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Michigan Millers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Asoyia, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 16, 2015

Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Asoyia, Inc., formerly known as Asoyia, LLC; United Fire & Casualty Company, as Subrogee of Sunnyside Country Club; Vivan Jennings, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted April 16, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Davenport.

For Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company, Plaintiff - Appellant: Michael L. Duffy, Mark Douglas Paulson, Amy R. Paulus, Don R. Sampen, Clausen & Miller, Chicago, IL; Benjamin J. Patterson, Lane & Waterman, Davenport, IA.

For United Fire & Casualty Company, as Subrogee of Sunnyside Country Club, Defendant - Appellee: Thomas M. Boes, Sean M. O'Brien, Bradshaw & Fowler, Des Moines, IA.

For Vivan Jennings, Defendant - Appellee: Kerry A. Finley, Richard S. Fry, Dana L. Oxley, Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, LOKEN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

RILEY, Chief Judge.

In 2006, Asoyia, LLC (now Asoyia, Inc.), an Iowa producer of soybean oil, purchased a general commercial agribusiness insurance policy and a commercial umbrella liability policy from Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company (Michigan Millers). The policies covered general liability on an occurrence basis. After a fire on June 18, 2007, destroyed the Sunnyside Country Club (Sunnyside)--one of Asoyia's customers--Sunnyside's insurer and subrogee, United Fire & Casualty Company (United Fire), sued Asoyia and former chief executive officer Vivan Jennings in Iowa state court, alleging Asoyia's soybean oil caused the fire when a pile of laundered rags containing the oil spontaneously combusted.

In this diversity case, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), Michigan Millers seeks a declaration that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Asoyia or Jennings in the underlying suit because of Asoyia's prejudicial failure to provide prompt notice of the loss. See 28 U.S.C. § § 2201, 2202; Fed.R.Civ.P. 57. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court[1] determined Jennings was insured under Asoyia's policies but that genuine disputes of material fact remained as to whether Michigan Millers could deny coverage for lack of notice. On December 20, 2013, a jury determined the late notice did not prejudice Michigan Millers, and the district court entered judgment against Michigan Millers. Michigan Millers timely filed a post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, which the district court denied. Michigan Millers appeals,[2] and we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Stipulated Facts

The parties stipulated to the following facts for the jury trial:

On June 18, 2007, a fire occurred at the Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo, Iowa. United Fire provided property insurance to the country club. As the club's property insurer, United Fire conducted a preliminary investigation of the fire, determined that the fire loss was covered by its insurance agreement with the club, and paid the club's damage claim. The fire was also investigated by Dave Boesen, the Waterloo Fire Marshal.
Shortly after the fire, in the course of its investigation, United Fire sent a notice to others that a fire had occurred, which stated that United Fire might blame them for the loss. This is known as a subrogation notice; it was sent on June 28, 2007. United Fire's subrogation notice stated that an investigation at the fire scene would take place ...

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