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Riverport Insurance Co. v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 20, 2019




         Pending before the Court are the Motions for Summary Judgment, (ECF Nos. 13, 22), filed by Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State Farm”). Plaintiff Riverport Insurance Company (“Riverport”) filed Responses, (ECF Nos. 15, 34), and State Farm filed Replies, (ECF Nos. 16, 37).

         Also pending before the Court is Riverport’s Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 25). State Farm filed a Response, (ECF No. 31), and Riverport filed a Reply, (ECF No. 33). State Farm and Riverport provided Supplemental Briefs, (ECF Nos. 46, 48), in support of their Motions.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS State Farm’s Motions for Summary Judgment, and DENIES Riverport’s Motion for Summary Judgment.


         The case arises from injuries sustained by Angela DiMaria (“DiMaria”) when she fell in a shopping center parking lot owned by D&L Development (“D&L”). (State Farm’s Mot. Summ. J. (“MSJ”) 8:4–16, ECF No. 13); (Exam. DiMaria at 26:11–29:6, 30:14–42:10, Ex. N to State Farm’s MSJ, ECF No. 13-14); (Riverport’s MSJ 3:16–18, ECF No. 25); (Lease, Ex. 2 to Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25-2). DiMaria’s fall occurred right after she left Spirals Hair & Nails Salon (“Spirals”), which was one of the tenants renting space within D&L’s shopping center. (Exam. DiMaria 8:10–38:23, Ex. 4 to Riverport’s MSJ); (Lease, Ex. 2 to Riverport’s MSJ). DiMaria attributed her fall to an uneven and cracked portion of asphalt that she tripped on while getting into her car located in one of the shopping center’s handicapped parking spaces. (Exam. DiMaria 27:4–38:23, Ex. 4 to Riverport’s MSJ).[1]

         As part of the Lease Agreement between Spirals and D&L, Spirals had to have “public liability insurance to protect against any liability to the public, incident to the use of or resulting from any occurrence in or about said premises.” (Lease, Ex. 2 to Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25-2). The Lease Agreement defined the “premises” for Spirals as “8544 Del Webb Blvd. . . . Together with the use of driveways and parking in common with the other tenants of Rampart Plaza.” (Id.). Spirals accordingly obtained a commercial general liability policy from State Farm (the “Policy”), and listed D&L as an additional insured on that Policy. D&L also maintained its own insurance through Riverport.

         On June 27, 2016, D&L received correspondence from an attorney for DiMaria (“Demand Letter”), which notified D&L of DiMaria’s injuries and her potential claims for damages. (Letter from Royi Moas, Esq. to D&L, Ex. 5 to Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25-5). About four months later, D&L’s counsel (David J. Feldman, Esq.) sent DiMaria’s Demand Letter to Spirals and State Farm, alongside correspondence discussing DiMaria’s threatened claims. (Nov. 2, 2016 Letter at 9-11, Ex. 5 to Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25-5). D&L’s counsel also demanded that State Farm defend and indemnify D&L for any of DiMaria’s claims. (Id.). State Farm responded a few weeks later, stating that it was reviewing the documents from D&L, and that it would advise D&L of its decision to accept or reject the tendered request for defense and indemnity. (Nov. 29, 2016 Letter from State Farm at 12, Ex. 5 to Riverport’s MSJ).

         On February 28, 2017-after Riverport received State Farm’s response, but before State Farm decided to accept or deny coverage-Riverport and DiMaria participated in a mediation. (Aff. David Feldman (“Feldman”) ¶¶ 8–12, Ex. 1. to Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25-1). Though State Farm did not participate in that mediation, Riverport and DiMaria reached a settlement for $190, 000.00. (Id. ¶ 13). Riverport then paid that settlement amount on behalf of D&L based on D&L’s insurance policy with Riverport. (Id.).

         Roughly two months after that mediation, State Farm notified Riverport that it was denying coverage for DiMaria’s injuries because Spirals only purchased coverage for the “actual floor space” leased to Spirals, and not the parking lot leased and used in common with other tenants. (April 21, 2017 Letter from State Farm to Feldman, Ex. 5 to Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25-5). Because State Farm denied D&L’s demand for defense and indemnification, Riverport commenced this action seeking a declaration of coverage under the Policy and seeking indemnity or contribution for the amount that Riverport paid to settle with DiMaria. (Compl., ECF No. 1). Riverport’s Complaint asserts five causes of action: (1) declaratory relief; (2) equitable indemnity; (3) equitable subrogation; (4) equitable contribution; (5) breach of contract. (Id. ¶¶ 14–43).

         State Farm now moves for summary judgment in its favor for each of Riverport’s claims. (State Farm’s MSJs, ECF Nos. 13, 22). Riverport conversely moves for summary judgment in its favor and against State Farm on all claims. (Riverport’s MSJ, ECF No. 25).


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact-finder could rely to find for the nonmoving party. See Id . “The amount of evidence necessary to raise a genuine issue of material fact is enough ‘to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.’” Aydin Corp. v. Loral Corp., 718 F.2d 897, 902 (9th Cir. 1983) (quoting First Nat’l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288–89 (1968)). “Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party’s favor.” Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P’ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Shumway, 199 F.3d 1093, 1103–04 (9th Cir. 1999)). A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–24 (1986).

         In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party’s case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323– 24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party’s evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159–60 (1970).

         If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). However, the nonmoving party “may not rely on denials in the pleadings but must produce specific evidence, through affidavits or admissible discovery material, to show that the dispute exists, ” Bhan v. NME Hosps., Inc., 929 F.2d 1404, 1409 (9th Cir. 1991), and “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Orr v. Bank of America, 285 F.3d 764, 783 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff’s position will be insufficient.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

         At summary judgment, a court’s function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id . at 249–50.


         State Farm moves for summary judgment by arguing that Riverport’s claims fail as a matter of law because State Farm’s Policy with Spirals does not include insurance coverage for DiMaria’s injuries sustained in D&L’s shopping center parking lot. (State Farm’s MSJ 2:1–6, 11:22–22:9, ECF No. 13); (State Farm’s MSJ 6:24–17:5, ECF No. 22). Riverport conversely moves for summary judgment by arguing that the Policy covers DiMaria’s injuries based on both the plain language of the Policy and surrounding evidence that reveals the parties’ intent when obtaining the Policy. (Riverport’s MSJ 10:7–11:15, ECF No. 25). Riverport further argues that ...

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