Commercial Policy Case

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on November 14, 2018, in a situation which is going to be rarely seen, but is something for insurance lawyers to know exists.  The case is styled, Sentry Select Insurance Company v. Lorena Munoz, Individually and on behalf of the Estate of Lorenzo Munoz, and as Next Friend of L.M. and C.M., Minor Children; Virginia Munoz.

The Munoz’s were defendants in the case.  Sentry had been granted a summary judgment in the District Court.

On August 17, 2010, Lorenzo Munoz, was killed when the semi-truck in which he was traveling veered off the highway and crashed into a concrete drainage channel.  The semi-truck consisted of a tractor owned by Moore Freight Services and a trailer leased by Goal Transport.  Sentry issued a commercial auto insurance policy to Goal.

The Munoz defendants filed suit suit in state court seeking damages arising out of Munoz’s death.  After a three week trial, they obtained a judgment in their favor.   The Munoz defendants subsequently made demand on Sentry to pay the underlying judgment pursuant to the insurance policy it issued to Goal.  Sentry filed this declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that it had no liability in connection with the state court judgment.  Sentry thereafter moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty to indemnify anyone under the insurance policy it issued to Goal because the trailer leased by Goal was not being used with Goal’s permission at the time of the accident.  The district court agreed, granting summary judgment in favor of Sentry and declaring that Sentry had no duty to indemnify any party for the underlying judgment.

After the district court granted summary judgement, but prior to filing this appeal, the state appellate court reversed the judgment obtained by the Munoz defendants and rendered a “take nothing” judgment.  The Munoz defendants acknowledged in their opening brief in support of this appeal that if the state appellate court’s decision became final, then the instant appeal would be moot.  This court stayed this matter pending the ruling by the Texas Supreme Courts’ petition for review seeking reversal of the state appellate court’s decision.  On October 19, 2018, the Texas Supreme Court denied the petition for review; thus, the state appellate court’s “take nothing” judgment is final.

This matter is now moot and dismissed.