No Coverage if Person Fails to Qualify as an Insured
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Plaintiff CSAA Fire & Casualty Insurance Company (CSAA) sued Roman Ramirez and eventually filed a successful Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of coverage. In CSAA Fire & Casualty Insurance Company v. Roman Ramirez, No. 2:22-cv-00318-RFB-EJY, United States District Court, D. Nevada (March 10, 2023) the USDC resolved the coverage issue.
Where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact the court may:
give an opportunity to properly support or address the fact;
consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion;
grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials – including the facts considered undisputed – show that the movant is entitled to it; or
Issue any other appropriate order.
The Court accepted the following facts as undisputed, based on Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and the supporting materials in the record.
Plaintiff is an insurance company who maintains a homeowner’s insurance policy (“The Policy”) held by the named insured, Maria M. Armendarez.
The policy was in full force and effect on May 4, 2017, and covers the property located at 2421 Old Forge Lane, Unit 104, Las Vegas, Nevada 89121 (“Unit 104”).
While the property covered by the policy was Unit 104, the policy agreement lists Ms. Maria Armendarez’s residence at a different location, namely 219 La Paz Avenue, Henderson, Nevada 89015.
An incident took place on May 4, 2017 (“the Incident”) involving Defendant that resulted in an underlying state court case being filed against him by Mr. Juan Severin. At the time of the Incident, Unit 104 was being rented out by Ms. Maria Armendarez to an unrelated family of three individuals: Loraine Gonzalez, Tony Gonzalez, and their child Luke Gonzalez. At the time of the Incident, certain repairs and remodeling was taking place at Unit 104. In connection with those repairs and remodeling. Ms. Maria M. Armendarez’s daughter, Ms. Carrie Armendarez, hired a handyman, the plaintiff in the underlying action, Mr. Juan Severin, to perform some of the work on Unit 104.
An argument between Ms. Carrie Armendarez and Mr. Servin ensued regarding whether Mr. Servin should perform any additional work and/or receive additional payment. As the argument ensued, Ramirez allegedly punched Mr. Severin in the face, causing him injury. As a result of the Incident, Mr. Servin sued in the underlying state court action, raising claims for injuries and damages against Mr. Ramirez (and others).
Defendant then tendered the defense of the Incident and ensuing underlying action to Plaintiff.
On May 10, 2022, Plaintiff took Defendant’s deposition. In the deposition, Plaintiff asked Defendant whether he had any blood, marital, or domestic relationship with Ms. Maria M. Armendarez and/or whether he had ever lived as a resident of the household of Ms. Maria M. Armendarez. Defendant unequivocally confirmed that he was neither a relative (blood or marriage) of Ms. Maria M. Armendarez, that he never lived with Ms. Maria M. Armendarez, and that he was neither a resident of her household. Defendant further confirmed that he has never lived at 219 La Paz Avenue, Henderson, Nevada, which is the resident household of Ms. Maria M. Armendarez, nor at Unit 104, where the subject Incident occurred. Defendant further confirmed that he has never been married in his entire life, only lived with his girlfriend, Loretta Vargas and not Ms. Maria M. Armendarez, and is not a blood relative of Ms. Maria M. Armendarez or her late husband, Mr. Fernando Armendarez.
In Nevada, when the facts are not in dispute, insurance contract interpretation is a question of law that may be decided by the reviewing Court. An insurance policy, like any other contract, must be construed and enforced as written, absent any ambiguity. In this case the four requirements for declaratory relief were met. There is an underlying proceeding between Mr. Severin and Defendant, currently before the Clark County District Court.
Defendant cannot establish that he is covered by the Policy because the Policy is not ambiguous as to defining “insured” and the scope of coverage to “insured” persons. Defendant admitted that at the time of the Incident, he was a resident of 3909 San Andreas Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89121. He stated that he moved from that residence to a home he purchased, at 4388 Gibraltar Way, Las Vegas, NV, 89121, in 2020 and was not a resident of Unit 104 nor did he reside at Ms. Maria M. Armendarez’s residence.
Through his sworn deposition testimony, Defendant has confirmed that he does not qualify as an “insured” under the Policy.
Insurance policies must be interpreted as written. When a policy defines “insured” as a person who is named or who resides at the premises and is a relative of the named insured no one else is covered by the policy for defense or indemnity. Since Ramirez failed to fit any variation of the definition of “insured” he was not entitled to coverage for defense or indemnity.
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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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