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Richmond Motor Sales, Inc. v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

September 18, 2019

RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a/k/a NATIONWIDE ASSURANCE, and VICTORIA MULLANEY, Defendants. NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
VICTORIA MULLANEY and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES INC., Defendants. NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
HERMAN MENDEZ and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES INC., Defendants. NATIONWIDE ASSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DONOVAN BROWN and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES INC., Defendants. MAPFRE U.S.A. CORPORATION d/b/a AMERICAN COMMERCE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., ALESIA A. ROSS, HAWAH S. WESSON, MARTHA GUITERREZ, RADHAMES MILLS, TERRELL JUDD, and ALLEN WHIGHAM, Defendants. AMERICAN COMMERCE INSURANCE COMPANY a/k/a MAPFRE INSURANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
LAURA A. MCCOY and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Defendants. PROVIDENCE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
TANOSHA POWELL and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Defendants. AMERICAN COMMERCE INSURANCE COMPANY a/k/a MAPFRE INSURANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
LEAH ZINSSER and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Defendants. NATIONWIDE ASSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
NELSON SEMEDO AND RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Defendants. QUINCY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
LUZ M. DELGADO and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Defendants. AMERICAN COMMERCE INSURANCE COMPANY a/k/a MAPFRE INSURANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN MILLER and RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., Defendants. USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SMITH, BRANDON DAVIS, RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC., and JOSEPH D. MAZZOTTA INSURANCE BROKERAGE, LLC, Defendants. ESURANCE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHMOND MOTOR SALES, INC. and JESSICA FAY, Defendants.

          DECISION

          LICHT, J.

         These thirteen cases were consolidated pursuant to Rule 42(a) for purposes of declaratory judgment and partial summary judgment. The parties submitted agreed-upon facts and present two questions for this Court's determination on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. These questions, which were agreed upon by all parties after consultation with the Court on several occasions, are as follows:

         Question 1: Do G.L. 1956 §§ 27-7-6 and 27-7-3 require an insurer to extend property damage coverage under an insured's private passenger automobile insurance policy for property damage to a rental motor vehicle, without regard to negligence, irrespective of policy provisions, defenses to coverage, and exclusions that the insurer may have with respect to its insured and/or the operator of the vehicle?

         Question 2: Is a Non-Owner policy a "private passenger automobile insurance policy" subject to G.L. 1956 § 27-7-6?

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The agreed-upon facts in this case are as follows:

         1.Defendant Richmond Motor Sales, Inc. (Richmond) is a rental car company authorized to do business in the State of Rhode Island and is subject to the requirements of G.L. 1956 §§ 31-34-1 et seq. (Responsibility of Owners of Rental Vehicles).

         2. Plaintiffs are all Insurers authorized to do business in the State of Rhode Island.

         3.Individual Defendants all rented motor vehicles, each under 10, 000 lbs., from Richmond for various time periods.[1]

         4.When each subject rented motor vehicle was returned by the Individual Defendant to Richmond, it had sustained damage.

         5. The subject vehicles that Richmond rented to the Individual Defendants are private passenger automobiles that were rented pursuant to written contracts between Richmond and the Individual Defendant.

         6.Before entering into such contracts, each Individual Defendant identified an insurance policy issued to him or her by an insurer authorized to provide such insurance in the State of Rhode Island.

         7. The insurance policies in question were issued pursuant to G.L. 1956 §§ 31-47-1 et seq. (Motor Vehicle Reparations Act).

         8. After learning that each vehicle had sustained damage, Richmond submitted a claim for property damage to the rental vehicle to the Individual Defendant's insurer.

          9. Each Individual Defendant's insurer, in turn, has denied Richmond's claim for property damage. Agreed-To Common Facts 1-9.

         II

         Standard of Review

         "Summary judgment is a drastic remedy, and a motion for summary judgment should be dealt with cautiously." Employers Mutual Casualty Company v. Arbella Protection Insurance Company, 24 A.3d 544, 553 (R.I. 2011) (internal quotations omitted). "[S]ummary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the [C]ourt determines that there are no issues of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Quest Diagnostics, LLC v. Pinnacle Consortium of Higher Education, 93 A.3d 949, 951 (R.I. 2014) (internal quotations omitted). However, "summary judgment should occasion the termination of a case only where it is absolutely ...


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