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Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. Blue Cab Co., Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2015



JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge.

This is an insurance coverage dispute over an insurer's duty to indemnify defendants in an underlying personal injury case. Rose Washington Sanders filed a personal injury lawsuit ("the Underlying Action") against Thomas McFadden and Blue Cab Company, Inc. ("Blue Cab") for injuries she sustained in an accident while she was a passenger in a Blue Cab taxi driven by McFadden. Plaintiff Cincinnati Insurance Company ("Cincinnati") insured Blue Cab under a commercial general liability and garage policy ("the Cincinnati Policy"). Cincinnati filed the instant suit against Blue Cab and Sanders seeking a declaratory judgment that the Cincinnati Policy does not require it to defend or indemnify Blue Cab in connection with the Underlying Action. ( See dkt. 1.)

On July 1, 2013, Sanders, McFadden, and Blue Cab settled the Underlying Action. Cincinnati did not participate in the settlement discussions. As part of the settlement Blue Cab assigned its rights under the Cincinnati Policy to Sanders. Sanders, individually and as Blue Cab's assignee, then filed a counterclaim against Cincinnati in this suit seeking (i) a declaratory judgment that she is entitled to indemnity from Cincinnati (counts 1 and 2), and (ii) collection from Cincinnati as a judgment creditor of Blue Cab (count 3). (Dkt. 60.) On September 27, 2013, Sanders moved for summary judgment on counts 1 and 3 of her counterclaim. (Dkt. 63.) The court denied summary judgment on May 9, 2014, finding that "Blue Cab could have no reasonable anticipation of liability because no reasonable factfinder in the Underlying Case could find that Blue Cab's failure to investigate McFadden's medical history was the proximate cause of Sanders' injuries." Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Blue Cab Co., Inc., No. 11 C 2055, 2014 WL 1876194, at *8 (N.D. Ill. May 9, 2014); (dkt. 76 at 15-16.) Given the court's disposition of the motion, the court directed Cincinnati to promptly move for entry of judgment. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 2014 WL 1876194, at *9. Cincinnati did so on May 13, 2014 (dkt. 78), and the court entered judgment in its favor on May 20, 2014 (dkt. 81).

Subsequently, Sanders moved to alter or amend the judgment (dkt. 83.), arguing that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to the reasonableness of the settlement of the Underlying Action. Because the court is persuaded that an issue of material fact exists on this point, Sanders' motion will be granted, and the court's previous opinion and order (dkt. 76) and entry of judgment (dkt. 81) will be vacated. For the following reasons, Sanders' motion for summary judgment is denied. The court will schedule a trial on the reasonableness of the settlement of the Underlying Action.[2]


Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To determine whether any genuine fact issue exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In doing so, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The court may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations. Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2011).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on bare pleadings but must designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). If a claim or defense is factually unsupported, it should be disposed of on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.


I. McFadden and Blue Cab

McFadden began driving a Blue Cab taxi in 2002. In 2006, McFadden purchased his own taxi from Blue Cab and entered into an Owner-Operator Agreement with Blue Cab. Under the Owner-Operator Agreement, McFadden paid weekly fees to Blue Cab in exchange for the right to use Blue Cab's trade name on his taxi and to receive radio transmissions from Blue Cab about potential taxi customers. The agreement provided that McFadden was an independent contractor and stated that it did "not render [McFadden] an agent, legal representative, joint venture or partner of Blue Cab." (Dkt. 64, ex. B ("Owner-Operator Agmt.") ยง 11.) McFadden was not supervised or managed by Blue Cab while transporting customers and Blue Cab did not control McFadden's hours, the routes he took, or the passengers he picked up.

Prior to starting with Blue Cab, McFadden had experienced unexplained loss of consciousness on one or more occasions. McFadden testified that he had fainted only once in 1999 or 2000, but McFadden's doctor testified that McFadden had lost consciousness several times. ( Compare dkt. 70, ex. 4 ("McFadden Dep.") at 59:18-60:6, with dkt. 70, ex. 6 ("Grodinsky Dep.") at 8:14-17.) The doctor never determined a reason for the episode(s) despite doing a "pretty extensive work up." (Grodinsky Dep. at 8:20-9:5.) He attributed the episode(s) to McFadden's "being acutely intoxicated, which by itself can lead to loss of consciousness [and] can also trigger other events[.]" ( Id. ) There is no record of McFadden's losing consciousness after 2001 when his doctor reported that he stopped drinking.[4] ( Id. at 9:8-23.) McFadden also was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007 and he took medicine for high blood pressure and hypertension. Despite these conditions, McFadden testified that his driving was never restricted and no physician ever expressed concern about his driving, even after the fainting episode(s). In addition, McFadden's doctor testified that McFadden was able to safely operate a taxi as his profession in 2007 and that he had no concerns about McFadden's medical condition. ( Id. at 85:6-87:6.)

Blue Cab did not take any steps to inquire about McFadden's health and medical history at any time before or after entering into the Owner-Operator Agreement with McFadden.

II. Underlying Action

On September 23, 2007, McFadden, responding to a dispatch from Blue Cab, picked up Sanders at Midway Airport in Chicago. While transporting Sanders from the airport to her home in Oak Park, Illinois, McFadden lost consciousness and his taxi struck a light pole. Sanders suffered extensive injuries ...

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