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Hernandez v. Electric Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

September 7, 2016

YUDI HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ELECTRIC INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

         D.C. No. 6:15-CV-01170-JTM-JPO (D. Kan.)

          Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, BACHARACH and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.

          ORDER AND JUDGMENT [*]

          Robert E. Bacharach Circuit Judge.

         This appeal involves interpretation of a liability insurance policy's limit. The policy limits the insured's liability to $100, 000 "for all damages, including damages for care, loss of services or death, arising out of 'bodily injury' sustained by any one person in any one auto accident." Appellant's App'x at 54. We must decide whether the $100, 000 limit applies separately to multiple claimants incurring damages because of the same person's injuries. We answer "no."

         1. Yudi Hernandez is injured in a car accident, and she and her father incur damages.

         Ms. Yudi Hernandez, a minor, was injured in a car accident. Because Yudi was a minor, her father was responsible for paying her medical expenses, which exceeded $350, 000. Yudi and her father settled with the driver's insurer, Electric Insurance Company. Electric agreed to pay Mr. Hernandez $100, 000 and allow Yudi to file a declaratory judgment action to determine whether Electric was liable for another $100, 000 "per person" limit to Yudi. Electric agreed to pay Yudi $100, 000 if she prevailed in the declaratory judgment action.

         In light of this agreement, Yudi filed a declaratory judgment action, claiming that the per-person limit separately applies to each person who incurs damage. Electric disagrees, stating that the liability limit covers all claims growing out of injuries to one person in the auto. The district court granted summary judgment to Electric, and Yudi appeals.

         2. We engage in de novo review and interpret the policy under Kansas law.

         We review de novo the district court's ruling on summary judgment, using the same standard applicable in district court. Red Panther Chem. Co. v. Ins. Co. of Pa., 43 F.3d 514, 517 (10th Cir. 1994). Applying this standard, we determine whether a genuine issue exists on any material fact, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Yudi. Id. Through this view of the evidence, we engage in de novo review of the district court's interpretation of the insurance policy. See Houston Gen. Ins. Co. v. Am. Fence Co., 115 F.3d 805, 806 (10th Cir. 1997) ("When the relevant facts are undisputed, we review the district court's interpretation of an insurance contract de novo.").

         To interpret the policy, we apply state law. Pub. Serv. Co. of Okla. v. Burlington N. R.R. Co., 53 F.3d 1090, 1096 (10th Cir. 1995). The parties agree that Kansas law governs. Thus, we follow Kansas law when interpreting the policy. See Carolina Cas. Ins. Co. v. Nanodetex Corp., 733 F.3d 1018, 1022 (10th Cir. 2013) (applying the state law that both parties agreed was applicable). Kansas law requires us to ascertain the parties' intent. Liggatt v. Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co., 46 P.3d 1120, 1125 (Kan. 2002). "If the terms of the contract are clear, there is no room for rules of construction, and the intent of the parties is determined from the contract itself." Id.

         We interpret the insurance policy from the perspective of a "reasonably prudent insured." Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Wilkins, 179 P.3d 1104, 1110 (Kan. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The policy is ambiguous only if reasonably prudent insureds could interpret the language in different ways. Id. at 1109-10. If the policy language is ambiguous, we adopt the construction most favorable to the insured. Id. at 1110.

         3. The policy unambiguously limits Electric's liability to $100, 000 for the damages Ms. Hernandez and her father sustained.

The insurance policy provides:
The limit of liability shown in the Declarations for each person for Bodily Injury Liability is our maximum limit of liability for all damages, including damages for care, loss of services or death, arising out of "bodily injury" ...

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