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State Farm Fire v. David Cabatbat

February 11, 2011

STATE FARM FIRE &
DAE-LEK CASUALTY, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID CABATBAT, BRENDA
CABATBAT, AND COLLIN
CABATBAT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Alan Ezra United States District Judge

ORDER: (1) GRANTING STATE FARM'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (2) DENYING THE CABATBATS'

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing. After reviewing the motions and the supporting and opposing memoranda, the Court GRANTS State Farm's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 28) and DENIES the Cabatbats' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 31).

BACKGROUND This is an insurance coverage action, brought to determine the rights and obligations of Plaintiff State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. ("State Farm") and Defendants David Cabatbat ("David"), Brenda Cabatbat ("Brenda"), and Collin Cabatbat ("Collin") (collectively, the "Cabatbats") with regard to a Hawaii state court lawsuit. The Court repeats the background facts only as is necessary for a decision on the Motions for Summary Judgment. The essential facts of this case are not in dispute.

I. The Underlying Lawsuit

On December 21, 2007, Brenda Cabatbat, as Next Friend for Collin Cabatbat, filed a lawsuit in Hawaii state court against Barry Curtis ("Curtis"), University of Hawaii Hilo, and various Doe defendants, captioned Brenda Cabatbat v. Barry Curtis et al., Circuit Court for the Third Circuit of Hawaii, Civil No. 07-1-0418 (the "Underlying Lawsuit"). (Pl. CSOF Ex. 1.) On November 20, 2008, Collin, who had apparently reached the age of majority, filed a First Amended Complaint in the Underlying Lawsuit, suing in his own right. (Pl. CSOF Ex. 2.) On December 12, 2008, Curtis filed an Answer to the First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim Against Collin Cabatbat; Second Amended Third-Party Complaint Against Third-Party Defendants Brenda Cabatbat and David Cabatbat. (Pl. CSOF Ex. 3.)

The Underlying Lawsuit involves an incident that occurred between Collin and Curtis in early 2007. Collin was a minor at the time of the incident, and he was living with his parents Brenda and David, whose home is next to Curtis's residence. (Pl. CSOF Ex. 3, Countercl. ¶¶ 2--3.) On January 21, 2007, Curtis alleges that he saw Collin walking a dog back and forth in front of Curtis's house for several minutes. (Id. ¶ 5.) Curtis represents that during this time, he walked out of his home and into his driveway where he continued observing Collin. (Id. ¶ 6.) After seeing Curtis on the driveway, Collin allegedly yelled "What" at Curtis several times. (Id. ¶ 7.) Curtis claims that he then walked over to Collin and informed him that if his dog came onto Curtis's property again, Curtis would report the dog to the Humane Society. (Id. ¶ 8.) Collin then allegedly yelled at Curtis in a threatening way, at which point Curtis went back inside his home. (Id. ¶¶ 9--10.) Curtis asserts that, for the next ten minutes, Collin "walked up and down the length of the street in front of Curtis'[s] home yelling and screaming . . . obscenities and slurs at Curtis." (Id. ¶ 11.)

On January 28, 2007, Curtis claims that he sent a letter to Brenda and David, Collin's parents, describing the events that took place on January 21, 2007 and informing them that if Collin acted in that way again, Curtis would file criminal and civil claims against both Collin and his parents. (Id. ¶ 15.) Brenda and David purportedly did not respond to this letter. (Id. ¶ 17.)

Thereafter, Curtis, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii Hilo, mailed a letter dated April 23, 2007 to the principal of Waiakea High School, which Collin attended. (Pl. CSOF Ex. 2.) The letter was typed on University of Hawaii Hilo letterhead and describes the January 21, 2007 incident between Collin and Curtis. (Id.) Collin denies that he engaged in the January 21, 2007 conduct as depicted by Curtis. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Collin's First Amended Complaint against Curtis alleges that Curtis's letter to Waiakea High School was false, defamatory, and placed Collin in a false light. (Id. ¶¶ 12--21.) Collin also asserted claims against Curtis for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Id. ¶¶ 22--23.) Curtis, in turn, filed a Counterclaim against Collin, premised upon the January 21, 2007 incident, for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and slander. (Pl. CSOF Ex. 3, Countercl. ¶¶ 18--25.) Curtis also filed a Second Amended Third-Party Complaint against Brenda and David, alleging that they are liable for Collin's tortious acts committed while he was a minor, pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statute § 577-3, and asserting claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, slander, negligent supervision, and indemnity for any liability that Curtis may have under Collin's First Amended Complaint. (Pl. CSOF Ex. 3, SATPC ¶¶ 4, 19--33.) The Cabatbats have tendered their defense of these claims against them to State Farm. (Compl. ¶ 33.)

II. The Policy

State Farm issued a Homeowners Policy to the Cabatbats, Policy Number 51-BH-1906-2, with a relevant policy period from September 1, 2006 to September 1, 2007 (the "Policy"). ("Policy," Pl. CSOF Ex. 4.) The Policy insured the Cabatbat's residence at 15-1692 21st Ave., Keaau, Hawaii, 96749 and includes the following relevant provisions:

DEFINITIONS

"You" and "your" mean the "named insured" shown in the Declarations. Your spouse is included if a resident of your household. "We," "us" and "our" mean the Company shown in the Declarations.

Certain words and phrases are defined as follows:

1. "bodily injury" means physical injury, sickness or disease to a person. This includes required care, loss of services and death resulting therefrom.

Bodily injury does not include: . . . .

c. emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, mental distress, mental injury, or any similar injury unless it arises out of actual physical injury to some person. . . . .

4. "insured" means you and, if residents of your household:

a.your relatives; and

b.any other person under the age of 21 who is in the care of a person ...


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