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Geico General Insurance Co. v. Tucker

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 8, 2014

GEICO General Insurance Company, Plaintiff,
v.
Gage Tucker, Defendant

For GEICO General Insurance Company, Plaintiff: Eileen Dennis GilBride, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jones Skelton & Hochuli PLC, Phoenix, AZ; Jennifer R Erickson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Laura Allison Rogal, Jaburg & Wilk PC - Phoenix, AZ, Phoenix, AZ.

For Gage Tucker, Defendant: David Lawrence Abney, LEAD ATTORNEY, Knapp & Roberts PC, Scottsdale, AZ; Steve H Patience, LEAD ATTORNEY, Skousen Gulbrandsen & Patience PLC, Mesa, AZ.

Page 986

ORDER

G. Murray Snow, United States District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and accompanying Statement of Facts. (Docs. 23, 24.) Pursuant to this Court's Order, Defendant's Response is essentially a cross motion for summary judgment in his favor with an accompanying Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Facts and a Statement of Facts on behalf of Defendant. (Docs. 25, 26.)[1] For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied, and summary judgment is granted in favor of Tucker.

Page 987

BACKGROUND

In this action under the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, GEICO General Insurance Company (" GEICO" ) seeks a determination of its coverage obligation as to Defendant Gage Tucker. Tucker was injured while riding as a passenger in a truck that had a single-vehicle rollover accident on September 27, 2012. The truck belonged to Tucker's father and was insured with a GEICO policy that covered multiple vehicles. That policy named Tucker's parents as the named insured and listed Tucker as an additional driver. A friend was driving the truck at the time with permission and it is undisputed that he was covered by the policy. Tucker made a third-party liability claim against the driver and received the full $100,000 bodily injury coverage under the GEICO policy on the truck. Because the damages from his injuries allegedly exceed the $100,000 paid, Tucker also seeks payment under his first-party Underinsured Motorist (" UIM" ) coverage with GEICO on another vehicle. The current dispute is over whether Tucker can receive the combined amounts under these two coverages, or whether that is the kind of " stacking" that GEICO is permitted by statute to limit.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates " 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). Here, there is no dispute regarding any material facts and the parties agreed that the dispute is a legal question that should be resolved on cross motions for summary judgment.

Where a federal court has jurisdiction by virtue of diversity of citizenship of the parties, the court must follow state law. Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Ellison, 757 F.2d 1042, 1044 (9th Cir. 1985) (noting that in declaratory judgment actions involving diversity jurisdiction, " [f]orum state law controls the substantive issues" (citing St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Weiner, 606 F.2d 864, 867 (9th Cir. 1979))).

In the absence of a [state] supreme court decision on the subject in question, we look to other state-court decisions, well-reasoned decisions from other jurisdictions, and any other available authority to determine the applicable state law. Decisions by the state courts of appeals provide guidance and instruction and are not to be disregarded in ...

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