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Hurst v. Metropolitan Property And Casualty Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Wyoming

September 12, 2017

SARA E. HURST, Individually, and SARA E. HURST, as the Duly Appointed Wrongful Death Representative of the Estate of Larry G. Hurst, Appellants, (Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs),
v.
METROPOLITAN PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee, (Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant).

         Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable William J. Edelman, Judge

          Representing Appellants: Autumn Aspen, John Coppede, Quinton Parham, and Richard D. Bush of Hickey & Evans, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Bush.

          Representing Appellee: Megan Overmann Goetz of Pence and MacMillan, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, KAUTZ, JJ., and KRICKEN, D.J.

          KRICKEN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         [¶1] On May 31, 2014, Larry Hurst was killed and Sara Hurst, seriously injured, while riding their bicycles after a vehicle, driven by Hannah Terry (Terry), negligently and consecutively struck each of their bicycles. Terry was not insured at the time. Thereafter, the Hursts filed a claim with their uninsured motorist insurance carrier, Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company (MetLife), who, in turn, filed a Complaint for Interpleader against Sara Hurst; the Estate of Larry Hurst (collectively, the Hursts); and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, [1] seeking an order that the defendants interplead and settle their rights to the uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage provided for in the Hursts' MetLife policy (the Policy). The Policy provided UIM coverage/benefits in the amount of "$300, 000 each person/$300, 000 each accident." MetLife contended that the injuries to the Hursts and caused by Terry were the result of one (1) accident, resulting in a maximum of $300, 000 in coverage. The Hursts argued that their injuries were the result of two (2) accidents, warranting $600, 000 in coverage. The Hursts and MetLife filed cross-motions for summary judgment, along with a stipulation of the underlying facts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of MetLife, finding there was only one (1) accident for purposes of determining the amount of UIM coverage. The Hursts appealed. We reverse and remand, concluding that, although the district court adopted the correct legal theory upon which to determine the number of accidents for application of UIM coverage and policy limits, the factual record is insufficient for a legal conclusion as to whether Terry maintained or regained control of her vehicle during her collisions with the Hursts. As a result, summary judgment was improperly granted.

         ISSUE(S)

         [¶2] In their appeal, the Hursts present the following issue(s):

1. Did the district court err in its ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment that there was one (1) rather than two (2) accidents for purposes of determining the amount of uninsured motorist coverage for Joint-Appellants Larry and Sara Hurst who were separately struck by an uninsured motorist while on bicycles?

         Stated more specifically:

(a) Did the district court adopt the correct theory, i.e. causation, to determine there was one (1) accident in a case involving uninsured motorist coverage?
(b) Did the district court correctly apply the causation theory to determine there was one (1) accident in light of the stipulated facts?
(c) Did the district court correctly apply the Matty decision, which it relied on, to determine there was only one (1) accident?
(d) Did the district court properly construe/interpret the uninsured motorist coverage to determine that one (1) accident, a term that is undefined in the applicable policy, occurred on May 31, 2014?

         MetLife generally agrees, phrasing the issue as:

Whether the district court correctly determined there was "one accident" at issue in this matter.

FACTS

         [¶3] The parties stipulated to the following facts before the district court, as follows:

On May 31, 2014, at approximately 12:10 p.m., Larry and Sara were riding separate bicycles and headed south in the 4000 block of Coffeen Avenue/US Highway 87 near the city of Sheridan, state of Wyoming. Sara was riding her bicycle approximately thirty (30) feet in front of Larry. Both bicycles were being ridden on the shoulder of the road, within the emergency lane, and out of the lane of traffic.
At approximately 12:10 p.m. on May 31, 2014, Hannah Terry, driving a 2012 Dodge Caravan (minivan), was also traveling south on Coffeen Avenue at a speed of approximately fifty (50) MPH when her minivan entered the emergency lane (shoulder of the road).
After entering the emergency lane, the left front of her minivan struck Larry's bicycle from behind, throwing Larry from his bicycle and over the roof of the minivan. Larry was thrown approximately 166 feet following impact with the minivan. . . .
After striking Larry, the minivan continued to travel in the emergency lane for approximately thirty (30) more feet before it struck Sara's bicycle from behind. After being struck by the left front of the minivan, Sara's bicycle was pushed by the minivan until it came to a stop. Sara remained on the hood of the minivan after it struck her. At some point following the impact, Sara also struck the windshield of the minivan. . . .
There was approximately one-half (1/2) to one (1) second between Hannah Terry first striking Larry Hurst and subsequently striking Sara Hurst with the minivan.
. . .
Larry succumbed to his injuries shortly after being struck by the minivan, which was a direct result of the negligent driving of Hannah Terry. . . .
Sara sustained multiple serious physical injuries and trauma as a result of the negligent driving of Hannah Terry, including a concussion, collapsed lung(s), pulmonary contusion, internal bleeding, a thoracic fracture, as well as fractures to her leg and ribs .....
The minivan showed no mechanical failure and appeared to be in good condition.
The roadway was in good condition and was not a factor.
The weather was good and was not a factor.
Both bicycles ridden by the Hursts were in good condition and were not factors.
Both bicycles ridden by the Hursts were about 2.5 to 3 feet inside the shoulder of the road and were not an ...

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