United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
KIMBALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on Plaintiff Owner Insurance
Company's Motion for Summary Judgment. On February 27,
2019, the court held a hearing on the motion. At the hearing,
Plaintiff Owners Insurance Company was represented by Anna
Nelson, Defendant Dockstader was represented by William E.
Frazier, and Intervenor Defendant Thomas Brooks was
represented by Michael W. Young and Chad C. Baker. After
hearing argument, the court took the matter under advisement.
The court has considered the memoranda and other materials
submitted by the parties, as well as the law and facts
relating to the motions. Now being fully advised, the court
issues the following Memorandum Decision and Order.
October 14, 2014, Defendant Jacob Taylor Dockstader hit
Thomas Brooks in the head with a 15-pound dumbbell at Desert
Palms Health & Fitness Club in St. George, Utah. The blow
left Brooks unconscious and bleeding from his head. Brooks
was transported to the hospital, where he underwent emergency
surgery and remained hospitalized for a week. The State of
Utah charged Dockstader with felony aggravated assault, Utah
Code Ann. §§ 76-5-102, 76-5-103(1).
Dockstader was originally charged, the State charged him with
second-degree aggravated assault “in that defendant
assaulted another and intentionally caused serious bodily
injury, and used a dangerous weapon or other means or force
likely to produce death or serious bodily injury, in
violation of Section 76-5-102 and 76-5-103(1).” At the
time of trial, the state proceeded against Dockstader for
second-degree aggravated assault “in that defendant
assaulted another and caused serious bodily injury, and used
a dangerous weapon or other means or force likely to produce
death or serious bodily injury, in violation of Section
76-5-102 and 76-5-103(1).” Dockstader defended the
charge by claiming that his actions were justified by
15, 2015, the state criminal case was tried to the bench and
the judge found Dockstader guilty of aggravated assault, a
second-degree felony. At the conclusion of the bench trial,
the state court made findings of fact on the record and
entered judgment. The trial court found that Dockstader threw
the first punch in the altercation and was not entitled to
claim self-defense. Specifically, the court stated:
“The Court, quite frankly, finds that there was a punch
thrown, and then as several witnesses testified, that Mr.
Dockstader got the 15 pound weight and finished him off.
That's basically what Francisco Roa's testimony was.
Mr. Brooks is on the bench, he never stood up. Taylor
Dockstader hit Mr. Brooks first. When Dockstader hit him with
the 15 pound weight, Mr. Brooks is already on the floor with
his feet up on the bench.” The judge also found it
“quite persuasive” that Dockstader admitted to
“Officer Carter that he overreacted, he shouldn't
have done what he did, ” and that he knew “there
would be consequences for his actions.” The state court
sentenced Dockstader on August 25, 2015.
February 6, 2017, Brooks brought a civil lawsuit against
Dockstader in Fifth Judicial District Court for Washington
County, Utah, seeking more than $300, 000 in damages in
connection with the October 14, 2014 incident which Brooks
alleged left him permanently disabled with a permanent
traumatic brain injury. Brooks' state court action
against Dockstader originally alleged two alternative causes
of action, negligence and assault and battery.
March 1, 2017, Dockstader demanded that Plaintiff Owners
Insurance Company defend and indemnify Dockstader from
Brooks' civil suit under a homeowners insurance policy
Owners issued to Dockstader's parents, Policy No.
48-819-745-00. At the time of the assault, Dockstader was
twenty-one years old. The Policy provides that Owners
“will pay all sums insured becomes legally obligated to
pay as damages because of or arising out of bodily injury or
property damages caused by an occurrence to which this
coverage applies.” The Policy defines the term
“bodily injury” as “physical injury,
sickness or disease sustained by a person including resulting
death of that person.” The Policy defines
“occurrence” as “an accident that results
in bodily injury or property damage.” The Policy also
contains an exclusion for “bodily injury or property
damage reasonably expected or intended by the insured.”
The exclusion “applies even if the bodily injury . . .
is of a different kind or degree . . . than that reasonably
expected or intended.”
deposition in the civil lawsuit, Dockstader claimed that he
did not mean to strike Mr. Brooks, only scare him. Dockstader
testified that he believed he had sufficient strength and
control with weights to stop his swing and avoid hitting
February 28, 2018, Owners filed the Complaint in this case,
seeking a declaratory judgment that Owners has no duty to
defend or indemnify Dockstader from the claims presented in
Brooks' civil state court action. The Complaint alleges
that Dockstader's assault on Brooks was not an
“occurrence” covered by the policy because it was
not an accident. In addition, Owners' alleges that
Dockstader's assault, which was previously alleged and
proven against Dockstader in the felony case against him, was
excluded under the policy's exclusionary clause because
it was reasonably expected or intended by the insured. Owners
also asserts in its Complaint that it has no duty to defend
Dockstader in Brooks' suit against him because the claims
are not covered by the policy. Owners has been providing
Dockstader a defense under a full reservation of rights.
April 10, 2018, the parties in the state civil action
stipulated to dismissal of Brooks' assault and battery
cause of action. Based on the parties' stipulation to
dismiss the intentional tort claim, Dockstader attempted to
have Owners' declaratory judgment action in this court
dismissed. However, on August 27, 2018, this court denied
Dockstader's motion to dismiss. In the state court
action, Owners rejected Brooks' three settlement demands
for the Policy's $500, 000 limit because this action
regarding coverage was still pending. On September 25, 2018,
Brooks and Dockstader entered into a stipulated judgment and
assignment of Dockstader's claims against Owners,
including a bad faith claim for refusal to settle within the
policy limits. Brooks intervened in the present case on
November 2, 2018, and filed a Third-Party Complaint against
Owners on November 5, 2018.
Motion for Summary Judgment
argues that it has no duty to defend or indemnify Dockstader
under the terms of the Policy because Dockstader's
actions were not an accident. In interpreting the Policy,
this court looks to Utah law. Berry & Murphy, P.C. v.
Carolina Cas. Ins. Co., 586 F.3d 803, 808 (10th Cir.
2009). Under Utah law, “[a]n insurance policy is merely
a contract between the insured and the insurer and is
construed pursuant to the same rules applied to ordinary
contracts.” Alf v. State Farm Fire & Cas.
Co., 850 P.2d 1272, 1274 (Utah 1993). The insured bears
the initial burden of showing that there is coverage for a
particular claim under the policy. See Utah Farm Bureau
Ins. v. Dairyland Ins., 634 F.2d 1326, 1328 (10th Cir.