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Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Hogan

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division

December 1, 2014

ALLSTATE FIRE AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
GREGORY HOGAN, NORRIS SMART, and EDGAR LAMBERT, Defendants

For Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Plaintiff: R Michael Ethridge, LEAD ATTORNEY, Carlock Copeland Semler and Stair, Charleston, SC; Robert Buchanan Hawk, LEAD ATTORNEY, Carlock Copeland and Stair, Charleston, SC.

For Gregory Hogan, Defendant: Ralph V Baldwin, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law LLC, Beaufort, SC.

ORDER

DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the court on a motion for summary judgment brought by plaintiff Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company (" Allstate"). For the reasons set forth below, the court grants Allstate's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Allstate issued an automobile insurance policy (" the policy") to Sherry and Michael Eddings, effective from February 14, 2013 to August 14, 2013. Pl.'s Mot. Ex. H at 6. The policy listed a 2005 Chevy Colorado Truck (" the truck") as a " covered vehicle" and included Sherry Eddings's (" Sherry") 18-year-old son Jacob Canfield (" Canfield") as a driver of the truck. Id. at 6-8. Canfield received the truck as a Christmas present following his sixteenth birthday. Canfield Dep. 8:11-20. However, the truck was titled in his parents' names and Canfield was not a named insured under the policy. Pl.'s Mot. Ex. H at 6; Canfield Dep. 8:16-20. Sherry testifies that she explicitly told Canfield he was not allowed to lend the truck out to anybody. Sherry Aff. ¶ ¶ 6, 9, 11; Sherry Dep. 23:12-14, 42:10-43:4. Although it appears Canfield may have had a somewhat different understanding of Sherry's restrictions on his use of the truck, his deposition testimony reflects that, at a minimum, he understood he was only allowed to loan the truck to licensed drivers. Canfield Dep. 33:12-19

On March 20, 2013, at approximately 10:36 p.m., Canfield's friend and co-worker, defendant Edgar Lambert (" Lambert"), was driving the truck without a valid driver's license and got into an accident on Highway 278 in Bluffton, South Carolina. Pl.'s Mot. Ex. A at 2; Lambert Dep. 43:6-9. While driving under the influence of alcohol at a high rate of speed, Lambert sideswiped a vehicle driven by defendant Norris Smart (" Smart"). Pl's Mot. Ex. A at 2. Due to the force of the impact, Smart's vehicle then struck the vehicle of defendant Gregory Hogan (" Hogan"). Id. Lambert then crossed the median and oncoming lanes, turned 180 degrees and struck a tree on the opposite side of Highway 278. Id. After Lambert was transported to the Bluffton Police Department, he failed a breath analysis test by blowing a blood alcohol content level of 0.14. Pl's Mot. Ex. B at 3. Lambert was then taken to the Beaufort Law Enforcement Center and placed under arrest. Id. Lambert admits he drank alcohol during lunch that day and continued to drink throughout the afternoon at a house party. Lambert Dep. 66:23-67:19. Lambert also admits he purchased two bottles of liquor at a liquor store and took shots of liquor while driving the truck. Id. at 67:10-19.

At the time of the accident, Michael Eddings lived in Georgia and was traveling for work in Russia and South Korea. Sherry Dep. 11:14-18. Sherry, Canfield, and Lambert lived on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina (" Daufuskie"), a small community that allows transportation by golf cart only. Sherry Dep. 42:1-3; Lambert Dep. 7:20-24, 22:6-10. Because residents cannot use cars on Daufuskie, Sherry and Canfield kept the truck parked on the " mainland" at Broad Creek Marina (" the marina") on Hilton Head Island. Sherry Dep. 42:4-9; Lambert Dep. 22:6-10. Sherry and Canfield were friendly with Lambert and his family and were both aware that Lambert did not have a driver's license. Sherry Dep. 23:16-19; Canfield Dep. 16:12-17:3.

Lambert recalls borrowing the truck from Canfield on one occasion before March 20, 2013. Lambert Dep. 57:4-17. On that occasion, Lambert assured Canfield a licensed driver would drive the truck. Id. at 17:18-25. Lambert drove the truck three blocks to his friend Angel's house, and then Angel, a licensed driver, took over driving the truck. Id. at 75:1-8. Canfield also recalls loaning the truck to Lambert one time prior to the accident. Canfield Dep. 18:4-14, 44:10-45:10. According to Canfield, Lambert asked to borrow the truck so he could go to Wal-Mart, and assured Canfield a licensed driver would drive the truck. Id. at 18:3-11, 44:23-25. Canfield's testimony is conflicting as to whether Angel or Simon, Lambert's brother, drove the truck on this occasion; both were licensed drivers. Id. at 18:4-14, 44:10-45:10.

Canfield and Lambert give different accounts of how Lambert came to drive the truck on March 20, 2013, and the restrictions put on Lambert's use of the truck. Lambert testified that he might have asked Canfield to borrow the truck on the night of March 19, 2013, and that he clearly remembers asking the next morning. Lambert Dep. 22:22-25. Canfield testified that, on the evening of March 19, 2013, Lambert asked if he could borrow the truck the next day so he could get a haircut on the mainland. Canfield Dep. 20:10-12. Canfield told Lambert he would first need to ask his mother for permission. Id. at 22:22-24. However, Sherry was out of town at the time on a hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and Canfield could not reach her. Id. at 20:18-19. Lambert testified that he did not know Sherry owned the truck until after the accident. Lambert Dep. 85:3-16.

Lambert testified that when he again asked to borrow the truck the morning of March 20, 2013, he told Canfield he needed to run errands, and Canfield handed him the keys without restriction or instruction. Lambert Dep. 77: 20-23, 78:3-8. In contrast, Canfield testified he gave Lambert permission to use the truck within the following scope: (1) Lambert could go to the mainland to get a haircut and run errands; (2) Lambert would return from the mainland on the noon ferry; and (3) Lambert was required to have a licensed driver drive the truck, because Lambert did not have a valid driver's license. Canfield Dep. 20:8-9, 21:2-3, 7-11, 41:24-42:2, 45:6-22. Canfield further testified that Lambert told him Angel, a licensed driver and Lambert's friend, would be driving the truck at all times. Id. at 18:4-14, 45:11-25. Canfield acknowledges that he gave Lambert the keys to the Truck without his mother's permission. Id. at 23:5-7.

After Canfield gave Lambert the keys to the truck, Lambert left Daufuskie on the morning ferry to the mainland. Lambert Dep. 22:24-23:3. When Lambert did not return to Daufuskie on the noon ferry, Canfield grew worried and attempted to call Lambert several times. Canfield Dep. 46:17-47:5. He also sent Lambert a text message that stated: " My truck better be back at broad creek." Pl.'s Mot. Ex. J. Canfield then called Sherry and told her that Lambert had the keys to the truck. Canfield Dep. 26:11-18. Sherry immediately called Lambert after finding out he had the truck. Sherry Dep. 29:19-30:2. She testified Lambert answered her call and promised her he was not using the truck, was not driving the truck, and that the truck must be parked at the marina, because he did not have it. Id. at 30:12-15.

According to Canfield, Lambert called him after speaking with Sherry. Canfield Dep. 28:1-10. Lambert said that the truck was parked at the marina and that he would catch the 8:00 a.m. ferry the next morning. Id. at 28:5-14. Canfield instructed Lambert to make sure the truck was locked and safe at the marina, ...


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