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Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Bland

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

December 2, 2019

Government Employees Insurance Company, Plaintiff,
v.
Deja Bland, Kenneth Allen Jenkins, Jr., and Kyajonae Kabrya Mouzon, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. No. 37.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         This is an insurance coverage action in which Government Employees Insurance Company ("GEICO") moves for judgment on the pleadings that the automobile insurance policies it issued to Lisa and John Cobin (the "Cobin Policy") and Kareem and Sharmane Bland (the "Bland Policy") do not provide sole remaining Defendant Deja Bland, the daughter of Kareem and Sharmane Bland, with liability coverage relating to her state court personal injury action arising from an alleged shooting.[1] (Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 28-39.)

         II. Legal Standard

         "After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A judgment on the pleadings is only warranted if "the moving party has clearly established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Lewis v. Excel Meek, LLC, 2:13-CV-281-PMD, 2013 WL 4585873 at * 2 (D.S.C. Aug. 28, 2013). The court's review is therefore limited to the pleadings, Abell Co. v. Bait. Typographical Union No. 12, 338 F.2d 190, 193 (4th Cir. 1964), and to "any documents and exhibits attached to and incorporated into the pleadings," Lewis, 2013 WL 4585873 at *1. The pleadings on a Rule 12(c) motion should be construed in the light most favorable to the non-movants. Burbach Broad. Co. v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-06 (4th Cir. 2002). Therefore, the "court must accept all well pleaded factual allegations in the non-moving party's pleadings as true and reject all contravening assertions in the moving party's pleadings as false." Lewis, 2013 WL 4585873, at *2 (internal quotations omitted).

         III. Discussion

         The Cobin Policy lists Jenkins as an "additional driver" and provides, in relevant part:

SECTION I - Liability Coverages, Losses We Will Pay for You Under Section I Under Section I, we will pay damages which an insured becomes legally obligated to pay because of: (1) bodily injury, sustained by a person; and (2) damage to or destruction of property; arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the owned auto or a non-owned auto.

(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 9) (emphasis in original). The Bland Policy similarly provides, in relevant part:

Under this coverage we will pay damage for bodily injury and property damage caused by accident which the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of that motor vehicle.

(Dkt. No. 1-2 at 14. (emphasis in original).

         In South Carolina, an insured is entitled to recover damages "arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use" of the vehicle if (1) there is a causal connection between the vehicle and the injury, (2) no act of independent significance breaks the causal link, and (3) the vehicle was being used for transportation at the time of the incident. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Aytes, 503 S.E.2d 744, 745 (1998). Regarding the first requisite of the Aytes test, a "causal connection is established where it can be shown the vehicle was an 'active accessory' to the assault." Id. (quoting Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Howser, 422 S.E.2d 106, 108 (1992)). To be an "active accessory," the vehicle must be used for more than mere "transportation to the situs of the shooting." Howser, 422 S.E.2d at 108. Moreover, the "injury must be foreseeably identifiable with the normal use of the vehicle." Aytes, 503 S.E.2d at 745-46.

         Bland alleges that in May 2015 in the outdoor common area of the Oakbrook Apartments in Ladson, South Carolina, a vehicle driven by Mouzon "rode up" to her when Jenkins, a passenger in the vehicle, "fired a gun and negligently shot and injured" her. (Dkt. No. 1-3 ¶¶ 5-10.) Construing the pleadings in this declaratory judgment action in a light most favorable to Bland, the Court cannot find that her ...


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