United Fin. Cas. Co. v. Ball, 20-1452

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtNIEMEYER, Circuit Judge
Citation31 F.4th 164
Parties UNITED FINANCIAL CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. Greg Allen BALL, Defendant - Appellant and Milton Hardware, LLC; Builders Discount, LLC; Rodney Perry; Defendants.
Docket Number20-1452
Decision Date23 February 2022

31 F.4th 164

UNITED FINANCIAL CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Greg Allen BALL, Defendant - Appellant
and
Milton Hardware, LLC; Builders Discount, LLC; Rodney Perry; Defendants.

No. 20-1452

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued: December 7, 2021
Decided: February 23, 2022


ARGUED: Stephen Brooks Farmer, FARMER, CLINE & CAMPBELL, PLLC, Charleston, West Virginia, for Appellant. Susan Renee Snowden, JACKSON KELLY PLLC, Martinsburg, West Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Jennifer D. Roush, FARMER, CLINE & CAMPBELL, PLLC, Charleston, West Virginia, for Appellant.

Before WILKINSON, NIEMEYER, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.

Question certified to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia by published order. Judge Niemeyer directed entry of the order with the concurrences of Judge Wilkinson and Judge Agee.

ORDER OF CERTIFICATION

NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge:

31 F.4th 165

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, exercising the privilege afforded by the State of West Virginia through the Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, W. Va. Code §§ 51-1A-1 to 51-1A-13, requests that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia exercise its discretion to accept the following question:

When an exclusion in an automobile liability insurance policy violates West Virginia Code § 33-6-31 (a) because it would deny coverage to a permissive user of an insured automobile, must the insurance company provide the permissive user with the full liability coverage available under the policy or the minimum liability coverage required by the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law, W. Va. Code § 17D-1-1 et seq. ?

We acknowledge that the Supreme Court of Appeals may reformulate this question. See W. Va. Code §§ 51-1A-4, 51-1A-6(a)(3). In our view, there is no controlling appellate decision, constitutional provision, or West Virginia statute that definitively answers this question, and the answer will be determinative of an issue in a case currently pending before our court. Accordingly, we conclude that the question is appropriate for certification. See id. § 51-1A-3.

I

The facts relevant to the certified question are undisputed. On October 25, 2016, employees of Milton Hardware, LLC, were performing construction work at the home of Rodney Perry in Milton, West Virginia. At one point during the work, Milton Hardware's owner authorized Perry to move one of Milton Hardware's trucks, which was blocking the driveway. As Perry was moving the truck in reverse, however, he accidentally struck Greg Ball, a Milton Hardware employee, temporarily pinning him between the truck Perry was driving and another Milton Hardware truck. As a result, Ball sustained serious injuries that required hospitalization.

At the time of the accident, Milton Hardware had a commercial automobile liability insurance policy issued by United Financial Casualty Company, which provided $1 million in liability coverage to Milton Hardware and to any person using Milton Hardware's vehicles with its permission. Based on this provision, Ball demanded that United Financial indemnify him for the injuries that he claimed were caused by Perry's negligence. United Financial denied coverage and commenced an action in federal court against the named insureds, Milton Hardware and Builders Discount, LLC, as well as Perry and Ball, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no obligation to cover Perry's liability to Ball. It asserted that coverage for Perry's liability to Ball was barred by two exclusions in the policy — a "Worker's Compensation" exclusion and an "Employee Indemnification and Employer's Liability" exclusion. Ball filed a crossclaim against Perry, seeking damages for his negligence, and a counterclaim against United Financial for a declaratory judgment that, among other things, the Worker's Compensation exclusion did not apply and that the Employee Indemnification and Employer's Liability exclusion violated West Virginia Code § 33-6-31(a). Ball also sought money damages from United Financial,

31 F.4th 166

alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenants of good faith and fair dealing, unfair trade practices, and common law bad faith.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted United Financial's motion. The court concluded that because Ball "sustained his injuries while he was working within the course of his employment with Milton Hardware," his injuries fell within the scope of the Worker's Compensation exclusion and "that, as a result, he [was] barred from liability coverage under the policy." The court also rejected Ball's argument that West Virginia Code § 33-6-31(a) required United Financial to extend liability coverage to Perry as a permissive user of an insured automobile, reasoning that the exception in § 33-6-31(h) applied to eliminate this requirement. See W. Va. Code § 33-6-31(h) (providing that subsection (a) does "not apply to any policy of insurance to the extent that it covers the liability of an employer to his or her employees under any workers' compensation law"). The court dismissed all of Ball's counterclaims against United Financial, including his state law claims for damages, and it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Ball's state law tort claim against Perry.

On Ball's appeal, we vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. United Financial Casualty Co. v. Ball , 941 F.3d 710 (4th Cir. 2019). We held first that "because Ball's negligence claim against Perry was a claim against a third party, rather than a claim against his employer for workers' compensation, the [policy's] Worker's Compensation exclusion did not apply." Id. at 712. We also "conclude[d] that the policy's broader exclusion for Employee Indemnification and Employer's Liability, which on its face would apply to exclude coverage for Perry's liability to Ball, was inoperable because its limitation of coverage contravened...

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2 practice notes
  • United States v. Hurtt, 20-2494
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • April 13, 2022
    ...off-mission from the purpose of the original traffic stop and thereby prolonged Hurtt's detention. Since the disputed evidence was only 31 F.4th 164 uncovered after the officers went off-mission, the officers wrongly extended the traffic stop and violated Hurtt's Fourth Amendment right to b......
  • Ball v. United Fin. Cas. Co., 22-0155
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 17, 2022
    ...policy for any damages proven. I. Factual and Procedural Background 6 In its published order, United Financial Casualty Company v. Ball, 31 F.4th 164 (4th Cir. 2022), the Fourth Circuit set forth the undisputed relevant facts and procedural history as follows: On October 25, 2016, employees......
2 cases
  • United States v. Hurtt, 20-2494
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • April 13, 2022
    ...off-mission from the purpose of the original traffic stop and thereby prolonged Hurtt's detention. Since the disputed evidence was only 31 F.4th 164 uncovered after the officers went off-mission, the officers wrongly extended the traffic stop and violated Hurtt's Fourth Amendment right to b......
  • Ball v. United Fin. Cas. Co., 22-0155
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 17, 2022
    ...policy for any damages proven. I. Factual and Procedural Background 6 In its published order, United Financial Casualty Company v. Ball, 31 F.4th 164 (4th Cir. 2022), the Fourth Circuit set forth the undisputed relevant facts and procedural history as follows: On October 25, 2016, employees......

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