Jeanne Jackson, Executrix of the Estate of Anthony J. Esposito, Jr. et al.
Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Company et al.
County Superior Court PC 12-1793 Associate Justice Richard A.
Plaintiff: Edward John Mulligan, Esq.
Defendant: Richard A. van Tienhoven, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Associate Justice
case came before the Supreme Court on March 8, 2017, on
appeal by the plaintiff, Jeanne Jackson (plaintiff) as
Executrix of the Estate of Anthony J. Esposito, Jr.
(decedent), from a grant of summary judgment in favor of the
defendant, Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Company (defendant or
Quincy Mutual). For the reasons set forth herein, we vacate
the judgment of the Superior Court.
facts of this case, which we glean from the filings of the
parties, are tragic. On September 9, 2011, decedent was
riding his motorcycle on Route 6 in Providence when what has
been described as a green trash barrel fell from a passing
truck and entered the decedent's lane of travel. The
barrel collided with the motorcycle and became wedged in its
front tire. The decedent lost control of the motorcycle and
was ejected into the adjacent lane of travel. The decedent
struck the ground, rolled into the high-speed lane, and was
hit by a car traveling in that lane. He died from his
motorcycle was insured with the Foremost Insurance Company,
which provided limited liability insurance but did not
provide uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Although the
decedent did not have UM coverage from his motorcycle policy,
he also owned an automobile that was insured with Quincy
Mutual. The policy with Quincy Mutual (the Quincy Mutual
policy) did have UM coverage. However, there was an exclusion
to the UM coverage, which is the subject of this dispute. The
exclusion section (A.1.) of the Quincy Mutual policy reads as
"We do not provide Uninsured Motorists Coverage for
'bodily injury' sustained: By an 'insured'
while 'occupying', or when struck by, any motor
vehicle owned by that 'insured' which is not insured
for this coverage under this policy."
definitions section (G.) of the Quincy Mutual policy reads as
follows: "'Occupying' means in, upon, getting
in, on, out or off."
plaintiff, as executrix of decedent's estate, brought a
declaratory judgment action in Superior Court, declaring that
the estate was entitled to UM coverage under the Quincy
Mutual policy. Quincy Mutual moved for summary judgment,
stating that the exclusion clause bars plaintiff from
recovery because decedent was "occupying" his
owned-but-not-insured motorcycle at the time of the fatal
September 29, 2015, a hearing was held on the motion, during
which plaintiff argued that there were disputed issues of
material fact as to which of the two collisions was the cause
of decedent's death-the first collision with the trash
barrel, which caused decedent to lose control of the
motorcycle, or the second impact from the passing car. The
plaintiff claimed that the timing between the two collisions
was a critical factor in determining whether decedent was
"occupying" the motorcycle at the time of his death
as that term is defined in the Quincy Mutual policy. The
motion justice acknowledged that "the coroner
couldn't even tell which accident killed [decedent],
whether it was the barrel being thrown or getting hit from
the car." Notwithstanding this question of fact, the
motion justice, relying on this Court's holding in
General Accident Insurance Co. of America v.
Olivier, 574 A.2d 1240 (R.I. 1990),  concluded that,
under Olivier, decedent was occupying his motorcycle
at the time of his death. Accordingly, the motion justice
granted summary judgment in favor of Quincy Mutual. An order
granting partial summary judgment was entered on October 16,
2015, from which plaintiff timely appealed.
judgment is 'a drastic remedy, ' and a motion for
summary judgment should be dealt with cautiously."
Estate of Giuliano v. Giuliano, 949 A.2d 386, 390
(R.I. 2008) (quoting Ardent v. Horan, 117 R.I. 254,
256-57, 366 A.2d 162, 164 (1976)). "It is important to
bear in mind that the 'purpose of the summary judgment
procedure is issue finding, not issue
determination.'" Id. at 391 (quoting
Industrial National Bank v. Peloso, 121 R.I. 305,
307, 397 A.2d 1312, 1313 (1979)); see also Steinberg v.
State, 427 A.2d 338, 340 (R.I. ...