United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
State Farm Fire and Casualty Company and Maurice Lavon Robinson, Plaintiffs,
Admiral Insurance Company, Defendant.
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gregel United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant Admiral Insurance
Company's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 50) and
Plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Company's motion
for summary judgment (Dkt. No, 52). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court grants Admiral's motion for summary
judgment and denies State Farm's motion for summary
State Farm, which provided homeowner's liability coverage
to Plaintiff Maurice Robinson, alleges Defendant Admiral had
a duty to defend and to indemnify Mr. Robinson in an
underlying tort action arising from fraternity hazing that
Mr. Robinson hosted at his home. On October 22-23, 2011,
Daniel McElveen was a pledge for the Pi Chi Chapter (Francis
Marion Chapter) of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity International,
That evening, Daniel McElveen and two other pledges went to
the home of Mr. Robinson, vice president of the local alumni
chapter of the fraternity, in Florence, South Carolina, where
fraternity members gathered. At Mr. Robinson's home, Mr.
McElveen and the two other pledges were subjected to several
forms of hazing including paddling that caused Mr. McElveen
to suffer kidney damage and renal failure. He ultimately made
a full recovery. Mr. Robinson denies that he paddled Mr.
McElveen, but he otherwise admits that he participated in the
hazing hosted at his home that night. (See Dkt. No.
55-1 at 6-8.) Mr. McElveen testified at trial that Mr.
Robinson was "in charge" of the hazing. (Dkt. No.
January 15, 2013, Mr. McElveen filed suit in the South
Carolina Court of Common Pleas, Florence County against Phi
Beta Sigma, Pi Chi, Jimmy Hammock (Pi Chi Chapter president),
Francis Marion University, and Mr. Robinson. State Farm
defended Mr. Robinson under his homeowner's policy, which
had a $300, 000 limit. Admiral defended Phi Beta Sigma, Pi
Chi, and Mr. Hammock under a general commercial liability
policy, number CA000002580-08, which had limits of $1 million
per occurrence and $2 million in aggregate. (Dkt. No. 50-3.)
Mr. Robinson tendered his defense to Admiral, but Admiral
declined to accept it. The Admiral policy contained a hazing
exclusion for bodily injury arising out of hazing, applicable
to covered persons who participate in or direct others to
participate in hazing. (Id.)
settled claims against Phi Beta Sigma, Pi Chi, and Mr.
Hammock for $500, 000. State Farm offered a $50, 000
settlement, refused a $300, 000 settlement offer, and the
case proceeded to trial solely against Mr. Robinson.
(See Dkt. No. 44 at 9 (referring to Bates State Farm
965).) State Farm provided a letter dated March 28, 2014 to
Mr. Robinson assuring him that it would pay any excess
verdict. (Id.) On April 3, 2014,  the jury awarded
Mr. McElveen a judgment against Robinson of $600, 000 actual
damages and $1, 000, 000 punitive damages. The jury
attributed 99% fault against Mr. Robinson and 1% against Mr.
McElveen. The jury also found that Maurice Robinson's
actions or omissions on October 22-23, 2011 were in
furtherance of a Phi Beta Sigma initiation ritual required
the trial, State Farm settled with Mr. McElveen for $975,
000. On July 10, 2015, State Farm filed the present action,
seeking indemnity, damages, and declaratory relief.
judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should
be granted "only when it is clear that there is no
dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the
inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam
Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.
1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been
raised, the court must construe all inferences and
ambiguities in favor of then on moving party."
HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross,
101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking
summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of
demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986).
the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the
non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment,
may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings.
Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must
demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give
rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard,
"[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice,
nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in
support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v.
Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir.
2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190
F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).
Farm asserts Mr. Robinson was an insured under the Admiral
policy as a volunteer worker with Phi Beta Sigma, and that
Admiral therefore had a duty to defend him in the underlying
tort action and to indemnify him. (Dkt. No. 52-1.) Admiral
responds that Mr. Robinson was not an insured under the
policy because he was not a volunteer worker for Phi Beta
Sigma as that term is defined under the policy (at least with
regard to the night of October 22-23, 2011), and that even if
he were an insured, the claims against him fell under the
policy's exclusion for violation of membership intake
process and the policy's exclusion for bodily injury
arising from hazing. Admiral seeks summary judgment for those
Court does not reach whether Mr. Robinson was an insured
under the policy or whether his conduct fell under the
policy's exclusion for violation of membership intake
process. Even if Mr. Robinson were an insured under the
policy issued by Admiral, Mr. McEIveen's claims against
him plainly fall under the policy's hazing exclusion.
That exclusion provides,
It is agreed this insurance does not apply to "bodily
injury", "property damage" or "personal
and advertising injury" arising out of hazing, sexual
abuse, physical abuse or molestation committed ...