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AVEMCO INS. CO. v. MCCRONE

January 23, 1991

AVEMCO INSURANCE COMPANY, a Maryland Corporation, and LOSS MANAGEMENT SERVICES CO., a Maryland Corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
JAMES McCRONE, MARY LUCENTE, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF LARRY LUCENTE, DECEASED; AND JEAN LUCENTE, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROBERT LUCENTE, DECEASED, Defendants


Paul E. Plunkett, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PLUNKETT

This matter is before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs, Avemco Insurance Company and Loss Management Services Co. (collectively, "Avemco"), have filed for federal interpleader and declaratory judgment on the interpretation of a liability insurance policy issued by Avemco in favor of Robert Lucente, now deceased. For the following reasons, we deny Avemco's motion.

 Background

 The parties agree that the facts are not in dispute. Avemco issued an insurance policy, No. NC1-373008-2 ("the policy") favoring Robert Lucente, which included coverage for the operation and use of the insured airplane. On January 1, 1989, the insured was involved in an airplane accident in Illinois that resulted in the deaths of Robert Lucente and Lucente's adult son, Larry Lucente. The insurance policy was in effect at the time of the accident. Thereafter the estate and/or the heirs of Larry Lucente made a claim against the heirs and estate of Robert Lucente. The claim was then turned over to Avemco.

 The sole issue before us is whether the estate and heirs of Larry Lucente are entitled to an insurance settlement limited to $ 12,500.00 or whether they may recover $ 100,000.00 or more as a consequence of Larry Lucente's death. The term at issue here is "child" as it is used in the limitations section of the policy:

 
Part I -- Limits of Liability
 
(1) The limit for 'each person' is the most we will pay for bodily injury to one person in one accident.
 
However, the most we will pay for bodily injury to:
 
(a) an insured person's spouse will be 25% of the limit for 'each person,' but not more than $ 25,000;
 
(b) an insured person's parent or child will be 12 1/2% of the limit for 'each person,' but not more than $ 12,500. . . .

 For purposes of this matter and in offer of settlement only, Avemco concedes that $ 12,500.00 of indemnity is potentially due to third parties for the death of Larry Lucente, and Avemco wishes to deposit and interplead that sum with the court. The defendants, however, argue that Larry Lucente was the adult child of the insured and that the policy language should not be interpreted to limit recovery for his loss of life to $ 12,500.

 Discussion

 For defendants to prevail on a summary judgment motion, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, [must] show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). At this stage, we do not weigh evidence or determine the truth of asserted matters. We simply determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial, i.e., "whether a proper jury question was presented." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). If the nonmoving party bears "the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, [however] . . . the nonmoving party [is required] to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986), quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (e).

 The question before us is whether the term "child" may be read only to mean, in effect, "minor child" or whether "child" may also be read to refer to the relationship to the insured, in ...


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