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Northfield Insurance Co. v. Herrera

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

November 6, 2017

NORTHFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES HERRERA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SAM SPARKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically Plaintiff Northfield Insurance Company (NIC)'s Motion for Summary Judgment [#23], Defendant Charles Herrera's Response [#27] in opposition, Plaintiffs Reply [#30] in support; as well as Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [#25], Plaintiffs Response [#28] in opposition, and Defendant's Reply [#29] in support. Having considered the case file and the applicable law, the Court enters the following opinion and orders.

         Background

         This case involves a dispute over insurance coverage. Plaintiff NIC issued a commercial general liability insurance policy to Defendant Austin Elevator Consultants, d/b/a Charles Herrera for the period from September 26, 2013 to September 26, 2014. Compl. [#1-2] Ex. 2 (Policy) at 1. Under the Policy, NIC agreed to "to defend the insured against any 'suit' seeking" damages for '"bodily injury' or 'property damage' to which this insurance applies." Id. at 19. The Policy contained various endorsements limiting the scope of coverage, including the following bodily injury exclusion:

         This insurance does not apply to "bodily injury" to:

(3) Any person who is employed by, is leased to or contracted with any organization that:
(a) Contracted with you or with any insured for services; or
(b) Contracted with others on your behalf for services; arising out of and in the course of employment by that organization or performing duties related to the conduct of that organization's business; or

Policy at 36 (the Exclusion).

         During the policy period, on March 18, 2014, Thomas McCoy sustained injuries as the result of an alleged elevator failure at the Sandhill Energy Center (SEC) in Austin, Texas (the Incident). PL's Mot. Summ. J [#23] at 2. At the time of the Incident, McCoy was an employee of Austin Energy, the operator of the SEC. Stipulation [#22] at ¶ 5. Austin Energy had contracted with Herrera to service and maintain the elevator involved in the Incident. Id. at ¶ 3. McCoy filed a lawsuit (the McCoy Lawsuit) against Herrera and his company, among others, on December 22, 2015 in Travis County District Court seeking damages for the injuries he allegedly suffered in the Incident. Compl. [#1-1] Ex. 1 (McCoy Petition).

         Although NIC has defended Herrera in the McCoy Lawsuit, it filed this lawsuit seeking declaratory judgment that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Herrera in the McCoy Lawsuit. Both NIC and Herrera have moved for summary judgment on the interpretation of the Exclusion and whether NIC owes a duty to Herrera under the Policy. The motions are fully briefed and ripe for consideration.

         Analysis

         I. Legal Standard-Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn v. Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007). A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view all inferences drawn from the factual record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio,475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508. Further, a court "may ...


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