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Ernie Haire Ford, Inc. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

May 18, 2009, Decided; May 18, 2009, Filed

No. 08-13303

Opinion

 [*642]  PER CURIAM:

This case involves a dispute regarding the amount of liability insurance coverage available to Ernie Haire Ford, Inc. ("Ford") and Crown Auto Dealerships, Inc. ("Crown") (collectively, "Appellees") in connection with class action suits filed against them. The district court granted in part and denied in part Appellees' summary judgment motion as to the scope of coverage available to them. The court also granted summary judgment  [**2] to Universal Underwriters Insurance Company ("Universal") regarding whether it breached its duty to defend Crown in the class action suit. Universal appeals the district court's grant of Appellees' motion for summary judgment regarding the scope of coverage. Crown filed a cross-appeal from the district court's grant of Universal's motion for summary judgment on the question of the duty to defend. Ford also moved to dismiss Universal's appeal as moot with respect to the district court's grant of summary judgment against Ford. After reviewing the record and hearing oral argument, we DENY Ford's motion to dismiss the appeal, AFFIRM the district court's grant of Appellees' motion for summary judgment, VACATE the court's grant of Universal's motion for summary judgment, and REMAND for further proceedings in light of this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Class Action Suits and Appellees' Insurance Policies

Ford and Crown both were sued in separate class-action law suits for multi-year patterns or practices involving automobile sales that allegedly violated the Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. The class period for the suit against Ford ran from 30 August 1998 to 1 August 2003,  [**3] and the class period for the suit against Crown ran from 5 January 2000 to 5 July 2003. 1 Ford and Crown both purchased "Unicover" insurance policies from Universal. Both companies purchased five successive policies during the time frame encompassed by their respective class periods. 2 All of Ford's policies covered annual  [*643]  periods between 1 April 1998 and 1 April 2003. Four of Crown's policies also covered annual periods -- one from 1 August 1999 to 1 August 2000 and three between 1 April 2001 and 1 April 2004. Crown's fifth policy covered the period between 1 August 2000 and 1 April 2001.

TILA violations are covered in Coverage Part 500 of the Unicover Policy as part of "STATUTE AND TITLE E&O" (hereinafter, "STEO"). In Coverage Part 500, Universal agreed to "pay all sums the INSURED legally must pay as DAMAGES . . . because of STATUTE AND TITLE E&O." R4-33, Exh. C at UUIC-00053. The Unicover Policy defines STEO as "any claim or SUIT filed against [the policyholder] . . . by or on behalf of . . . a customer . . . because of an alleged violation during the Coverage Part period, of any federal, state, or local . . . truth-in-lending or truth-in-leasing law." Id. at UUIC-00055. It also defines "DAMAGES" as "amounts awardable by a court of law" and "SUIT" as "a civil action for DAMAGES." Id. at UUIC-00054-55. The Unicover Policy specifically provides that "[a] class action is one SUIT." Id. at UUIC-00056. Additionally, it contains a "non-stacking provision" as part of its "General Conditions," which states as follows:

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331 Fed. Appx. 640 *; 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 10647 **

ERNIE HAIRE FORD, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, CROWN AUTO DEALERSHIPS, INC., Consolidated Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, versus UNIVERSAL UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant-Cross-Appellee. 6:07-CV-595-ORL-28DAB: CROWN AUTO DEALERSHIPS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, versus UNIVERSAL UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant-Cross-Appellee.

Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Subsequent History: Magistrate's recommendation at, Costs and fees proceeding at Ernie Haire Ford, Inc. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Co., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79141 (M.D. Fla., Aug. 14, 2009)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D. C. Docket Nos. 07-00288-CV-ORL-28-DAB, 07-00595-CV-ORL.

Ernie Haire Ford, Inc. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Co., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38963 (M.D. Fla., May 13, 2008)Ernie Haire Ford, Inc. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Co., 541 F. Supp. 2d 1295, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27621 (M.D. Fla., 2008)

Disposition: AFFIRMED IN PART, DENIED IN PART, AND VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART.

CORE TERMS

coverage, insurer, policies, class action, damages, summary judgment motion, duty to defend, summary judgment, district court, class action suit, policy period, policy limit, non-stacking, settlement, breached, settle, grant summary judgment, suits, motion to dismiss, scope of coverage, declarations, violations, annual, limits

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Summary Judgment, Burdens of Proof, General Overview, Judgments, Evidentiary Considerations, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Erie Doctrine, Jurisdiction, Diversity Jurisdiction, Insurance Law, Policy Interpretation, Ambiguous Terms, Claim, Contract & Practice Issues, Judicial Review, Liability & Performance Standards, Good Faith & Fair Dealing, Duty to Defend, Business Insurance, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Business & Corporate Compliance, Breach, Breach of Contract Actions, Elements of Contract Claims, Bad Faith & Extracontractual Liability, Payment Delays & Denials, Settlements