United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Insurance Company filed its Complaint  on May 23, 2018,
seeking a declaratory judgment against the Defendants on two
issues: insurance coverage and entitlement to defense and
indemnity under an insurance policy. This insurance dispute
stems from a state court Dram Shop action filed by Jason
Tackett and Regina Lynn Tackett against East Main Package
Store, Inc. See Exhibit to Complaint [1-2].
Presently before the Court is Union’s Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings . No. responses were filed, and
the issues are ripe for review.
and Procedural Background
Mills entered East Main Package Store on January 2, 2015, to
purchase alcohol. Allegedly, Mills was visibly intoxicated at
the time he purchased the alcohol from the store employees.
After making his purchase, Mills exited the store and
remained outside by the entrance. Later, James Taylor arrived
at the store driving a 2006 Hummer. Taylor left his vehicle
running and unlocked while inside the store. Mills allegedly
entered Taylor’s vehicle and drove away from the liquor
store. After driving for approximately one mile, Mills
collided with a vehicle carrying Jason Tackett, Jackie
Tackett, and their minor child. Members of the Tackett family
sustained severe injuries in the crash.
Tacketts filed a civil case in the Circuit Court of Lee
County, Mississippi, against East Main Package Store, Inc.,
claiming that East Main Package Store violated state law when
they sold alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, Mills.
See Cause No. CV2017-001428. That state court case
gave rise to the dispute currently before this Court. In the
state court case, East Main Package Store asked Union, its
insurance policy holder, to provide legal defense and
indemnity in that proceeding. Believing that East Main is not
entitled to defense or indemnity, Union filed this Complaint
for Declaratory Judgment  asking the Court to declare that
the insurance policy does not cover the accident, and that
Union does not have a duty to defend or indemnify East Main
Package Store. East Main Package Store filed an Answer,
Counter-Complaint against Union, and a Third-Party Complaint
 against its insurance agent Renasant Insurance, Inc. In
the Counter-Complaint , East Main Package Store claims
that Union has, in bad faith and without justifiable cause,
refused to defend and indemnify it. Further, the Third-Party
Complaint  against Renasant Insurance claims that
Renasant was entrusted with procuring comprehensive liability
insurance coverage but was negligent by failing to do the
same. East Main Package Company claims that Renasant’s
failures resulted in its exposure to liability in the state
court case. Union filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings  on March 4, 2019, requesting that the Court
enter an order declaring that East Main Package Store is not
entitled to coverage or indemnity. Neither of the Defendants
filed a response.
12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are
closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move
for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).
“The central issue is whether, in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid
claim for relief.” Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528
F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Hughes v. Tobacco
Institute, Inc., 278 F.3d 417, 420 (5th Cir.
2012)). To survive a motion for a judgment on the pleadings,
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d
868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id.
central question is whether the insurance policy covers the
accident. Union argues that the policy is unambiguous on its
face and excludes coverage for accidents involving alcohol.
Union adds that as a result, East Main Package Store is not
entitled to the defense and indemnity it requested.
policies are contracts and they are to be enforced according
to their provisions.” Corban v. United Services
Auto. Ass’n, 20 So.3d 601, 609 (Miss. 2009)
(citations omitted). When parties to a contract make mutual
promises (barring some defense or condition which excuses
performance), they are entitled to the benefit of their
bargain. Id. To determine whether the Defendants are
entitled to coverage, defense, and indemnity, the Court looks
to the terms of the insurance policy. See Facilities,
Inc. v. Rogers-Usry Chevrolet, Inc., 908 So.2d 107, 111
(Miss. 2005) (stating that “legal intent should first
be sought in an objective reading of the words employed in
the contract”); citing Cooper v. Crabb, 587
So.2d 236, 241 (Miss. 1991). The substantive contract law of
[Mississippi] includes the following concepts of
If a contract is clear and unambiguous, then it must be
interpreted as written . . . . If a contract contains
ambiguous or unclear language, then ambiguities must be
resolved in favor of the non-drafting party. Ambiguities
exist when a policy can be logically interpreted in two or
more ways, where one logical interpretation provides for
coverage. However, ambiguities do not exist simply because
two parties disagree over the interpretation of a policy.
Exclusions and limitations on coverage are also construed in
favor of the insured. Language in exclusionary clauses must
be “clear and unmistakable, ” as those clauses
are strictly interpreted.
Corban, 20 So.3d at 609; citing United States
Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Martin, 998 So.2d 956, 963
(Miss. 2008). Thus, the Court looks to the explicit language
of the insurance policy between East Main Package Store and
Union Insurance Company.
Interpretation of the Insurance Policy
of general bodily injury and property damage liability falls
under the “COMMERCIAL GENERAL LIABILITY COVERAGE