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American Fire and Casualty Co. v. Hegel

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 7, 2017

American Fire and Casualty Company Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Mary Hegel, Individually and as Personal Representative for the Estate of Adam Fetzer Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: November 15, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Bismarck

          Before BENTON and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and STRAND, [1] District Judge.

          STRAND, District Judge.

         This case arises out of the untimely death of Adam Fetzer, a delivery driver for the Papa John's restaurant chain who was killed in a car accident on April 28, 2012. Fetzer was driving during the course of his employment in Bismarck, North Dakota, when another driver ran a red light and struck his vehicle.

         Defendant Mary Hegel, the personal representative of Fetzer's estate, demanded underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage under a business auto insurance policy (Policy) issued by plaintiff American Fire and Casualty Company (American Fire) to P J Operations, LLC d/b/a Papa John's Pizza (Papa John's). American Fire denied the claim and brought suit for declaratory judgment. On cross motions for summary judgment, the parties disputed whether North Dakota law applies to the Policy and, if so, whether American Fire is obligated to provide UIM benefits in some amount. The district court granted summary judgment against American Fire, holding: (1) North Dakota law applies; (2) American Fire is obligated to provide UIM coverage; and (3) Fetzer's estate is entitled to an award of $100, 000 in UIM benefits. American Fire appealed. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we reverse.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are not in dispute. Fetzer was not at fault. At the time of the accident he was driving his own vehicle, which was covered by both a personal auto insurance policy and the American Fire Policy. The other driver, Robert Harrington, was also covered by a personal auto insurance policy, which provided $25, 000 in liability coverage. Following the accident, Hegel, on behalf of Fetzer's estate, was paid the full liability amount, $25, 000, from Harrington's insurance policy. Hegel then sought UIM benefits from American Fire.

         American Fire is an insurance company incorporated under Ohio law with its principal place of business in Massachusetts. Papa John's is a Kentucky company headquartered in Kentucky. A Kentucky insurance agent sold the Policy to Papa John's in Kentucky. The Policy provided liability coverage and physical damage coverage with a liability limit of $1, 000, 000. The Policy covered vehicles owned and used by Papa John's employees all over the country. The Policy contained numerous endorsements addressing specific state laws, including some that related to North Dakota law. Papa John's premium payment for the Policy was sent to the insurance agency's office in Middletown, Ohio. Fetzer's vehicle was licensed and garaged in North Dakota.

         II. DISCUSSION

         American Fire argues that Kentucky law controls and that the district court erred in applying North Dakota law to the Policy. American Fire notes that under Kentucky law it was not required to provide UIM coverage. American Fire also argues that even if North Dakota law applies, thus imposing a requirement to provide UIM coverage in some amount, no recovery would be appropriate in this case because Harrington was not underinsured.

         A. Standard of Review

         "We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, viewing the evidence 'in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.'" Barkley, Inc. v. Gabriel Brothers, Inc., 829 F.3d 1030, 1038 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Beverly Hills Foodland, Inc. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 655, 39 F.3d 191, 194 (8th Cir. 1994)). "If there is 'no dispute of material fact and reasonable fact finders could not find in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is appropriate.'" Shrable v. Eaton Corp., 695 F.3d 768, 770-71 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fercello v. Cnty. of Ramsey, 612 F.3d 1069, 1077 (8th Cir. 2010)). We may affirm a grant of summary judgment on any basis supported by the record. Noreen v. PharMerica Corp., 833 F.3d 988, 992 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Johnson v. Securitas Sec. Servs. USA, Inc., 769 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2014) (en banc)).

          B.The Choice of ...


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