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United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
April 24, 2014, Decided
Nos. 13-10170 & 13-15741
[*1320] FRIEDMAN, District Judge:
In this appeal, we are asked to review the district [**2] court's interpretation of an exclusion in an insurance policy issued by the appellee, Mid-Continent Casualty Company, to a construction contractor, Anchorage Homes LLC, and the district court's conclusion that Mid-Continent Casualty Company was entitled to summary judgment based on that exclusion. We affirm the grant of summary judgment, though on different grounds than those articulated by the district court. We also affirm the district court's order awarding fees and costs to Mid-Continent Casualty Company.
On June 7, 2008, Charles Eugene Becker was working on a construction job in Little Torch Key, Florida, helping to install a modular home on the property of Jeffrey and Connie Kirkland. Near the end of the day, Becker began climbing down a ladder attached to the side of the two-story home when the ladder detached from the house. Both Becker and the ladder fell to the ground. Critically injured, Becker died on the way to the hospital.
The representative of Becker's estate, Jennifer Stephens, subsequently brought a wrongful death suit in Florida state court against the following parties: Becker's direct employer, Team Fritz; the Kirklands; and Anchorage Homes LLC ("Anchorage"), [**3] another contractor working on the modular home construction project. The present appeal stems from Stephens' claims against Anchorage.
At the time of the accident, Anchorage held a commercial general liability insurance policy with Mid-Continent Casualty Company ("Mid-Continent"). Under this policy, Mid-Continent agreed to "pay those sums that [Anchorage] becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of 'bodily injury' or 'property damage' to which this insurance applies." The policy also provided that Mid-Continent had "the right and duty to defend the insured against any 'suit' seeking those damages." In addition, the policy contained several exclusions from coverage, including an exclusion of damages relating to injuries to any of Anchorage's employees.
Upon learning that Stephens had initiated a suit in state court and had named Anchorage as one of the defendants, Anchorage filed a claim with Mid-Continent, seeking legal defense and indemnification. On April 20, 2009, Mid-Continent notified Anchorage that its insurance policy excluded coverage for damages arising from Becker's death, and that Mid-Continent therefore would not defend or indemnify Anchorage. Mid-Continent explained [**4] that its investigation had revealed that Anchorage, as construction contractor for the Kirkland project, had employed Team Fritz as a subcontractor. According to Mid-Continent, Team Fritz's employees therefore were the "statutory employees" of Anchorage under Florida law. Any liability for injury to Becker therefore was excluded from coverage under the policy's employee exclusion clause.
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749 F.3d 1318 *; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 7697 **; 24 Fla. L. Weekly C 1286; 2014 WL 1623737
JENNIFER A. STEPHENS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Charles Eugene Becker and as Assignee of Anchorage Homes, LLC, Plaintiff - Appellant, versus MID-CONTINENT CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant — Appellee.
Prior History: [**1] Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 4:10-cv-10110-JLK.
Stephens v. Mid-Continent Cas. Co., 915 F. Supp. 2d 1320, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2111 (S.D. Fla., Jan. 7, 2013)
subcontractor, contractor, employees, general contractor, coverage, hired, insurance policy, district court, parties, duty to defend, insured, exclusion clause, summary judgment, modular, state court, allegations, genuine, install, duty to indemnify, written contract, material fact, contractor-subcontractor, undisputed, indemnify, workers' compensation, damages
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Questions of Fact & Law, Abuse of Discretion, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Burdens of Proof, Nonmovant Persuasion & Proof, General Overview, Insurance Law, Business Insurance, Commercial General Liability Insurance, Duty to Defend, Labor & Employment Law, Employment Relationships, Employment Contracts, Formation & Letter Agreements, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Coverage, Employment Status, Contractors, Exclusions, Indemnification, Policy Interpretation, Ambiguous Terms, Unambiguous Terms, Parol Evidence, Extrinsic Evidence, Contracts Law, Contract Formation