United States District Court, D. Colorado
TAMARA A. KERNS, and DOROTHY J. CZAJKOWSKI, as co-guardians for John M. Czajkowski and Dorothy J. Czajkowski, Plaintiffs,
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING WRIT OF GARNISHMENT
S. Krieger, Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to the
Defendant's (“National”) Motion for Summary
Judgment (# 29), the Plaintiffs'
(“the Czajkowskis”) response (#
32), and National's reply (#
action is for recovery of insurance benefits following an
automobile accident. The Court exercises jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332.
Court briefly reviews the salient facts here and elaborates
as necessary in its analysis.
October 20, 2013, John and Dorothy Czajkowski's vehicle
was rear-ended by a 2006 Jeep Liberty driven by 17-year old,
intoxicated Thomas Huntley. The accident caused both of the
Czajkowskis to suffer severe and permanent physical injuries.
The Czajkowskis commenced suit against Mr. Huntley in state
court, and ultimately obtained a jury verdict in their favor
of approximately $4.84 million. It is unclear whether and to
what extent Mr. Huntley was insured, but it is fair to assume
that his coverage encompassed only a fraction of the judgment
Czajkowskis then turned to a new party, the Larry H. Miller
Group (“Miller”), in an attempt to recover on the
judgment. Miller, an auto dealer, purchased the 2006 Jeep
Liberty from a private seller on or about October 12, 2013,
approximately a week before the accident. Although the
particulars of the subsequent transaction are somewhat
disputed, it appears that on October 15, 2013, Miller sold
the Jeep to David Huntley, Thomas Huntley's father.
Contending that the sale to David Huntley was never fully
completed, the Czajkowskis contend that Miller remained the
legal owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Thus,
they sought payment of the judgment from Miller's
insurers. Zurich, Miller's primary insurer, tendered its
full policy limits of $50, 000. The Czajkowskis then turned
to Defendant National, Miller's excess insurer.
Proceeding by Writ of Garnishment (# 1-3),
the Czajkowskis sought to execute the judgment against
Miller's excess policy with National. National answered
the writ by denying that the Miller policy constitutes
property belonging to Mr. Huntley.
now moves for summary judgment, seeking a finding that the
policy issued to Miller does not insure losses caused by Mr.
Huntley or the accident at issue. National raises three
primary arguments in support of its motion: (i) its policy
insures only those drivers who operate the vehicle with
Miller's permission, and Miller's sale of the vehicle
to David Huntley terminated Miller's ability to grant
permission to anyone to use the vehicle; (ii) the judgment
amount does not satisfy the $5 million threshold for
triggering National's coverage; and (iii) even if the
accident was otherwise covered by National's policy, Mr.
Huntley's criminal conduct in driving while intoxicated
triggers a policy exclusion that negates any coverage.
Standard of review
case is in a slightly unorthodox procedural posture, as the
Czajkowskis are proceeding by Writ of Garnishment against
National, rather than through the more traditional process of
filing a Complaint asserting claims. Enforcement of a money
judgment is governed by the procedure of the state where the
enforcing court is located. Fed.R.Civ.P. 69 (a)(1). Because
this action is brought in the District of Colorado, Colorado
law applies. According to Colorado law, summary judgment is
an appropriate means for determining whether there is a
colorable basis for the garnishor to reach assets in the
possession of the garnishee. See e.g. Mountain States
Mut. Cas. Co. v. Roinestad, 296 P.3d 1020, 1023 (Colo.
this action as an independent action, the Court applies the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in its resolution. Rule 56
facilitates the entry of a final determination there is not
genuine dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P 56(a);
White v. York Intern. Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th
Cir. 1995). Substantive law governs which facts are material
and what issues must be determined. As noted below, there are
no material facts in dispute and the parties present only an
issue of law.