United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the court upon the defendants' motion
for summary judgment. Upon due consideration of the motion,
response, exhibits, and applicable authority, the court is
ready to rule.
and Procedural Background
6, 2016, the plaintiff, Vickie Jeans, was traveling
southbound on Highway 51 in Hernando, Mississippi, in her
2013 Hyundai Accent. Traveling directly in front of her was a
truck driven by an unidentified driver. As the two vehicles
traveled southbound on Highway 51, a piece of wood was
propelled from the truck in front of the plaintiff, striking
her windshield and allegedly causing injuries to her. The
truck did not stop after the accident, and the owner/operator
is unknown. The plaintiff therefore alleges that the truck
owner/operator is an “uninsured motorist” as
defined by the plaintiff's uninsured motorist policy
issued by the defendant Shelter Mutual Insurance Company
(“Shelter Mutual”) and that the truck was a
“hit-and-run motor vehicle” as defined by the
time of the incident, the plaintiff was insured under Shelter
Mutual policy number 23-1-9898379-1, which insured her
vehicle with uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of
$25, 000 each person and $50, 000 each accident, subject to
the terms, conditions, and declarations of the policy.
According to the defendants, Shelter General Insurance
Company did not issue any applicable policy to the plaintiff.
the accident, the plaintiff made a claim for uninsured
motorist benefits under her Shelter Mutual policy for
injuries she allegedly sustained in the accident. Defendant
Shelter Mutual denied her claim on the basis that her vehicle
never came into actual physical contact with another vehicle,
as the policy specifically excludes situations such as this
involving debris colliding with an insured or vehicle
occupied by an insured.
response to Shelter Mutual's denial of coverage, the
plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in the Circuit Court of
DeSoto County, Mississippi, on June 23, 2017, seeking actual
damages for her injuries and punitive damages because she
alleges claims for bad faith denial of coverage. The
defendants were served with process on July 25, 2017, and
subsequently and timely removed the action to this court on
August 11, 2017, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, invoking
the court's diversity of citizenship jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1332. The defendants now move for summary
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). On a motion for summary judgment, the
movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant makes
such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to
“go beyond the pleadings and . . . designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324. Further, the non-movant “must do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view
the underlying facts in the “light most favorable to
the party opposing the motion.” United States v.
Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). As such, all
reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the
non-movant. Id. Before finding that no genuine issue
for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no
rational trier of fact could find for the non-movant.
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (1986). “Summary
judgment, although a useful device, must be employed
cautiously because it is a final adjudication on the
merits.” Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1241
(5th Cir. 1989).
defendants argue that Shelter Mutual's policy language
and provisions plainly, unambiguously, and specifically
exclude uninsured motorist coverage in situations such as the
instant case where propelled debris collides with a vehicle
occupied by an insured. The defendants assert that summary
judgment is appropriate here because there are no genuinely
contested issues of material fact and the interpretation of
insurance policy language is a question of law. Lewis v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 730 So.2d 65, 68 (Miss. 1998).
language and provisions of insurance policies are viewed as
contracts and are subject to the same rules of interpretation
as other contracts. Hankins v. Maryland Cas. Co./Zurich
Am. Ins. Co., 101 So.2d 645, 653 (Miss. 2012). Under
Mississippi law, when the language of an insurance policy is
plain and unambiguous, the court will afford the language its
plain, ordinary meaning and will apply the language as
written. Lewis, 730 So.2d at 68. Accordingly,
“the appropriate analysis should . . . be driven by . .
. the policy language. The policy either affords coverage or
not, based upon application of the policy language to the
facts presented.” Hankins, 101 So.2d at 653
(citing Architex Ass'n, Inc. v. Scottsdale Ins.
Co., 27 So.3d 1148, 1156 (Miss. 2010)).
present case, the plaintiff's Shelter Mutual policy