United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. WOOTEN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (hereinafter
“State Farm” or “Plaintiff”), filed
the above-captioned declaratory judgment action pursuant to
the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201,
and Fed.R.Civ.P. 57 on April 17, 2015. (Doc. #1). In this
action, Plaintiff State Farm seeks to obtain a determination
and declaration by this Court of the rights and legal
obligations of the parties arising out of a Homeowner's
Insurance Policy issued by Plaintiff State Farm to the
parents of Defendant Travis Cruise Mitchell (hereinafter
“Defendant Mitchell”). (Doc. #1). This matter is
now before the Court for consideration of cross-motions for
summary judgment; Plaintiff State Farm's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. #20) and Defendant Christopher
Harry's (hereinafter “Defendant Harry”)
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #22). On February 19, 2016,
Defendant Mitchell responded to Defendant Harry's motion
for summary judgment indicating that Defendant Mitchell is
not filing any memorandum in response to the motion. (Doc.
#23). On the same day, Defendant Mitchell filed a Response
opposing Plaintiff State Farm's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. #24), to which Plaintiff replied on February
29, 2016 (Doc. #27).
full briefing by the parties on these motions, the Court held
a hearing on June 29, 2016, wherein counsel for all three
parties presented arguments. (Doc. #36). The Court has
carefully considered the arguments, pleadings, motions,
memoranda, and exhibits of the parties. The Motions for
Summary Judgment are now ripe for disposition.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
following facts are drawn from the parties' motions,
memoranda, and other relevant filings, as well as the June
29, 2016 hearing and the record in this matter. Generally,
this declaratory judgment action arises out of an altercation
between Defendant Mitchell and Defendant Harry that occurred
on October 6, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina at a
University of South Carolina - University of Georgia football
game tailgate in an area that was been jointly leased by two
fraternities. (Doc. #1, Hearing Transcript at p. 3 lns. 1-4).
During that altercation, Defendant Mitchell punched Defendant
Harry in the face, allegedly resulting in substantial damages
to Harry. Defendant Mitchell asserts he acted in
self-defense. Harry subsequently filed a lawsuit in South
Carolina state court against Defendant Mitchell seeking to
recover damages that Harry asserts he sustained as a result
of the altercation. Plaintiff State Farm then filed the
above-captioned matter on April 17, 2015, in which it asks
this Court to declare the rights and legal relations of the
parties based on a homeowner's insurance contract that
was issued by Plaintiff State Farm to Defendant
Mitchell's parents. (Doc. #1).
undisputed that Plaintiff State Farm issued a Homeowner's
Insurance Policy to James C. Mitchell and Kathleen D.
Mitchell, the parents of Defendant Travis Mitchell, Policy
Number 40-EJ-7696-9, and that this Policy was in force and
effect on October 6, 2012, the date of the altercation at
issue. (See Doc. #1). It is undisputed that
Defendant Mitchell qualifies as an “insured”
under the Policy. As noted above, a lawsuit was filed by
Defendant Harry against Defendant Mitchell in the Court of
Common Pleas for Richland County, South Carolina, Civil
Action No.: 2014-CP-40-5984, based on the October 6, 2012
incident between Defendant Mitchell and Defendant Harry, in
which Harry alleges to have sustained serious injuries and
seeks to recover damages against Defendant Mitchell.
Plaintiff State Farm is currently defending Defendant
Mitchell in the state court case. (Hearing Transcript at p.
15 lns. 21-25, p. 16 lns. 1-7).
instant case, Plaintiff State Farm argues in its motion for
summary judgment that the October 6, 2012 incident is not
covered by the Homeowner's Insurance Policy based on
certain exclusions in Mitchell's Policy, Homeowner's
Insurance Policy Number 40-EJ-7696-9 (hereinafter the
“Policy”). The Policy at issue in this case
contains the following relevant provisions:
II - LIABILITY COVERAGE
L - Personal Liability
claim is made or a suit is brought against an insured for
damages because of bodily injury or property damage to which
this coverage applies; caused by an occurrence, we will:
up to our limit of liability for damages for which the
insured is legally liable; and 2. provide a
defense at our expense by counsel for our choice . . .
M - MEDICAL PAYMENTS TO OTHERS
pay the necessary medical expenses incurred or medically
ascertained within three years from the date of an accident
causing bodily injury. Medical expenses, means reasonable
charges for medical, surgical, x-ray, dental, ambulance,
hospital, professional nursing, prosthetic devices and
funeral services. This coverage applies only: . . .
2. to a
person off the insured location, if the bodily injury:
caused by the activities of an insured.
SECTION II - EXCLUSIONS
1. Coverage L and Coverage M do not apply to: a. bodily
injury or property damage:
(1) which is either expected or intended by the insured; or
(2) which is the result of the willful and malicious acts of
the insured; In addition to the provisions listed above, the
following definitions of terms appear in the policy: 1.
“bodily injury” means physical injury, sickness
or disease to a person. This includes required care, loss of
services and a death resulting therefrom.
Bodily injury does not include . . .
c. emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, mental
distress, mental injury or similar injury unless it arises
out of actual injury to some person. 4. “insured”
means you and, if residents of your household:
a. your relatives . . .
7. “occurrence” when used in Section II of this
policy, means an accident, including exposure to ...