Associate Secures Summary Judgment for Insurer on its Complaint for Declaratory Judgment

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. Jacob Fickle, et al; Madison County Case No. 14-MR-54

In the underlying wrongful death suit, the plaintiff alleged that Jacob Fickle was negligent when he drove a 2007 GMC Yukon, while intoxicated, into a home, resulting in the death of the home’s occupant. The GMC Yukon at issue was owned by Jacob Fickle’s mother. The undisputed facts showed that Jacob Fickle did not reside with his mother, but resided with his grandmother. The undisputed facts also established that Jacob Fickle took the keys to the GMC Yukon from his mother without her consent during an altercation, drove the vehicle without her permission while intoxicated, and crashed into a home. State Farm insured the GMC Yukon through a policy issued to Jacob Fickle’s mother. State Farm also insured several vehicles owned by Jacob Fickle’s grandmother through policies issued to the grandmother. Reed, Armstrong, on behalf of State Farm, filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration from the court that State Farm owned no duty to defend and no duty to indemnify Jacob Fickle under any of the foregoing policies for any claims arising from the unfortunate incident. In its Motion for Summary Judgment, State Farm argued that it owed no duty to defend or indemnify Jacob under the policy insuring the GMC Yukon because Jacob was not an insured as defined by the policy; he was not the named insured, a resident relative or the named insured’s spouse, nor was he operating the vehicle with the owner’s consent. State Farm further argued it owed no coverage under the policies insuring the vehicles owned by Jacob’s grandmother because the GMC Yukon did not fall within the definition of a covered vehicle; the GMC Yukon was not the insured vehicle under the policies nor did it fit the definition of a newly acquired car, temporary substitute car or trailer as defined by the policies. The GMC Yukon also did not meet the definition of a non-owned car under the policy. To constitute a non-owned car under the policy, Jacob must have been in lawful possession of the vehicle at the time of the incident. It was undisputed that Jacob operated the vehicle while intoxicated and without the owner’s consent and was therefore not in lawful possession of the vehicle at the time of the incident. The Honorable Judge Barberis entered summary judgment in favor of State Farm and specifically found that State Farm owed no duty to defend and no duty to indemnify Jacob Fickle for any claims arising from the incident at issue.