United States District Court, D. Oregon
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, an Illinois corporation, Plaintiff,
BRANDON SAUER, an individual, and CARSON STAHL, by and through Guardian Ad Litem, CRAIG STAHL, Defendants.
BRIAN C. HICKMAN, Gordon & Polscer, LLC, Portland, OR., Attorneys for Plaintiff.
RANDALL J. WOLFE, Lake Oswego, OR., Attorney for Defendant Carson Stahl.
BRANDON SAUER, Milwaukie, OR., Defendant, v Pro Se.
OPINION AND ORDER
ANNA J. BROWN, Disrict Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion (#11) for Partial Summary Judgment. The Court heard oral argument on Plaintiff's Motion on February 5, 2015. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion.
At some point Defendant Brandon Sauer entered into a Renters Policy with Plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Company effective February 23, 2013, through August 15, 2014.
On January 22, 2014, Defendant Carson Stahl filed an action against Sauer and others in Multnomah County Circuit Court (the underlying action) for negligence related to injuries Stahl sustained on May 9, 2013. The underlying action was transferred to Clackamas County Circuit Court. At some point after the underlying action was transferred, Stahl filed a Second Amended Complaint seeking an award of damages in excess of $500, 000.
On August 7, 2014, State Farm filed a Complaint for Declaratory Relief in this Court in which State Farm seeks a declaration that it does not have a duty to defend or to indemnify Sauer in the underlying action.
On October 3, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of the duty to defend. Stahl filed a Response on November 19, 2014. On December 12, 2014, Sauer filed a Response in which he joined in the arguments made by Stahl in his Response. On January 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Reply. As noted, the Court heard oral argument on Plaintiff's Motion on February 5, 2015.
Plaintiff State Farm asserts the business-pursuits exclusion in Sauer's insurance policy establishes Plaintiff does not have a duty to defend Sauer in the underlying action. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that it is not obligated to defend Sauer and, accordingly, requests the Court to issue an order permitting Plaintiff to withdraw from the defense of Sauer in the underlying action.
Defendants, in turn, assert the business-pursuits exclusion does not relieve Plaintiff from the obligation to defend Sauer in the underlying action.
I. Insurance Contract Interpretation.
Under Oregon law the construction of a contract is a question of law for the court. Holloway v. Republic Indem. Co. of Am., 341 Or. 642, 649 (2006) (citing Hoffman Const. Co. of Alaska v. Fred S. James & Co. of Ore., 313 Or. 464, 470 (1992)). The Court's task is to "ascertain the intention of the parties to the insurance policy." Id. at 649-50 (citing Or. Rev. Stat. § 742.016). The Court accomplishes this "based on the terms and conditions of the insurance policy." Id.
"If an insurance policy explicitly defines the phrase in question, [the Court] appl[ies] that definition." Id. at 650. See also Joseph Educ. Ass'n v. Joseph Sch. ...