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Northland Casualty Co. v. Harrell

August 9, 2007

NORTHLAND CASUALTY COMPANY PLAINTIFFS
v.
ROCKY HARRELL D/B/A ROCKY HARRELL FARMS, ET AL. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Moody United States District Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, Northland Casualty Company ("Northland") filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment establishing that it has no obligation to defend or pay claims on behalf of Rocky Harrell D/B/A Rocky Harrell Farms ("Harrell") in connection with an action filed in Pulaski Circuit Court by Barbara Meeks, individually and as Sepcial Administratrix of the Estate of Floyd Meeks, deceased and his heirs at law. Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship.

Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to which defendants have responded. For the reasons stated below the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the dispute may be decided solely on legal grounds. Iowa Coal Min. Co. v. Monroe County, 257 F.3d 846, 852 (8th Cir. 2001); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The initial inquiry is whether there are genuine factual issues that can be properly resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). Plaintiff as the moving party as the burden to show that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399 (8th Cir.1995).

I. The Underlying Cause of Action

On October 4, 2002, Floyd Meeks was fatally injured in a one vehicle accident while transporting agricultural products for Harrell. Harrell had contracted with Meeks during the latter part of July, 2002 to transport products on "as needed" basis during the upcoming harvest season. Harrell would direct Meeks at the beginning of each week how many loads of soy beans Meeks was to pick up and deliver. This practice averaged two loads per week. Meeks had some discretion as to when he loads were picked up and delivered so long as it was within the designated week. Meeks was hauling exclusively for Harrell during the relevant time period and Harrell did not have the option of hiring other drivers in his stead to make the deliveries. The tractor used by Meeks was owned by Harrell and the trailer was leased by Harrell. All licenses and insurance on the vehicles were obtained by Harrell. Both Harrell and Meeks had the right to terminate their employment relationship at any time.

As a result of the fatal accident Meeks' estate and heirs have sued Harrell for negligence for money damages under the Arkansas Wrongful Death Act.

II. The Insurance Policy

Northland issued a policy of insurance to Harrell providing business auto coverage with the effective dates of March 7, 2002 to March 7, 2003. The Policy contains the following exclusions and definitions:

SECTION II - LIABILITY COVERAGE

B. Exclusions

This insurance does not apply to any of the following:

4. Employee Indemnification and Employer's Liability "Body injury" to:

a. An "employee" of the "insured" arising out of and in the course of:

(2) Performing the duties related to the conduct of the "insured's" business;" or

b. The spouse, child, parent, brother or sister of the "employee as a consequence of Paragraph a. above.

(1) Employment by the "insured'" or

This exclusion applies:

(1) Whether the "insured" may be liable as an employer or in any other capacity;

and

(2) To any obligation to share damages with or repay someone else who must pay damages ...


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