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Erie Insurance Property and Casualty Co. v. Estate of Nichols

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

December 6, 2018

ERIE INSURANCE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ESTATE OF SANDRA KAY NICHOLS, ALLISON ELAINE MCGINNIS, ASHLEE NICOLE NICHOLS ROSAS, and WILLIAM JACKSON STUCK, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John T. Copenhaver, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

         Pending are cross-motions for summary judgment, one filed by the plaintiff, Erie Insurance Property and Casualty Company ("Erie"), and one jointly by the three defendants other than William Jackson Stuck who has not entered an appearance. Both motions were filed September 17, 2018.

         I. Background

         On October 6, 2016, William Jackson Stuck shot and killed his daughter, Sandra Kay Nichols, who for some time had been one of his primary caretakers, and who is the mother of defendants Allison McGinnis and Ashlee Rosas. Soon after the shooting, Mr. Stuck called 911 at 7:00 a.m., informing the 911 operator quite clearly, at the outset of a recorded call, of his address, that he had shot his daughter, "Sandra Kay Nichols," and that she was a "traitor" who was involved in stealing his money. ECF No. 49, at 0:17 and 1:20. In the course of the rambling diatribe that followed, he described, disjointedly, bizarre plots that had been made against himself and others. Id. at 1:20 to 5:05. Beginning near the end of the call, Mr. Stuck succinctly stated that his daughter's body was lying on the kitchen floor, that he was going downstairs to shoot himself, and that the police should come in the back door which would be unlocked. Id. at 5:20. He then hung up. Prior to the police's arrival at his home, Mr. Stuck shot himself, resulting in a non-fatal wound.

         As noted in Detective Hunter's affidavit of October 11, 2016, attached to the state criminal complaint against Mr. Stuck, which has been filed herein by Erie, Mr. Stuck reported to the officers who arrived on the scene that "he had waited on his daughter all night and he shot to kill her when she arrived." Criminal Compl., ECF No. 37-1, at 40-41.

         Mr. Stuck had previously purchased a homeowner's insurance policy from Erie, which provides:

We will pay all sums up to the amount shown on the Declarations which anyone we protect becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of bodily injury or property damages caused by an occurrence during the policy period. We will pay for only bodily injury or property damage covered by this policy.[1]

         Insurance Policy, ECF No. 3, at 15. This policy excludes coverage for intentional acts committed by the insured:

We do not cover under Bodily Injury Liability Coverage, Property Damage Liability Coverage, Personal Injury Liability Coverage and Medical Payments To Others Coverage:
1. Bodily injury, property damage or personal injury expected or intended by anyone we protect even if:
a. the degree, kind or quality of the injury or damage is different than what was expected or intended; or b. a different person, entity, real or personal property sustained the injury or damage than was expected or intended.

Id. at 16.

         The Estate of Sandra Kay Nichols and her daughters, Ms. McGinnis and Ms. Rosas, ("defendants"), [2] initiated a civil action in state court against Mr. Stuck seeking damages for the murder of his daughter, based on his conduct which was alleged by the defendants (who are the plaintiffs in the civil action) to have been "reckless, intentional with malice aforethought." See State Court Compl., ECF No. 4, ¶¶ 4, 6. These same parties also alleged in their state court complaint that Mr. Stuck reported to local police that "he had waited on his daughter all night and he shot to kill her when she arrived." Id. ¶ 5.

         In November 2016, Dr. Timothy Saar conducted an independent medical examination to evaluate Mr. Stuck's mental competency to stand trial. Dr. Saar's report, which has been filed by the defendants, acknowledges that Mr. Stuck informed the police that "he had waited for his daughter all night, and he shot to kill her when she arrived." Saar Report, ECF No. 41-1, at 2. Noted in the report is Dr. Saar's belief that Mr. Stuck likely has some form of dementia. Id. Dr. Saar found that Mr. Stuck was unable to complete any standardized tests due to his cognitive impairment and delusions, id. at 4, and that "Mr. Stuck, due to his level of confusion, was unable to fully complete the responses [to] style questions," id. at 5. Dr. Saar also reported that Mr. Stuck's daughter, Sharon Lee, "stated that her father had a long history of erratic behaviors, and had been [in] mental health facilities twice back in the 1970's." Id. at 4. Dr. Saar ultimately ...


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