Chong v. National Continental Insurance Company
ORDER Granting Motion for Summary Judgment at Docket 18 ; Denying Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment With Respect to the Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief at Docket 23 ; Vacating Oral Argument; and Dismissing Case. (CC: CAL/DQA) (Jan, Chambers Staff)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF ALASKA
Case No. 3:15-cv-0014-RRB
SANGKI CHONG, Personal
Representative of the ESTATE OF
YONG SUK CHONG,
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AT DOCKET 18 AND DENYING
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT AT 23
SANGKI CHONG, Personal
Representative of the ESTATE OF
YONG SUK CHONG,
The estate of Yong Suk Chong ("the Estate") has filed the present action against
National Continental Insurance Company (“NCIC”) seeking compensation from an
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 1
automobile insurance policy's uninsured motorist coverage. NCIC filed a counterclaim for
declaratory relief arguing that there was no uninsured motorist coverage applicable under the
terms of the policy of insurance.
NCIC has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment at Docket 18. The Estate opposes
at Docket 22 and Defendant replies at Docket 27. Additionally, the Estate has filed a CrossMotion for Summary Judgment With Respect to the Counter-Claim for Declaratory Relief
at Docket 23. NCIC opposes at Docket 28 with the Estate replying at Docket 34.
Yong Suk Chong and Yun Yi were domestic partners living in Bethel, Alaska, where
Mr. Yi owned and operated a taxi business with Ms. Chong employed as a cab driver. NCIC
issued business automobile insurance policy number 71244561 (“the Policy”) to Mr. Yi and
Ms. Chong was listed as an authorized driver on the Policy. The Policy was in effect at all
times relevant to this matter.
In the early morning hours of January 31, 2012, Kyle Motgin (“Motgin”) was in
Bethel and called for a taxi to pick him up.1 Yong Suk Chong responded to the call, driving
a 2005 Lexus ("the Taxicab") which was insured under the Policy. Motgin got into the front
passenger seat and stated he wanted to be taken to Napakiak. Because the only way to travel
by automobile to Napakiak from Bethel was on the frozen Kuskokwim River, which required
Docket 24, Exhibit 1 (Affidavit of Kyle Motgin).
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 2
a permit she did not possess, Ms. Chong informed Motgin that she could not take him to
Napakiak. Motgin was angered by Ms. Chong’s refusal and an argument ensued. At some
point Ms. Chong tried to push Motgin out of the Taxicab, and the situation became violent.
Motgin used a knife in his possession to cut Ms. Chong, then pulled Ms. Chong across the
passenger seat, and pushed her out of the door of the Taxicab. After Ms. Chong was outside
the vehicle, Motgin exited the Taxicab and put Ms. Chong in the backseat. When this
occurred, Motgin believes Ms. Chong was still alive. With Ms. Chong in the backseat of the
vehicle, Motgin began driving the Taxicab to Napakiak. While he was traveling to Napakiak,
Motgin stopped the vehicle to throw away an empty whiskey bottle and it is Motgin’s belief
that Ms. Chong was still alive.
On February 1, 2012, the Taxicab was located in Napakiak, Alaska, and Ms. Chong’s
dead body was found in the backseat of the vehicle. Motgin was later arrested and pled guilty
to murder in the second degree for killing Ms. Chong. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison
with 35 years suspended.
The Estate has brought the present suit seeking uninsured motorist coverage under the
Policy covering Ms. Chong's Taxicab for damages the Estate suffered as a result of Motgin's
actions. The Policy provides that NCIC will pay compensatory damages an insured is entitled
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 3
to recover from the driver of an uninsured motor vehicle for injury or death when the liability
for these damages results from the use of the vehicle.2
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials when there is no dispute as to the facts
in the matter before the court.3 The evidence of the nonmoving party is to be believed and
all reasonable inferences are drawn in his favor.4 Summary judgment is appropriate where
"the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”5 The opposing party must produce sufficient
evidence to demonstrate that a triable issue of fact exists.6 However, once the moving party
has met the initial responsibility, the opposing party cannot then meet its burden to show
genuine disputed facts simply by offering conclusory statements unsupported by factual
The Court recognizes that Alaska substantive law governs this diversity action. When
interpreting an insurance policy, Alaska law instructs courts to look to the language of the
Docket 19, Exhibit 1 at 15.
Northwest Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir.
1994) (citation omitted).
Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam) (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).
Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a)).
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 50 (1986). Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d
1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).
Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 4
disputed provision, other provisions in the policy, extrinsic evidence, and case law
interpreting similar provisions.8 Insurance policies are construed in a manner that honors a
lay insured's reasonable expectations.9 Any ambiguity should be construed in favor of the
insured and against the insurer.10 Also, grants of coverage should be viewed broadly, while
exclusions should be viewed narrowly.11 Yet where a reasonable lay interpretation of the
policy would not encompass coverage under the circumstances, there is no ambiguity and
therefore no coverage.12
As an initial matter, the Court finds there to be two separate acts at issue here. First,
Motgin's assault on Ms. Chong with his knife ("the Assault") and second, his subsequent
placement and transportation of her wounded body in back of the Taxicab ("the
Transportation"). The Court finds that Motgin was not operating a vehicle during the Assault,
nor did Ms. Chong suffer any further injuries at the hands of Motgin during the
Allstate Ins. Co. v. Teel, 100 P.3d 2, 4 (Alaska 2004).
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Dowdy, 192 P.3d 994, 998 (Alaska 2008).
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Houle, 269 P.3d 654, 658 (Alaska 2011).
Makarka ex rel. Makarka v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 14 P.3d 964, 969 (Alaska 2000).
The Court notes the Estate’s assertion that Motgin’s transportation of Ms. Chong
away from medical help contributed to her death, however the Estate has not alleged that this
act of negligence actually caused or increased any bodily injury that led to Ms. Chong’s
death beyond simply preventing treatment.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 5
Taxicab Was Not An "Uninsured Motor Vehicle" Under the Policy
NCIC asserts that the Estate is not entitled to uninsured motorist benefits because
language in the Policy provide that “an uninsured motor vehicle” means a vehicle for which
no liability policy applies at the time of the accident. Because the Taxicab was insured for
liability claims, NCIC argues it could not meet the definition of an “uninsured motor
The Estate argues that because Motgin's use of the Taxicab was unauthorized, liability
coverage would not apply. Accordingly, the Taxicab should therefore be considered an
"uninsured motor vehicle." Moreover, the Estate argues that the only restriction on uninsured
motorist coverage is that the party seeking coverage must be “an insured” who is injured by
another who is not insured.
However, in order to provide coverage, the uninsured party must also have been a
motorist. As the Estate points out, AS 28.20.445 is entitled “Uninsured and underinsured
motorists coverage,” not uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage.14 Because Ms. Chong
remained in the driver's seat of the Taxicab during the entirety of the Assault, the Court
cannot find that Motgin was a motorist at the time of the Assault. He was a passenger
attacking a motorist. Motgin only took unauthorized control of the vehicle and became a
motorist after Ms. Chong had already been stabbed and forcibly removed from the vehicle.
Docket 34 at 3.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 6
There is no indication that Motgin was a motorist or operator of any vehicle during the
Assault. He only became such during the Transportation. Even if the Taxicab was considered
uninsured once Motgin took control and became a motorist, which NCIC disputes, the
Taxicab remained an insured vehicle driven by Ms. Chong at the time of her injuries.
Accordingly, the Court finds the Taxicab was not an uninsured vehicle and that Motgin was
not an uninsured motorist at the time the bodily injury occurred. Therefore, the Policy's
uninsured motorist coverage does not apply.
Injury Did Not Arise Out of the "Use" of the Taxicab
Even if Motgin was found to be an uninsured motorist and the Taxicab was an
uninsured vehicle at the time of Ms. Chong's injuries, the injuries must result from the use
of the Taxicab for the Policy to provide coverage. The Alaska Supreme Court has addressed
this aspect of uninsured motorists coverage before.15
This Court recognizes that in Alaska there are three factors which a court should
consider when deciding whether, based on the facts of a particular case, an injury arises from
the “use” of a vehicle which is sufficient to implicate uninsured motorist coverage. These
The extent of causation between the automobile and the injury;
See Kalenka v. Infinity Ins. Companies, 262 P.3d 602, 609 (Alaska 2011); Shaw v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Companies, 19 P.3d 588 (Alaska 2001); Criterion Ins. Co. v.
Velthouse, 751 P.2d 1 (Alaska 1986).
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 7
Whether an act of independent significance occurred, breaking the causal link
between “use” of the vehicle and the injuries inflicted; and
What type of “use” of the automobile was involved.
Accordingly, the Court addresses each of these factors in the present case.
(1) Extent of Causation Between Automobile and Injury
In Alaska, the vehicle must be an “active accessory” for there to be an adequate causal
relationship.16 Where the vehicle was "only the subject of their fight" and played no part in
the fight itself there is insufficient causation to say the injuries have arisen out of the “use”
of the vehicle.17
In the present matter, the Taxicab and its use were only the subject of the fight.
Motgin entered the Taxicab to discuss a potential use of the Taxicab. Ms. Chong and Motgin,
while sitting in the parked Taxicab, disagreed over whether or not Ms. Chong would use the
Taxicab to drive Motgin to Napakiak. Motgin repeatedly stabbed Ms. Chong after she
refused to use her Taxicab as he requested and attempted to force him from the Taxicab. The
Estate has argued that the Transportation must be included in evaluating the "use" of the
Taxicab in this matter. As discussed previously, there has been no indication that any bodily
injury occurred after the Assault. While the Court acknowledges that the Transportation
prevented Ms. Chong from receiving medical treatment and may have made Motgin liable
Kalenka v. Infinity Ins. Companies, 262 P.3d 602, 609 (Alaska 2011).
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 8
for negligence, this does not serve as a causal link between the automobile and the actual
injury that led to her death.
The Court finds that the Taxicab was not an active accessory to Ms. Chong's injury
and accordingly, the extent of causation between the Taxicab and Ms. Chong's injury weighs
against coverage under the Policy.
(2) Act of Independent Significance Breaking Causal Link
As discussed previously, the Court finds there to be a delineation between the Assault
and the Transportation in this matter. This clear distinction already suggests a lack of a causal
link between the use of the Taxicab and Ms. Chong’s bodily injuries. An evaluation of
Motgin’s violent assault on Ms. Chong as an act of independent significance only further
disputes a causal link.
An act of violence can break the causal nexus between the "use" of a vehicle and the
injuries inflicted.18 Motgin’s violent actions during the Assault were independent from the
transportation intended by Ms. Chong on her arrival. After the Assault, Motgin then took
control of the Taxicab as the driver, Ms. Chong then became an injured passenger in the
backseat, and the two drove away. Were it not for Motgin’s violent actions, Motgin would
never have become a motorist and operated the Taxicab, Ms. Chong would not have received
any bodily injuries, and there would have been no transportation provided. Therefore, the
Kalenka, 262 P.3d at 609 (citing Shaw, 19 P.3d at 591-93).
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 9
Court finds that Motgin's actions were of sufficient independent significance to disrupt any
causal link that may be found between Ms. Chong's bodily injuries and the use of the
(3) Type of Automobile Use Involved
The parties seem to agree that coverage should exist only if the injuries resulted from
the Taxicab being used for transportation purposes.19 NCIC argues that Ms. Chong’s vehicle
was not used for transportation when Motgin attacked her because the vehicle was parked
and not moving.20 The Estate, on the other hand, asserts that the Taxicab was being used for
transportation purposes for the entirety of this matter, as Motgin entered the Taxicab to be
transported, stabbed Ms. Chong over a disagreement on transportation, and then used the
Taxicab to drive Ms. Chong and himself toward Napakiak.21 As the use of the Taxicab
"depends, to a great degree, on the particular facts of the case," the Court finds added benefit
from evaluating the actions of the party within the Taxicab that led to the bodily injuries,
rather than on either the locomotion or potential use of the car alone.22
The parties have made no assertion that Ms. Chong was obligated to transport Motgin
and so Motgin presumably entered Ms. Chong's Taxicab to negotiate for transportation.23 He
Docket 24 at 14, Docket 27 at 14.
Docket 27 at 14.
Docket 34 at 23.
Shaw, 19 P.3d at 593.
See Docket 24, Exhibit 1.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 10
made an offer—transportation to Napakiak for payment—and Ms. Chong declined his offer,
then asked Motgin to get out. Ms. Chong's refusal to accept Motgin's offer led to the
agitation, assault, and injuries to Ms. Chong in the Taxicab. It would have been just as
possible for the negotiation to have happened with Motgin standing next to the Taxicab or
even with both parties standing outside the vehicle as with them sitting inside. The Court
finds the use of the Taxicab in this matter to be more akin to the vehicle in Criterion
Insurance v. Velthouse, where the Alaska Supreme Court held that there was no coverage
where the “vehicle was the mere situs of the accident.”24
While the use of the Taxicab for transportation can be connected to the events that led
to Ms. Chong's bodily injuries and eventual death, the negotiation of transportation is not a
type of use of an automobile this Court finds sufficient to support coverage under the Policy.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that the Taxicab was not uninsured nor
was Motgin an uninsured motorist when Ms. Chong suffered her bodily injuries, and even
if they were, the bodily injuries suffered by Ms. Chong did not arise out of the use of the
Taxicab. Accordingly, NCIC's Motion for Summary Judgment at Docket 18 is hereby
GRANTED and the Estate's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment With Respect to the
751 P.2d 1 (Alaska 1986).
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 11
Counter-Claim for Declaratory Relief at Docket 23 is DENIED and this matter is
DISMISSED in its entirety.
The hearing scheduled for June 28, 2016, is hereby VACATED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 24th day of May, 2016.
S/RALPH R. BEISTLINE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ORDER GRANTING MOTION AT 18 AND DENYING MOTION AT 23 - 12
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