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Denise Mendenhall v. Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company

March 27, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] The appellant, Denise Mendenhall (Mendenhall), was injured when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident. The other vehicle involved in the accident, a 1997 Ford truck, was listed on two different insurance policies: an Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) policy issued to Jeremy Lucas (Lucas) and a Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Mountain West) policy issued to Wyoming Electric Company, Inc. (Wyoming Electric). The Appellee, Mountain West, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, requesting that the district court find that Mountain West did not have to cover the truck under the policy because the person driving the truck at the time could not be considered an "insured." Mendenhall and Mountain West filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mountain West, finding that the owner of Wyoming Electric had given the truck to Lucas and, therefore, the truck was no longer covered under the company's insurance policy. Mendenhall appeals the district court's decision, arguing that Mountain West should be required to pay under the policy because the truck was titled and registered in the name of Wyoming Electric, and was still listed as a specific vehicle on the Mountain West policy. We affirm the district court's order.


[¶2] Whether the district court erred when it determined that ownership of the 1997 Ford truck passed by an inter vivos gift from Wyoming Electric to Lucas before the date of the accident.


[¶3] In January 2008, Lucas told David Nelson (Nelson), the owner of Wyoming Electric, that he was looking to acquire a pickup truck. Nelson decided to give Lucas one of the old company trucks. Lucas took the keys to the 1997 Ford truck from the Wyoming Electric office, took possession of the truck, and retained possession of the truck. Lucas was responsible for all the expenses associated with the truck, and on January 29, 2008, he added the truck to his Allstate automobile insurance policy. Nelson and Wyoming Electric did not exercise any control over the truck after Lucas drove it off the company lot. However, Nelson and Lucas did not apply for a new certificate of title reflecting Lucas as the owner of the truck until April 16, 2008. Additionally, the truck's registration and plates remained in Wyoming Electric's name and the truck was not removed from Wyoming Electric's Mountain West insurance policy.

[¶4] On March 3, 2008, while using the truck with Lucas' permission, Alicia Rocovits was involved in a motor vehicle accident, causing injuries to Mendenhall. After the accident, Mendenhall submitted claims to Allstate and Mountain West. Mountain West denied coverage and filed a petition for declaratory judgment, seeking an order that it did not have to provide coverage under Wyoming Electric's policy.


[¶5] When reviewing a district court's decision to grant a motion for summary judgment, this Court uses the following standard of review:

Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Metz Beverage Co. v. Wyoming Beverages, Inc., 2002 WY 21, ¶ 9, 39 P.3d 1051, 1055 (Wyo. 2002). "A genuine issue of material fact exists when a dispute of fact, if it were proven, would establish or refute an essential element of a cause of action or a defense that the parties have asserted." Id. Because summary judgment involves a purely legal determination, we undertake de novo review of a trial court's summary judgment decision. Glenn v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 2008 WY 16, ¶ 6, 176 P.3d 640, 642 (Wyo. 2008).

Hageman v. Goshen Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 2011 WY 91, ΒΆ 5, 256 P.3d 487, 491 (Wyo. 2011) (quoting Jacobs Ranch Coal Co. v. Thunder Basin Coal Co., LLC, 2008 WY 101, ...

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