Inman v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company et al (TV3)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER, the Court hereby GRANTS defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment 25 . Signed by Chief District Judge Thomas A. Varlan on 3/28/17. Associated Cases: 3:15-cv-00341-TAV-HBG, 3:15-cv-00342-TAV-HBG (ADA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO., )
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO., )
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This civil action is before the Court on defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment [Doc. 25]. Plaintiffs did not respond to the motion, and their time in which to
do so has expired. See E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court
will grant defendant’s motion.
Defendant issued a homeowner’s insurance policy to plaintiff Boston Inman
effective January 5, 2014, through January 5, 2015, covering property located at 865
Cline Road, Tazewell, TN 37879 [Doc. 25-2 p. 12]. Plaintiff Katherine Inman is an
additional insured on the policy [Id. at 40].
The insurance policy includes the following provisions:
“You” and “your” mean the “named insured” shown in the Declarations.
Your spouse is included if a resident of your household. “We”, “us” and
“our” mean the Company shown in the Declarations.
“insured” means you and, if a resident of your household:
your relatives; and
any other person under the age of 21 who is in the care of a
person describe above.
SECTION I – CONDITIONS
Intentional Acts. If you or any person insured under this policy causes or
procures a loss to property covered under this policy for the purpose of
obtaining insurance benefits, then this policy is void and we will not pay
you or any other insured for this loss.
SECTION I AND SECTION II – CONDITIONS
Concealment or Fraud. This policy is void as to you and any other insured,
if you or any other insured under this policy has intentionally concealed or
misrepresented any material fact or circumstance relating to this insurance,
whether before or after a loss [Doc. 26-2 pp. 15, 29, 33].
On August 29, 2014, a fire damaged the covered home as well as some personal
property inside the home [Doc. 25-1 p. 5]. The insured filed a claim with defendant
[Doc. 26-2 pp. 10–11].
In a letter dated May 29, 2015, defendant stated that its
investigation into the claim “revealed [Boston Inman] intentionally concealed and/or
misrepresented material facts during the course of the investigation” [Id. at 11]. In
particular, defendant provided that “[Boston Inman] concealed and misrepresented his
knowledge of and involvement in this fire, as well as, made other representations
regarding the personal property being claimed” [Id.]. As such, defendant provided that
“the policy is declared void effective August 29, 2014,” and denied the claim [Id.].
Katherine Inman claims an interest in the real and personal property damaged in
the fire [Doc. 26-1 p. 5]. On July 9, 2015, she filed suit to recover under the policy [Id. at
4–7]. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on the limited issue of whether the
insurance policy allows for recovery based on the innocent coinsured doctrine.
Standard of Review
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a] party may move
for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense—or the part of each claim or
defense—on which summary judgment is sought.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A “principal
purpose of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported
claims or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–24 (1986).
Summary judgment is proper “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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issues
of material fact exist. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330 n.2; Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d
335, 339 (6th Cir. 1993). All facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 301 F.3d 937, 942
(6th Cir. 2002).
Yet, “[o]nce the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a motion
under Rule 56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of
allegations.” Curtis Through Curtis v. Universal Match Corp., 778 F. Supp. 1421, 1423
(E.D. Tenn. 1991) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317). To establish a genuine issue as to
the existence of a particular element, the nonmoving party must point to evidence in the
record upon which a reasonable finder of fact could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Defendant moves for partial summary judgment on the issue of whether the
insurance policy allows for recovery by an otherwise innocent coinsured.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals adopted the innocent coinsured doctrine in Ryan
v. MFA Mutual Insurance Co., 610 S.W.2d 428 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1980). In Ryan, the
court interpreted an insurance policy to determine whether an innocent husband could
recover under the policy when his wife set fire to the house covered by the policy. Id. at
428. The policy in Ryan generally provided that the insurance company would not be
liable for fraud of “the insured,” or neglect of “the insured,” and would not be liable for
loss occurring “while the hazard is increased by any means within the control or
knowledge of the insured.” Id. at 437. The court found that “a reasonable person, reading
the provisions in the policy at issue . . . would conclude that if an insured was guilty of
fraud or neglect or increasing of hazard to property, then he or she may not recover under
the policy.” Id. Under the language of the policy, it was not clear, however, whether the
“misconduct of any insured would bar recovery by any other insured.” Id. The court
construed that ambiguity in favor of the innocent husband and determined that the wife’s
misconduct did not bar the husband from recovering under the policy. Id.
The Supreme Court of Tennessee subsequently summarized Ryan as holding that a
plaintiff can recover under the innocent coinsured doctrine if: (1) the insurance policy
was ambiguous on whether an innocent coinsured was covered, and (2) the coinsured had
a sole or separate interest in the property. See Spence v. Allstate Ins. Co., 883 S.W.2d
586, 591 (Tenn. 1994).
In Allstate Insurance Co. v. Jordan, 16 S.W.3d 777 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999), the
Tennessee Court of Appeals revisited the application of the innocent coinsured doctrine.
In Jordan, the insurance policy at issue excluded coverage for the intentional acts of “any
insured.” Id. at 782–83. The court determined that the innocent coinsured doctrine did
not apply to this policy language because it was “clear that there can be no coverage for
any insured when one of the insureds commits an intentional act for which coverage is
sought.” Id. at 783. As such, the court found that the phrase “any insured” was not
ambiguous as to whether the innocent coinsured was covered, while the phase “the
insured” in Ryan was ambiguous. Id.
Here, defendant asserts that Katherine Inman cannot benefit from the innocent
coinsured doctrine because the plain language of the present policy is analogous to the
policy language in Jordan. The policy here provides: “If you or any person insured
under this policy causes or procures a loss to property covered under this policy for the
purpose of obtaining insurance benefits, then this policy is void and we will not pay you
or any other insured for this loss” [Doc. 26-2 p. 29 (emphasis added)]. Furthermore, the
policy states: “This policy is void as to you and any other insured, if you or any other
insured under this policy has intentionally concealed or misrepresented any material fact
or circumstance relating to this insurance, whether before or after a loss” [Id. at 33
Upon review of this policy language, the Court finds that the innocent coinsured
doctrine is inapplicable because, like the policy in Jordan, the insurance policy is not
ambiguous on whether an innocent coinsured is covered. The policy here explicitly
provides that if “any person insured” engages in actions prohibited in the policy, the
policy is void and defendant is not liable to any insured for losses. As such, the policy
does not allow an innocent coinsured to recover for the losses resulting from the
intentional acts of another insured. See Zientek v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 1:05CV-326, 2007 WL 2793361, *4–5 (E.D. Tenn. Sept. 26, 2007) (granting a motion in
limine regarding the innocent coinsured doctrine and finding policy language
unambiguously contracted around application of that doctrine). The Court will, therefore,
grant defendant’s partial motion for summary judgment because there is no dispute as to
a material fact that the innocent coinsured doctrine does not apply under the instant
The inapplicability of the innocent coinsured doctrine, however, does not result in
defendant prevailing on Katherine Inman’s claim. Rather, defendant only moves for
partial summary judgment as to part of its defense. Accordingly, the Court finds that if
the proof shows that Boston Inman caused or procured the fire, or made post-loss
misrepresentations, Katherine Inman cannot prevail under the innocent coinsured
For the reasons discussed herein, the Court hereby GRANTS defendant’s Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. 25]
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Thomas A. Varlan
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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