United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge.
case is presently before me on a motion (Doc. No. 23) for
summary judgment by plaintiff Safeco Insurance Company of
Illinois (Safeco). Defendant Jane Gosch has filed a
resistance (Doc. No. 26) and Safeco has filed a reply (Doc.
No. 29). I find that oral argument is not necessary.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND RELEVANT FACTS
case arises from a motorcycle insurance policy issued to
defendant Paul Hicks and a subsequent motorcycle accident
involving both Hicks and Gosch. On December 2, 2016, Safeco
filed a complaint (Doc. No. 2) for declaratory judgment
establishing its obligations for payment under that policy.
Doc. No. 2. Hicks failed to appear. As such, on March 24,
2017, I entered a judgment by default against Hicks. Doc. No.
13. On May 12, 2017, I amended the default judgment at
Gosch's request to make it clear that it applied only to
Hicks. Doc. No. 20. The order stated, in relevant part:
Judgment by default is hereby entered against defendant Paul
Hicks and in favor of Safeco on Safeco's Complaint for
Declaratory Judgment (Doc. No. 2), declaring that:
1. Defendant Paul Hicks may not assert that the policy issued
by Safeco to Paul R. Hicks, Motorcycle Insurance Policy
Number Z4809468, with a policy period of March 14, 2016, to
March 14, 2017, provides coverage for the claims in the case
filed by Jane Gosch in the Iowa District Court in and for
Linn County, Iowa, styled Jane E. Gosch v. Paul R.
Hicks, No. LACV086005 (the Underlying Lawsuit).
2. Defendant Paul Hicks may not assert that Safeco is
obligated to defend the claims in the Underlying Lawsuit as
to liability coverage.
Id. at 1-2. On December 15, 2017, Safeco filed its
motion for summary judgment.
party filed a jury demand. As such, this case is scheduled
for a bench trial beginning November 28, 2018.
as otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed: On
March 14, 2016, Safeco issued a Motorcycle Insurance Policy,
Policy Number Z4809468, with a policy period of March 14,
2016, to March 14, 2017 (the Policy), to Hicks. On April 22,
2016, Gosch and Hicks were involved in a motorcycle accident
(the Accident). Gosch then initiated a lawsuit against Hicks
in the Iowa District Court for Linn County styled Jane E.
Gosch v. Paul R. Hicks, No. LACV086005 (the Underlying
Lawsuit). In the Underlying Lawsuit, Gosch alleges that she
was riding on the motorcycle with Hicks and he lost control,
which caused her to be ejected from the vehicle and suffer
is designated as the “named insured” on the
Declaration page of the Policy. Gosch claims that she is
entitled to payment under the Policy's Liability
Coverage. The Liability Coverage section of the Policy
contains an exclusion that Safeco will not owe such coverage
for a “domestic partner” of Hicks. Safeco
contends that this exclusion applies in this case.
is Gosch's boyfriend and has been since before the
Accident. Gosch first met Hicks in May 2013 and has resided
with him since June 2013. Hicks and Gosch are not related,
nor are they mere roommates. They have a sexual relationship
and have since before the Accident. They share a bedroom and
have since before the Accident. Hicks' believes that
their relationship is “mostly” monogamous.
and Hicks share household responsibilities and work as a team
in a joint effort. They have done so since before the
Accident. Gosch does the laundry, vacuuming, cleans, tends
the plants, and washes dishes, and has been doing so since
prior to the Accident. Hicks mows and trims the lawn. Hicks
paid off the mortgage for the home at which Hicks and Gosch
reside. Gosch does not pay rent to Hicks but contends that
the household services she performs act as rental payments.
and Hicks jointly own a 2014 Chevy Cruise Diesel, which was
purchased before the Accident. Gosch's and Hicks'
names both appear on the title and the registration for the
vehicle. Both of their names also appear as named insureds on
the insurance for the 2014 Chevy Cruise. The loan for the
vehicle is in Hicks' name.
at least October 5, 2015, six months before the Accident,
Hicks has been the primary beneficiary of Gosch's 401(k)
account. Gosch listed Hicks as her “boyfriend” on
her 401(k) Beneficiary Form as of December 15, 2015. As of
November 18, 2014, over one year prior to the Accident, Gosch
was listed as Hicks' emergency contact at his employer.
Similarly, Hicks is listed as Gosch's emergency contact
at her employer. Hicks is listed as a contributor on
Gosch's Health Savings Account. They have taken at least
two vacations together, one in 2013 and one in 2017.
relevant facts will be discussed as necessary, below.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS
party may move for summary judgment regarding all or any part
of the claims asserted in a case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
material fact is one that “‘might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law.'”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Thus, “the substantive law will identify which
facts are material.” Id. Facts that are
“critical” under the substantive law are
material, while facts that are “irrelevant or
unnecessary” are not. Id.
issue of material fact is genuine if it has a real basis in
the record, Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395
(8th Cir. 1992) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), or
when “‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party' on the question.”
Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990
(8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
Evidence that only provides “some metaphysical doubt as
to the material facts, ” Matsushita, 475 U.S.
at 586, or evidence that is “merely colorable” or
“not significantly probative, ”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, does not make an issue
of material fact genuine.
such, a genuine issue of material fact requires
“sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual
dispute” so as to “require a jury or judge to
resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at
trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. The
party moving for entry of summary judgment bears “the
initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis
for its motion and identifying those portions of the record
which show a lack of a genuine issue.”
Hartnagel, 953 F.2d at 395 (citing Celotex,
477 U.S. at 323). Once the moving party has met this burden,
the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and by
depositions, affidavits, or otherwise, designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th
Cir. 2005). The nonmovant must show an alleged issue of fact
is genuine and material as it relates to the substantive law.
If a party fails to make a sufficient showing of an essential
element of a claim or defense with respect to which that
party has the burden of proof, then the opposing party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 322.
determining if a genuine issue of material fact is present, I
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88.
Further, I must give the nonmoving party the benefit of all
reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the facts.
Id. However, “because we view the facts in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, we do not weigh
the evidence or attempt to determine the credibility of the
witnesses.” Kammueller v. Loomis, Fargo &
Co., 383 F.3d 779, 784 (8th Cir. 2004). Instead,
“the court's function is to determine whether a
dispute about a material fact is genuine.” Quick v.
Donaldson Co., Inc., 90 F.3d 1372, 1376-77 (8th Cir.
complaint (Doc. No. 2), Safeco requested declaratory relief
that (1) it has no obligation to defend or indemnify Hicks in
the Underlying Lawsuit and (2) any liability it may have to
Gosch is limited to $20, 000. With regard to Gosch, there are
two relevant provisions of the Policy - the Liability
Coverage provision and the Underinsured Motorist (UIM)
Coverage provision. Safeco argues that Gosch is covered only
under the UIM provision and that the Policy's UIM
coverage is limited to a maximum of $20, 000.
presents two reasons that Gosch is not entitled to payment
under the Liability Coverage provision. First, Safeco claims
that the default judgment I entered against Hicks precludes
Gosch from satisfying any judgment she obtains against Hicks
from Safeco. Doc. No. 23-1 at 1-2. Second, Safeco argues that
Gosch is excluded from Liability Coverage because she is
Hicks' “domestic partner, ” and had that
status at the time of the Accident.
argues that Gosch's rights as against Safeco are measured
by the rights Hicks has against Safeco, as evidenced by Iowa
Code § 516.1. Doc. Nos. 23-1 at 4; 29 at 2. Therefore,
according to Safeco, Gosch can pursue a claim only to the
extent that Hicks has a claim under the Policy. Doc. No. 23-1
at 5. Safeco argues that because I entered a default judgment
against Hicks-precluding him from asserting an indemnity
claim under the Policy-Gosch is also prohibited from
asserting any ...