United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND ENTERING A DECLARATORY
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
filed this action for a declaratory judgment regarding her
status as a resident relative under an automobile insurance
policy (the Policy) issued by Defendant to her mother,
Catherine Holloway (Ms. Holloway), and Plaintiff's
ability, as a resident relative, to stack underinsured
motorist (UIM) coverage on vehicles covered by the Policy.
The Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C.
before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary
judgment. Having carefully considered the motion, the
response, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, it
is the judgment of the Court Defendant's motion for
summary judgment will be granted, and the Court will enter a
declaratory judgment holding Plaintiff is not a resident
relative under the Policy and is therefore not entitled to
stack UIM coverage under the Policy.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was involved in an automobile accident on March 4, 2016, when
the vehicle she was driving was hit by non-party Kylie
Jones' (Ms. Jones) vehicle. ECF No. 1-1 ¶ 4.
Plaintiff sustained injuries and incurred medical costs as a
result of the collision. Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff
recovered the policy limits from Ms. Jones' applicable
insurance policy, but that recovery was insufficient to fully
compensate Plaintiff for her losses resulting from the
accident. See id.
submitted a demand to Defendant for UIM benefits under the
Policy, claiming status as a resident relative of the insured
under the Policy and seeking to stack UIM coverage for the
vehicles covered by the Policy. See Id. ¶¶
6-7. The named insured on the Policy is Ms. Holloway,
Plaintiff's mother; Ms. Holloway and Plaintiff are listed
as drivers on the Policy. ECF No. 17-2 at 7. Ms. Holloway
lives in Georgetown, South Carolina. Id. In response
to Plaintiff's demand, Defendant concluded Plaintiff was
not a resident relative of Ms. Holloway and was consequently
not entitled to stack UIM benefits under the Policy.
See ECF No. 17-3.
filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland
County, South Carolina, seeking a declaratory judgment on the
issue of whether she is a resident relative under the Policy
such that she is able to stack UIM benefits under the Policy.
ECF No. 1-1. Defendant removed the case to this Court. ECF
filed its motion for summary judgment on October 30, 2017.
ECF No. 17. Plaintiff responded in opposition on November 13,
2017, ECF No. 19, and Defendant replied on November 20, 2017,
ECF No. 20. The Court, having been fully briefed on the
relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of
Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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). Summary judgment should be granted under
Rule 56 when ''the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment
as a matter of law.'' Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue of
material fact exists ''if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.'' Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it might
''affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.'' Id. On a motion for summary judgment,
all evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr.,
Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990).
Declaratory Judgment Act pronounces “any court of the
United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading,
may declare the rights and other legal relations of any
interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not
further relief is or could be sought.” 28 U.S.C. §
2201(a). A declaration issued under the Act “shall have
the force and effect of a final judgment.” Id.
A state declaratory judgment action removed to federal court
invokes the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act. Hartford
Fire Ins. Co. v. Harleysville Mut. Ins. Co., 736 F.3d
255, 261 n.3 (4th Cir. 2013).
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
argues it is entitled to summary judgment in this action
because Plaintiff did not qualify as a resident relative of
Ms. Holloway, the named insured, at the time of the accident
and therefore has no right to stack UIM benefits under the
Policy. In support of its contention Plaintiff was not a
resident relative under the Policy during the relevant time
period, Defendant notes Plaintiff enrolled in an aesthetics
course in Columbia, South Carolina in January 2015 and has
lived in Columbia ever since, including at the time of the
accident. Defendant points out Plaintiff received her last
tax refund at an address in Columbia, and she has been
working at her present job in Columbia, which she testified
she likes, since June 2015. Defendant further relies on
Plaintiff's testimony that she returns to Ms.
Holloway's house in Georgetown, South Carolina only about
every other weekend, as well as employment forms and medical
bills listing her address in ...