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Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Sickle

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

April 14, 2017

Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Plaintiff,
v.
Robert Van Sickle, Toni Van Sickle, and Appolonia Rush, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge

         Through this action, Plaintiff, Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company (“Nationwide”), seeks a declaratory judgment that it has no obligation to provide liability coverage to Defendant Appolonia Rush (“Rush”) for claims arising from a vehicle accident in which Defendants Robert and Toni Van Sickle (“Van Sickles”) were injured. Those claims are now pending in Van Sickle and Van Sickle v. Rush and Prince, SC Com. Pl. Case No. 2016-CP-43-620 (“Underlying Action”).

         The matter is before the court on Nationwide's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         STANDARD

         Summary judgment should be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). It is well established that 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 Properties, 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and the court must view the evidence before it and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         Rule 56(c)(1) provides as follows:

(1) A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials; or
(b) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         FACTS [1]

         On April 5, 2015, the vehicle driven by Rush struck the Van Sickles' vehicle when Rush drove into its path. ECF No. 1-2, Underlying Action, Compl. ¶ 4 (incorrectly depicted in the Underlying Action Complaint as the second paragraph 3). The Van Sickles allege Rush is liable for their injuries because she was speeding and failed to keep her vehicle under control and the accident was caused by her reckless driving. Underlying Action, Compl. ¶¶ 4-5. They allege Ms. Lois Prince (“Prince”), the owner of the vehicle, is liable for Rush's negligence because she entrusted the vehicle to Rush, authorizing her to drive the vehicle. Underlying Action, Compl. ¶¶ 16, 18, 31. While Prince was the owner of the vehicle, she allowed her son, Broderick Goodwin (“Goodwin”), to use the vehicle starting in 2009. ECF No. 25-4, Prince Dep. 13:6-14:1. At that point, Goodwin did not reside with his mother, and she acquired another car for her use. Id. at 14:2-9. Both Goodwin and Prince testified at deposition that Prince told Goodwin only he could drive the car, and no one else was allowed to do so. Id. at 14:21-15:9; ECF No. 25-5, Goodwin Dep. 13:19-14:8.

         The Nationwide Policy (“Policy”) that insures the vehicle owned by Prince provides coverage for damages:

for which you are legally liable as a result of an accident arising out of the ownership; maintenance or use; or loading or unloading of your auto. A relative also has this protection. So does any person or organization who is liable ...

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