United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge.
matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary
judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 27, 28). For the reasons below, the
Court DENIES Defendants' motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. No. 28) and GRANTS Plaintiffs motion for summary
judgment (Dkt. No. 27).
a declaratory judgment action to determine the amount of
coverage provided to Defendant Grainger under an automobile
insurance policy issued by Plaintiff. On October 25, 2014,
Defendant Grainger, driving a pickup truck, made a left turn
from a northbound lane across southbound lanes. Defendants
Virginia and Jerry King, who were riding separate motorcycles
in a southbound lane, collided with the pickup truck in rapid
succession. Defendants Virginia and Jerry King both suffered
insurance policy Plaintiff issued to Defendant Grainger
provides bodily injury and property damage coverage of $500,
000 for each accident. The insurance policy does not define
the word "accident." Accordingly, the determinative
question is whether the October 25, 2014 incident constitutes
one accident-as Plaintiff contends-or two accidents-as
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 the nonmoving 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)).
insurance policy is a contract between the insured and the
insurance company, and the terms of the policy are to be
construed according to contract law." Auto Owners
Ins. Co. v. Rollison, 378 S.C. 600, 606 (S.C. 2008).
"The court must construe ambiguous terms in an insurance
policy liberally in favor of the insured and strictly against
the insurer. In cases where there is no ambiguity, contracts
of insurance, like other contracts, must be construed
according to the terms which the parties have used, to be
taken and understood in their plain, ordinary and popular
sense." Precision Walls, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Fire
Ins. Co., 763 S.E.2d 598, 602 (S.C. Ct. App. 2014)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
fact that a word is not defined does not render it ambiguous.
Indeed, "[i]f policy language was rendered ambiguous
simply because it was not defined, insurance policies would
need to contain definitions for every word in order to avoid
ambiguity, a requirement which would be absurd.... We use
words because they have commonly accepted meanings, and it is
only when they are subject to more than one meaning as used
in a particular policy that they may become ambiguous."
Bardsley v. Gov 7 Employees Ins. Co., 747
S.E.2d 436, 440 (S.C. 2013) "The court cannot torture
the meaning of policy language to extend coverage not
intended by the parties." S.C. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins.
Co. v. Dawsey, 638 S.E.2d 103, 105 (S.C. Ct. App. 2006)
contend that each collision constitutes a separate accident,
while Plaintiff contends that the October 25, 2014 incident
amounts to a single accident. The Court will first examine
the relevant insurance policy provision, then, because the
South Carolina appellate courts have not yet addressed this
issue directly, turn to how it has been interpreted in other
the insurance policy does not define the term "accident,
" the policy does state that the insurer's liability
is limited "regardless of the number of... [v]ehicles
involved in the auto accident." (Dkt. No. 27-4 at
33-34). This language clearly contemplates single accidents
involving multiple vehicles; otherwise, the clause would have
little-to-no meaning. Stevens Aviation, Inc. v. DynCorp
Int'l LLC, 407 S.C. 407, 417, 756 S.E.2d 148, 153
(2014) ("Additionally, an interpretation that gives
meaning to all parts of the contract is preferable to one
which renders provisions in the contract meaningless or
superfluous, " (internal quotation marks omitted)).
in light of the fact that the South Carolina Supreme Court
has previously characterized a multiple collision incident as
a single accident, see Chester v. S, C. Dep't of Pub.
Safety,698 S.E.2d 559, 560 (S.C. 2010) (per curiam)
(discussing "multiple vehicle accident caused when heavy
smoke from a fire allegedly obstructed visibility on
Interstate 95"), the Court finds that ...