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Russell v. McGrath

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

September 25, 2015

CECILE RUSSELL, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Kelsey Harris, deceased; WILLIAM P. PIPP, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Melinda Sue Pipp, deceased; and WENDY S. FUESS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Billings S. Fuess, IV, deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
Evelyn McGrath as Personal Representative of the Estate of BRIAN M. McGRATH and LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants

          For Cecile Russell, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Kelsey Harris, deceased, personal representative, Kelsey Harris, Plaintiff: Alan David Toporek, Jeffrey Wayne Buncher, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Uricchio Howe Krell Jacobson Toporek Theos and Keith, Charleston, SC.

         For William P Pipp, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Melinda Sue Pipp, deceased, personal representative, Melinda Sue Pipp, Wendy S Fuess, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Billings S. Fuess, IV, deceased, personal representative, Billings S Fuess, IV, Plaintiffs: Robert B Ransom, LEAD ATTORNEY, Leventis and Ransom, Columbia, SC.

         For Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Evelyn McGrath, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Brian M McGrath, Estate of, Brian M McGrath, Defendants: Morgan S Templeton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Charleston, SC.

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         ORDER

         Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         This matter comes before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff's decedents, Kelsey Harris, Melinda Sue Pipp, and Billings S. Fuess, IV, were killed in an automobile accident in Columbia, South Carolina on January 18, 2012. Plaintiffs seek to recover underinsured motorist (" UIM" ) coverage from Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (" Liberty" ) under an automobile insurance policy sold to Evelyn McGrath (" Evelyn" ), the mother of Defendant Brian M. McGrath (" Brian" ).

         The parties agree that the dispositive issue in this case is whether the policy is governed by Florida or South Carolina law. If Florida law governs the policy, Plaintiffs are entitled to nothing. If South Carolina law applies, Plaintiffs are entitled to $500,000.

         The parties have fully briefed their motions, and on September 21, 2015, this Court heard oral arguments. For the reasons discussed below, this Court holds that the policy is governed by Florida law and that Plaintiffs are entitled to nothing further under the policy. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is denied, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History

         This lawsuit arises out of a tragic automobile accident that claimed the lives of

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four young adults in Columbia, South Carolina. On January 18, 2012, Brian was driving his 2006 Dodge sedan, insured by Liberty with Plaintiffs' decedents as his three passengers. Brian lost control of the vehicle and crashed. As a result, all four occupants died.

         Brian began attending the University of South Carolina in August 2007. During his freshman year, he lived in the dormitory on campus without a vehicle. During the 2008/2009 school year, Brian lived in an apartment across from the campus with roommates. During the summer of 2009, he attended summer school at Queens College in New York and lived in Connecticut. During the 2009/2010 school year, Brian returned to Columbia and resided at the Woodlands apartments with roommates. During the summer of 2010, Brian again went north to attend summer school at Sacred Heart College in Fairfield, Connecticut where he lived at home.

         During the 2010/2011 school year, his third year at USC, Brian lived at the Carolina Walk condominiums as a renter. During the summer of 2011, Brian worked in Connecticut as an intern at a law firm and lived at home. During the 2011/2012 school year, as a senior, Brian continued to live at the Carolina Walk condominiums until his death on January 18, 2012. Brian would have graduated in May of 2012.

         In late 2008, during Brian's sophomore year, his parents purchased a second home in Florida. At the time, they also purchased the Dodge sedan for Brian. They purchased the vehicle in Florida from a Florida dealer. The vehicle was registered in the state of Florida with a Florida license plate. Evelyn paid taxes on the vehicle in the state of Florida. The Liberty policy was sold to Evelyn, the named insured, through a Florida sales ...


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