that the vehicle Plaintiff was driving at the time of the collision was registered in the state of New York. (See Plaintiff's Ex. B.) There is no evidence in the record that the vehicle was ...

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