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Martin v. United Farm Family Ins. Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 24, 2014

BONNIE SUZANNE MARTIN, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
UNITED FARM FAMILY INSURANCE CO., Defendant

For Bonnie Suzanne Martin, Sandra Yingling, Duane David Martin, Ashley Barber, David Duane Martin, David Duane Martin, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Debranne Martin, Plaintiffs: Hans David Leibensperger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Steven H Heisler, Law Office of Steven Heisler, Baltimore, MD.

For United Farm Family Insurance Co., Defendant: Margaret Fonshell Ward, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ward and Herzog LLC, Baltimore, MD.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

J. Mark Coulson, United States Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on the parties cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF Nos. 24 and 28).

The Court, having reviewed the pleadings and supporting documents, finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2011). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Deny Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

The case at bar arises from a tragic and deadly all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident that occurred shortly after midnight on March 18, 2012. James Lee Maticic, Jr. was driving the ATV, with Debranne Martin riding on back as a passenger. Mr. Maticic then collided the ATV with a guardrail on McKinstrys Mill Road in Carroll County, Maryland, killing both Mr. Maticic and Ms. Martin.

Plaintiffs, surviving family members of Ms. Martin, originally filed a personal injury suit in the Circuit Court for Carroll County against the Maticics and their various business entities. The Maticics assigned their rights under their liability insurance policy issued by Defendant, United Farm Family Insurance Co., to Plaintiffs. When Defendant denied coverage under that policy for Plaintiffs' claims, Plaintiffs filed a declaratory judgment action against Defendant in the Circuit Court for Carroll County seeking an order that the policy affords a defense and indemnity for Plaintiffs' personal injury claims. That suit was then removed by Defendant to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction.

The parties have both filed motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the issue of whether or not there is coverage under the policy for the bodily injuries and death of Ms. Martin. The parties agree that there is no dispute of material fact and that it is appropriate for the Court to render judgment as a matter of law based on the language of the policy.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Factual Summary

Though not involved in the accident, Herbert Howard, a neighbor of Mr. Maticic, accompanied Mr. Maticic on the night in question and provided much of the factual background at his deposition. Per Mr. Howard's deposition testimony, the incident began when Mr. Maticic suggested to Mr. Howard that they go for an ATV ride with Debranne Martin whereby Ms. Martin would ride as a passenger with Mr. Maticic, and Wyatt Haley (the son of a friend of Mr. Howard's) would ride as a passenger with Mr. Howard. The group left together on the ATVs from Mr. Howard's property and went to Mr. Maticic's property so that Mr. Maticic could put on boots. The group spent approximately five minutes at Mr. Maticic's property before leaving for the ATV ride.

The trip began by riding through the open fields on Mr. Maticic's property (which is approximately 105 to 120 acres in size) to Quaker Hill Road. From Quaker Hill Road, the group then turned right onto trails on the property of Lehigh Cement. The group stopped briefly on the Lehigh property before continuing through the trails and stopping again at a silo further down the trail. The group remained at the silo for approximately ten minutes before continuing on to a final stop where the trail meets McKinstrys Mill Road. (Mr. Howard testified that this was their " regular trail ride" and that Mr. Maticic would use the trails several times a week.) Mr. Howard then told the group he was going home and parted ways with Mr. Maticic and Ms. Martin who proceeded on McKinstrys Mill Road, a paved public roadway. Shortly thereafter, the deadly accident involving Mr. Maticic and ...


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