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Cameron Mut. Ins. Co. v. Johnson

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

January 18, 2017

CAMERON MUT. INS. CO. PLAINTIFF
v.
STEVEN JOHNSON, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Susan O. Hickey United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Cameron Mutual Insurance Company's (hereinafter referred to as “Cameron”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 27). The Griffin Claimants[1] have filed a response. (ECF No. 35). Cameron has replied. (ECF No. 38). The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Amended Complaint for Declaratory Judgment (ECF No. 6) and the present Motion for Summary Judgment seek a declaration from the Court regarding Cameron's contractual obligation to defend or indemnify Separate Defendant-Claimant Steven Johnson (hereinafter referred to as “Johnson”) for claims brought in Griffin v. Alamo, Case No. 14-cv-4065 (W.D. Ark. filed Apr. 21, 2014), an underlying action currently pending before this Court. The Court will first provide a brief summary of the alleged facts in the underlying action to provide context for the instant motion.

         A. The Griffin Action

         The Griffin Claimants were all children born into families that were members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries (“TACM”). In April 2014, the Griffin Claimants filed suit in this Court against Tony Alamo, TACM and a host of other individuals and business entities associated with TACM. The Griffin Claimants have filed multiple amendments to the original Complaint in the underlying action. The Third Amended Complaint was filed on December 30, 2015, and is the operative complaint. The insured, Johnson, is identified as a defendant in the underlying action.[2]

         In the underlying action, it is alleged that the Griffin Claimants were subjected to constant beatings, threats of physical harm, and “brainwashed” to follow the tenets of TACM by Tony Alamo and others while the Griffin Claimants were members of TACM. The Griffin Claimants further allege that Tony Alamo and others forced each of them to perform labor for Defendants without compensation through force, threats of force, physical restraint, and/or threats of physical restraint. In addition, the Griffin Claimants allege that individuals and business entities associated with Tony Alamo knowingly obtained financial benefits from the Griffin Claimants' forced labor and should have known that such actions were illegal. The Griffin Claimants allege that they were subjected to the aforesaid conditions by Tony Alamo and his associates until the Griffin Claimants were removed from the TACM compound.

         The Griffin Claimants seek damages for documentary servitude and forced labor pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act's civil remedy provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1595. In addition, the Griffin Claimants assert multiple causes of action arising from Arkansas law including battery; false imprisonment; outrage/intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent hiring, training, retention, and supervision; and negligence.

         B. Cameron's Insurance Policies

         Beginning in September 2004, Cameron issued insurance policies to Johnson for residential properties located at 110 North 16th Street, Fort Smith, Arkansas and 1108 South 21st Street, Fort Smith, Arkansas.[3] Both of the policies were initially issued for the period of September 20, 2004, to September 20, 2005, and renewed at annual intervals until September 20, 2015. Cameron contends that the insurance policies issued to Johnson do not apply to the allegations in the underlying lawsuit. Based on the allegations set forth in the underlying action, Cameron filed its complaint for declaratory judgment pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-101, et seq. and 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Cameron asserts that it is entitled to the following declarations: (1) Cameron is under no obligation to provide a defense to Johnson in connection with the underlying action; and (2) Cameron is under no obligation to satisfy any judgment entered against Johnson or any other defendant in the underlying action.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         When a party moves for summary judgment, “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); Krenik v. Cty. of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). This is a “threshold inquiry of . . . whether there is a need for trial- whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be 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); see also Agristor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Id. at 252.

         The Court must view the evidence and the inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank, 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. The nonmoving party must then demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik, 47 F.3d at 957. A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary ...


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