Argonaut Ins. Co. v. Jones

Decision Date25 August 2011
Docket NumberNo. 53A01–1012–PL–669.,53A01–1012–PL–669.
Citation953 N.E.2d 608
PartiesARGONAUT INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant,v.Christopher T. JONES, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Sarah I. Jones, Deceased, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court


Liberty L. Roberts, Collier–Magar & Roberts, P.C., Indianapolis, IN, Attorney for Appellant.William J. Spalding, Spalding Law LLC, Bloomington, IN, Attorney for Appellee.


BAILEY, Judge.

Case Summary

Argonaut Insurance Company (Argonaut) appeals from the trial court's entry of summary judgment and subsequent entry of declaratory judgment against it and in favor of Christopher T. Jones (Jones), individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Monroe County Sheriff's Deputy Sarah I. Jones (Deputy Jones), after Deputy Jones was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by Bree Myers (“Myers”) while Deputy Jones, on-duty and acting in her capacity as a Deputy Sheriff in Monroe County, was directing traffic around a car accident site on Indiana State Road 45.

We affirm.


Argonaut presents several issues for our review, which we reframe as:

I. Whether the trial court erred when it held that Deputy Jones was an “insured” under the automobile insurance liability policy covering the Monroe County Sheriff Department's police vehicles, and thus was entitled to coverage under the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”) endorsement associated with the insurance policy;

II. Whether the collision leading to Deputy Jones's death was caused by her use of a police vehicle as contemplated by the policy and Indiana law; and

III. Whether the trial court erred when it held that Deputy Jones's death was subject to coverage under the policy, despite the presence of a policy exclusion for injuries arising in the course of employment.

Facts and Procedural History

On October 17, 2008, at around 10:20 p.m., Deputy Jones, then on duty with the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, had been dispatched in her police cruiser to the scene of a slide-off of a pickup truck alongside State Road 45 in Monroe County. Deputy Jones had parked her cruiser in the parking lot of a nearby store. Stephen Sims, a tow-truck driver, had been dispatched to retrieve the pickup truck and pulled into the parking lot. He advised Deputy Jones to remain in her car while he evaluated the pickup truck to determine what work he needed to do to tow the vehicle out of the nearby ravine.

After investigating the slide-off, Sims returned to Deputy Jones and asked her to block the southwest-bound lane so he could position his tow truck. Following proper police procedure, Deputy Jones placed her vehicle in the southwest-bound lane of State Road 45, left the engine running, and activated the blue-and-red emergency lights on her vehicle to redirect traffic. Sims activated the amber warning lights on his tow truck. Deputy Jones's car was within the southwest-bound lane of traffic, parked at a slight angle with its nose pointed toward the shoulder and a small portion of its fender over the white fog line. The tow truck straddled the road and grass shoulder in a turn lane south of Deputy Jones's patrol car, which was somewhere between twenty and sixty-nine feet behind the tow truck.1

After positioning her patrol car to control the flow of traffic and alert drivers of her presence and that of the accident site, cars began to line up behind Deputy Jones's vehicle. She then began to direct traffic using hand signals and a flashlight.

About fifteen minutes after Deputy Jones had begun directing traffic, Sims told her that he would need the entire road blocked, not just one lane, and returned to his car. Sims had just returned to his tow truck and was preparing to move his truck when he heard a scream and the sound of glass breaking. He turned to see Myers's Jeep, traveling at least 45 miles per hour, with Deputy Jones's body pressed against the front of the Jeep. Myers pulled into a nearby parking lot, where Deputy Jones's body slid off the hood of the vehicle and fell to the ground.

Deputy Jones was taken by ambulance to Bloomington Hospital; doctors at the hospital ordered her transferred by helicopter to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Deputy Jones was severely injured, with numerous fractures and internal injuries. Throughout her treatment, she remained unresponsive and never recovered, passing away early on October 19, 2008.

Myers carried automotive insurance coverage with bodily injury policy limits of $50,000, and her insurer agreed to pay Jones the policy limits. Deputy Jones's vehicle was insured under a policy the Monroe County Board of Commissioners (Board of Commissioners) purchased from Argonaut, which included a UIM endorsement with policy limits of $1,000,000 per incident.

On March 25, 2009, Jones, in both his individual capacity and as representative of Deputy Jones's estate, filed suit against Myers and her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company; Argonaut; and Monroe County's umbrella insurance carrier, Lexington National Insurance Corporation. Jones claimed that Deputy Jones was an insured of Argonaut under the UIM endorsement of the policy Argonaut wrote for Monroe County, and sought a declaratory judgment requiring Argonaut to pay up to its policy limits for losses arising from Myers's collision with Deputy Jones. The complaint requested a jury trial on all issues.

After engaging in discovery, on July 27, 2009, Jones filed his motion for partial summary judgment against Argonaut, contending that Deputy Jones was insured under the UIM endorsement of the Argonaut policy. Among the items of evidence designated in support of the motion were Argonaut's policy, an affidavit from Sims, and a crash reconstruction report with diagrams and photographs from Indiana State Police Trooper Kristopher Fitzgerald (“Trooper Fitzgerald”). On October 2, 2009, Jones sought permission to amend his motion in light of additional discovery agreed upon between Jones and Argonaut; on February 2, 2010, Jones designated additional evidence and provided a revised brief taking account of that evidence. The newly designated evidence included deposition testimony from Sims, Fitzgerald, and Myers, as well as an affirmation by Greenwood Police Chief Joseph Pitcher (“Chief Pitcher”) as to Deputy Jones's deployment of her police vehicle and Myers's role in causing the collision.2

On March 30, 2010, Argonaut filed its motion for summary judgment as to all issues in the litigation. The same day, Argonaut also responded to Jones's outstanding motion for summary judgment. Jones filed his response to Argonaut's motion and responsive brief on May 3, 2010.

On June 30, 2010, the trial court ruled on the cross-motions for summary judgment, granting Jones's motion in his capacity as representative of Deputy Jones's estate and denying Argonaut's motion as to Deputy Jones's estate. Specifically, the trial court determined that there was no issue of material fact and that Jones was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the questions of UIM coverage and on whether Deputy Jones was using her police car at the time Myers struck her. Having determined that Deputy Jones was covered by Argonaut's policy, the trial court held that the only question of material fact was whether Deputy Jones's injuries were caused by her use of the police car. At this time, the trial court also granted summary judgment in favor of Argonaut as to all of Jones's claims in his individual capacity.3

On November 17, 2010, Jones and Argonaut entered into a stipulation in which they waived jury trial and requested that the trial court act as fact finder on the remaining issue, whether Deputy Jones's injuries were caused by her use of the police car, based upon the evidence designated and arguments submitted to the trial court along with the parties' motions for summary judgment.

On December 1, 2010, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the trial court entered its Declaratory Judgment Order. After reaffirming the conclusions it made in its summary judgment order, the trial court went on to conclude that Deputy Jones's “injuries and death resulted from her use of the Monroe County Sheriff's car, while she was engaged in the duties of directing traffic in State Road 45 on October 17, 2008.” (Appellant's App. 12.) On February 22, 2011, the trial court entered a nunc pro tunc order granting the parties' motion requesting that trial court amend the Declaratory Judgment Order to incorporate the language of Trial Rule 54(B), finding no just reason for delay in entering judgment for Deputy Jones's estate against Argonaut.

This appeal followed.

Discussion and Decision
Standard of Review

Argonaut appeals the trial court's entry of summary judgment against it and the Declaratory Judgment Order.

The Summary Judgment Standard

Argonaut challenges the entry of summary judgment on whether Deputy Jones was an insured under Argonaut's UIM endorsement and whether she was using her police car as contemplated by the liability portion of the Argonaut policy. We review the grant or denial of summary judgment under the same standard as a trial court:

Considering only those facts that the parties designated to the trial court, we must determine whether there is a “genuine issue as to any material fact” and whether “the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” In answering these questions, the reviewing court construes all factual inferences in the non-moving party's favor and resolves all doubts as to the existence of a material issue against the moving party. The moving party bears the burden of making a prima facie showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and once the movant satisfies the burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to designate and produce evidence of facts showing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.

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