United States District Court, D. Maryland
NATIONWIDE PROPERTY & CASUALTY INS. CO., Plaintiff
ERIC DORSEY, Defendant.
Coulson United States Magistrate Judge
Nationwide Property & Casualty Ins. Co.
(“Nationwide”), filed a complaint against
Defendants, Washrite, Inc. (“Washrite”), Mr.
Kevin Gaines, and Mr. Eric Dorsey, seeking a declaratory
judgment as to Nationwide's liability insurance coverage
obligations following an on-the-job accident that occurred
involving Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Gaines. (ECF No. 1). Since that
filing, this Court entered an Order of Default Judgement in
favor of Nationwide, against Washrite and Mr. Gaines. (ECF
No. 12). Thereafter, Defendants Washrite and Mr.
Gaines were terminated from this litigation, leaving
Nationwide and Mr. Dorsey as the remaining parties to this
action. (ECF No. 12-13).
remaining parties, Nationwide and Mr. Dorsey, have consented
to proceed before a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c) and Local Rule 301.4. (ECF Nos. 23, 24). Now
pending before the Court are their cross-motions for summary
judgment. (ECF Nos. 15, 16). In deciding these motions, the
Court has also considered both Mr. Dorsey's and
Nationwide's Opposition/Reply, (ECF Nos. 17, 18), and a
motions hearing was held on March 21, 2017. (ECF Nos. 26,
27). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED, and Defendant's motion for
summary judgment is DENIED.
case involves an insurance coverage dispute arising from a
motor vehicle incident involving Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Gaines,
who were operating a truck that was owned by Washrite and
insured by Nationwide. The cross-motions for summary judgment
concern not only the underlying accident, but the
relationship between the parties in this action and the
insurance coverage obligations that are owed in light of
is a “mobile vehicle washing company, ” located
in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, that is owned and operated by
Mrs. Julie Walters and her husband, Mr. Edward
Walters. (ECF Nos. 15-3, 16-4; J. Walters Depo. at
7-8). Washrite sends out teams of workers, using
Washrite-owned trucks equipped with “mounted washing
equipment, ” to power wash commercial
vehicles at its customers' facilities. (ECF
Nos. 15-4; E. Walters Depo. at 9) (J. Walters Depo. at 9-10).
is an insurance carrier that issued a “Business Auto
Coverage” Policy (the “Policy”) to Washrite
covering “bodily injury” and “property
damages” to “employees” and
“autos” of Washrite. (ECF No. 1-4) (ECF No.
15-9). The exact scope of this policy-to whom applies and the
limits of liability-is the subject of the present dispute and
is discussed in greater detail below.
Dorsey and Mr. Gaines are both “workers”
associated with Washrite. Both parties agree that, at the
time of the accident in this case, Mr. Dorsey was an employee
of Washrite. (J. Walters Depo. at 23). Mr. Gaines's
status, however, is disputed. As outlined below, Nationwide
contends that Mr. Gaines was an employee of Washrite and not,
as Mr. Dorsey contends, an independent contractor..
not parties to this action, Mrs. Casandra Gaines and
Appearance Auto Detailing and Power Washing
(“Appearance Auto”) are both relevant to the
present dispute. Mrs. Gaines is the sole owner of Appearance
Auto, which, as the name implies, handles detailing and power
washing of automobiles. (ECF Nos. 15-6, 16-6; C. Gaines Depo.
at 9). Her husband, Mr. Gaines, runs the day-to-day
operations of that business. (C. Gaines Depo. at 9-10). His
precise involvement in those operations, discussed more
thoroughly below, is relevant to the present dispute as the
parties disagree whether, at the time of the accident, Mr.
Gaines was acting as an employee of Washrite or Appearance
30, 2012, Washrite sent Mr. Gaines and Mr. Dorsey to wash
trucks and trailers at a Fed-Ex facility in Halethorpe,
Maryland. (J. Walters Depo. at 15-16, 41-42). Mr. Gaines was
paired with Mr. Dorsey so that Gaines could
“retrain” Dorsey in power washing and related
procedures. (ECF Nos. 15-5, 16-5; K. Gaines Depo. at 40-43).
After washing the vehicles, Mr. Gaines told Mr. Dorsey that
he was going to move their Washrite flat-bed truck. (K.
Gaines Depo. at 40-54). As Mr. Gaines began to do so, Mr.
Dorsey fell off the rear of the truck and sustained injuries.
(K. Gaines Depo. at 64).
February 27, 2015, Mr. Dorsey filed a complaint (the
“Dorsey Complaint” or “Dorsey
Action”), against Mr. Gaines in the Circuit Court for
Prince George's County, Maryland, alleging that Mr.
Gaines negligently caused him severe personal injuries. (ECF
No. 15-7). That complaint was later amended on August 4,
2015, adding Mrs. Gaines and Appearance Auto as Defendants.
That amended complaint, again, asserted that Mr. Gaines
negligently caused severe personal injuries to Mr. Dorsey,
but added that Mr. Gaines was acting within the scope of his
employment for Mrs. Gaines and Appearance Auto, and thus they
were vicariously liable for his negligent actions. On April
12, 2016, Nationwide filed the instant action in this Court,
seeking a declaratory judgment “to resolve the dispute
and end the uncertainties among the parties concerning their
rights, duties, and obligations” as set forth under the
Policy. (ECF No. 1).
parties agree that the Policy was in effect at the time this
accident occurred and provided coverage for Mr. Dorsey's
injuries. (ECF No. 1-4). The parties disagree about the
applicable limits of that coverage. The Policy contains the
following terms that are relevant to the present dispute:
SECTION V - DEFINITIONS1
* * *
E. "Employee" includes a
"leased worker". "Employee" does not
include a "temporary worker".
Policy contains the following exclusion from liability:
5. Fellow Employee
* * *
"Bodily injury" to any fellow "employee"
of the "insured" arising out of and in the course
of the fellow "employee's" employment or while
performing duties related to the conduct of your business.
the Policy is modified by a “Maryland Changes”
form, (ECF No. 15-10), which provides in pertinent part:
A. Changes In Liability Coverage
1. Except with respect to the Business Auto Physical Damage
Coverage Form, the Fellow Employee Exclusion is replaced by
insurance does not apply to "bodily injury" to any
fellow "employee" of the "insured"
arising out of and in the course of the fellow
"employee's" employment or while performing
duties related to the conduct of your business. However, this
exclusion does not apply for coverage up to the minimum limit
specified by the Maryland Vehicle Law.