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Peter v. Allstate Insurance Co.

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

October 11, 2016

GREGORY STEVE PETER, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Wayne Michael Peters and G.P., a minor child, by and through his guardian ad litem, SILVI PETERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge.

         Through this action, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that they are eligible for benefits under the underinsured motorist (“UIM”) provisions of a commercial automobile insurance policy issued to Peter Peter LLC d/b/a/ Peter and Peter (“Peter Peter LLC”) by Defendant Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) for claims arising from a December 27, 2014 accident (“Accident”). Plaintiffs are Gregory Steve Peter (“Gregory Peter”), as personal representative of the estate of Wayne Michael Peters (“Wayne Peters”), and G.P., a minor child, by and through his guardian ad litem, SILVI PETERS, (collectively “Plaintiffs”).[1]

         The matter is before the court on Allstate's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF No. 20. Allstate argues that Wayne Peters and G.P. are not eligible for UIM benefits under the policy because (1) they are not named insureds and cannot be “family members” of a named insured because business entities do not have family members, and (2) no insured vehicle was involved in the Accident. For reasons set forth below, the court grants Allstate's motion.

         STANDARD

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is assessed under the same standards as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Walker v. Kelly, 589 F.3d 127, 139 (4th Cir. 2009). A motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) should be granted only if, after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, it appears certain the plaintiffs cannot prove any set of facts in support of their claims that entitles them to relief. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). Although the court must take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, it “need not accept the legal conclusions [the plaintiffs would draw] from the facts.” Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000)). The court may also disregard any “unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Id.

         The Rule 12(b)(6) standard has often been expressed as precluding dismissal unless it is certain that the plaintiffs are not entitled to relief under any legal theory that plausibly could be suggested by the facts alleged. See Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Markari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Nonetheless, the plaintiffs must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (quoted in Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302).

         COMPLAINT

         The Complaint alleges Allstate issued commercial automobile insurance policy number 648573106 (“Policy”) to Peter Peter LLC and named On-Time Services, Inc., (“On-Time, Inc.”) as an additional insured. Complaint ¶ 6. The Policy provided $300, 000 in UIM coverage through a UIM endorsement (“UIM Endorsement”). Id. ¶ 7. It also listed a 2004 Ford E450 truck as a covered vehicle. Id.. This truck was kept, parked and used at 2004 Holland Street in West Columbia, South Carolina. Id.

         The Policy was in effect on December 27, 2014, on which date Wayne Peters was struck by a vehicle while crossing a street in West Columbia, South Carolina. Id. ¶¶ 6, 8 (noting Plaintiffs were pedestrians at the time of the accident). Wayne Peters later died as a result of those injuries. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff G.P. was present and witnessed the accident. Id.

         At the time of the accident, Wayne Peters and G.P. lived in the home of their relative Gregory Peter at 2004 Holland Street. Id. ¶ 10. Wayne Peters also assisted Gregory Peter in running the day-to-day business of “Gregory's various business concerns” including Peter Peter LLC and On-Time, Inc. and was an employee of one or both businesses. Id. ¶ 11. Wayne Peters and his son, G.P., used the insured 2004 Ford E450 truck from time to time, though there is no allegation this vehicle was involved in the Accident.[2]

         The driver allegedly responsible for the Accident was an underinsured motorist. Complaint ¶ 9. After partially resolving their claims against this driver (for payment to the extent of his insurance coverage in exchange for a covenant not to execute), Plaintiffs filed a claim for UIM coverage with Allstate. Id. ¶¶ 9, 21. Allstate denied the claim. Id. at 21.

         Plaintiffs assert a single cause of action for declaratory relief. Specifically, they seek a declaratory judgment that Wayne Peters and G.P. were insureds under the Policy at the time of the Accident based on their status as “resident relatives.” Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiffs rely on South Carolina's statutory definition of insured, rather than the policy definition, in support of this claim. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.

         DISCUSSION

         It is clear from the Complaint and attached Policy that Wayne Peters and G.P. were not named insureds. Plaintiffs' right to coverage must, therefore, derive either from a provision of the Policy or a statutory mandate that extends coverage to Plaintiffs as other insureds. Plaintiffs do not allege or argue that they are entitled to coverage under the Policy's definition of insureds or based on any other Policy language.[3] They, instead, argue, in effect, that the Policy must be reformed to provide coverage because the Policy's definition of insured conflicts with South Carolina law. See ECF No. 25 at 5-7 (relying on statutory provisions and case law in arguing Policy may not limit coverage below what is required by ...


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