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Guyaux-Mitchell v. Old United Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 5, 2019

JANICE GUYAUX-MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
v.
OLD UNITED CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Marcia S. Krieger Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to the Defendant's (“Old United”) Motion for Summary Judgment (# 24), Ms. Gayaux's response (# 29), and Old United's reply (# 32)

         FACTS

         Because the scope of the Court's factual consideration in this matter is somewhat constrained, the Court begins by reciting the pertinent facts as they are set forth in the 2015 complaint in the case of Guyaux v. Trout, filed in the Colorado District Court for the County of Denver (“the Denver County action”):

7. This case arises out of a tragic incident occurring on Lake Powell in Utah where a group of friends and acquaintances were vacationing on a [ ] houseboat which was owned, at least in part, by Mr. Trout.
8. On June 19, 2012, Ms. Guyaux-Mitchell (one of the vacationers) was . . . floating on an inflatable kayak that was tethered to the houseboat.
9. As Ms. Guyaux-Mitchell was floating off the houseboat's backside, a nearby powerboat, which Mr. Trout had previously rented but which was being operated by another vacationer, Andrew Vinnola, began to reverse in Ms. Guyaux's direction.
10. Mr. Vinnola was unfamiliar with the powerboat's operation and, intending to move the boat forward, pressed a lever that sent the boat racing backwards and into the kayak on which Ms. Guyaux was floating.
11. The powerboat shredded the kayak, pulled Ms. Guyaux under the water, and severed her left leg below the hip.
12. Upon information and belief, Mr. Trout permitted Mr. Vinnola to operate the powerboat, despite knowing that Mr. Vinnola was unfamiliar with the powerboat's operation.
13. Upon information and belief, Mr. Trout permitted Mr. Vinnola to operate the powerboat, despite knowing that Mr. Vinnola had been consuming alcohol and likely would continue to do so while using the powerboat.
19. Ms. Guyaux-Mitchell's injuries arose out of her use of the houseboat, insofar as she was using the houseboat when she was struck by the powerboat.

         Based on these facts, Ms. Guyaux asserted a single claim, negligent entrustment, against Mr. Trout.

         Mr. Trout submitted the claim to Old United, the insurer of the houseboat, and requested that it defend him in Ms. Guyaux's suit. Old United declined to tender a defense, noting that: (i) the named insured on the Old United policy was an entity called VIP #2, Inc., not Mr. Trout, and that Mr. Trout was not listed among the “approved Owners/Operators” authorized by VIP #2 to operate the houseboat under the policy; (ii) that the houseboat “was not under operation and was secured to the beach” at the time of the incident; (iii) that Mr. Trout “personally rented the [powerboat] which was the direct cause of the ...


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