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Batten v. Illinois National Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 30, 2019

TRAVIS BATTEN, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Michael McShane, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Travis Batten was involved in a car accident while traveling for work in a rental car in Louisiana. His employer was Erickson Incorporated, an Oregon business. Pl.’s Decl. Ex. 2 ¶ 3, ECF No. 30. The insurance policy of the Louisiana driver who struck Plaintiff provided for vehicle liability coverage of $20, 000, the required Louisiana statutory minimum. Pl.’s Decl. Ex. 6 ¶ 7. This amount is less than Oregon’s statutory minimum of $25, 000. Therefore, Mr. Griffin was an uninsured motorist (“UM”) under Oregon law. ORS §§ 806.070, 742.500(5).

         At the time of the accident, Erickson had an automobile insurance policy through Defendant Illinois National Insurance Company (“Illinois National”). Pl.’s Decl. Ex. 1 at 2. Plaintiff believes he is entitled to UM coverage under this policy because Oregon law requires it. Defendant disagrees. Defendant and Plaintiff have filed cross motions for summary and partial summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 25, 30. Because Oregon law requires coverage of the rental under the policy’s UM coverage, Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, ECF No. 30, is GRANTED and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 25, is DENIED.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is “genuine” if a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Rivera v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is “material” if it could affect the outcome of the case. Id. The Court reviews evidence and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prods., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 988 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)). When the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must present “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

         DISCUSSION

         Normally, interpretation of an insurance policy requires the Court to determine the intentions of the parties. Hoffman Constr. Co. of Alaska v. Fred S. James & Co. of Or., 313 Or. 464, 469 (1992). “The first aid to interpretation is determining whether the term at issue has a plain meaning. . . . If so, the parties’ intent conclusively is established, and our interpretive inquiry is at an end.” Groshong v. Mut. Of Enumclaw Ins. Co., 329 Or. 303, 308 (1999) (citing Hoffman, 313 Or. at 469–71). “The text of the policy includes any definitions of disputed terms included in the policy; we must, in fact, construe the policy in accordance with any such definitions.” Andres v. Am. Std. Ins. Co. of Wis., 205 Or.App. 419, 423 (2006) (emphasis added) (citing Hoffman, 313 Or. at 469–70).

         If the plain language of the policy controlled, neither the rental car nor Plaintiff would be covered. For uninsured motorist coverage, Illinois National had to “pay all sums the ‘insured’ is legally entitled to recover as compensatory damages from the owner or driver of an ‘uninsured motor vehicle.’” Stufflet Decl. Ex. 5 at 175, ECF No. 27. Illinois National’s policy defines a Named Insured, who is a corporation, as follows:

Anyone “occupying” a covered auto or a temporary substitute for a covered “auto”. The covered auto must be out of service because of its breakdown, repair, servicing, “loss” or destruction.

Id. at 176 (emphasis added).

         The rental car that Plaintiff was a passenger in at the time of the accident was not a vehicle owned by Erickson. Pl.’s Decl. Ex. 3 ¶¶ 3–5. It was also not a temporary substitute vehicle for an “Owned Auto.” Verfurth Decl. Ex. 2 at 3, ECF No. 28., Because the rental car is neither an automobile owned by Erickson or a temporary replacement automobile, pursuant to the plain language of the policy, Plaintiff is not an “insured” entitled to uninsured motorist coverage. See Stufflet Decl. Ex. 5 at 175. Plaintiff conceded this point at oral argument and within their motion. See Pl.’s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. 7 (“On the other hand, the policy language appears to set forth that the [uninsured motorists] coverage is limited to Erickson’s ‘Owned ‘Autos’ Only.’” (citing Pl’s Decl. Ex. 1 at 2, 49) (emphasis in original)).

         The only question then becomes whether Erickson’s policy with Illinois National violates protections for uninsured motorists under Oregon law.

         I. Oregon’s Uninsured Motorist Coverage Law

         Oregon requires “all motor vehicle liability policies to include ‘uninsured motorist coverage.’” Mid-Century Ins. Co. v. Perkins, 209 Or.App. 613, 621 (2006) (citation omitted). Importantly, “[a]ny [uninsured motorist] provisions that are less favorable to an insured than those required under ORS 742.504(1) to (12) are unenforceable against an insured in Oregon.” Erickson v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Or., 331 Or. 681, 685 (2001). Simply put, if the terms of the policy are less favorable than required by Oregon statute, they are subsequently unenforceable. See ORS § 742.504 (“Every policy required to provide the coverage specified in ORS § 742.502 shall provide uninsured motorist coverage that in each instance is no less favorable in any respect to the insured or the beneficiary than if the ...


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