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Gohagan v. Cincinnati Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 6, 2016

John Gohagan; Jessica Gohagan, Plaintiffs - Appellants
The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Defendant - Appellee

Submitted September 24, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Springfield.

For John Gohagan, Jessica Gohagan, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Michael Gross, Saint Louis, MO; Matthew C. Price, Price & Randle, Osage Beach, MO.

For The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Defendant - Appellee: David Patrick Bub, Kenneth Raymond Goleaner, Brown & James, Saint Louis, MO.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, GRUENDER and KELLY, Circuit Judges.


GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

John and Jessica Gohagan appeal the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment to The Cincinnati Insurance Company (" Cincinnati" ). The district court held that, even if both the Business Owners Package (" BOP" ) and Commercial General Liability (" CGL" ) policies issued by Cincinnati covered Mr. Gohagan's injury, the terms of those policies prohibited a single injury from giving rise to more than the $1,000,000 in coverage benefits the Gohagans had already received under the CGL policy. On appeal, the Gohagans argue that they are entitled to coverage under both the BOP and CGL policies and that the policies' anti-stacking[2] provisions are ambiguous and therefore must be construed to allow coverage up to the $1,000,000 each-occurrence limit of both policies, for a total of $2,000,000 of coverage. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


In January 2012, Thomas Campbell attempted to remove a tree from a property being developed for a residential subdivision. The tree fell on John Gohagan, who suffered serious injuries as a result. Mr. Gohagan asserted claims against Campbell for the injuries, and Mrs. Gohagan sought compensation from Campbell for loss of consortium. The Gohagans reached a settlement with Campbell, which included Cincinnati's payment of the $1,000,000 per-occurrence limit under the Cincinnati-issued CGL policy held by Campbell and his wife. However, the Gohagans reserved the right to litigate whether Campbell's BOP policy, which also had a $1,000,000 each-occurrence limit, provided additional coverage.

Although the parties stipulated to the fact that the BOP policy was in effect when Mr. Gohagan was injured, Cincinnati contended that the BOP policy's bodily injury liability coverage did not apply to Mr. Gohagan because the injury did not arise out of Campbell's ownership, maintenance, or use of certain business premises in Waynesville, Missouri, as the BOP policy required. Cincinnati also argued that, even if the BOP policy were applicable, the BOP and CGL policies' anti-stacking provisions limited coverage to the $1,000,000 already paid by Cincinnati under the CGL policy.

The Gohagans and Cincinnati submitted a joint complaint for declaratory judgment to the district court. The stipulation of facts narrowed the issues for determination to the following: (1) whether coverage under the BOP policy was limited to bodily injury arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the specified Waynesville premises and (2) whether the BOP and CGL policies' antistacking provisions prohibited coverage stacking, thereby limiting the combined total of the applicable each-occurrence limit of liability to $1,000,000. After filing the joint stipulation of facts, both parties moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted Cincinnati's motion. The district court determined that fact issues as to the effective date of the BOP policy's geographic-limitation provision prevented summary judgment on the first issue. The court instead based its summary-judgment grant on the second issue, finding that the language of the BOP and CGL policies prohibited the stacking of coverage when both policies covered the same injury. The policies thus limited the maximum coverage for any one occurrence to the each-occurrence limit of $1,000,000. The Gohagans appeal the district court's findings on both issues.


We review both the district court's grant of summary judgment and its interpretation of the insurance policies de novo. Northland Cas. Co. v. Meeks, 540 F.3d 869, 872 (8th Cir. 2008). Summary judgment is appropriate only when, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Raines v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 637 F.3d 872, 874 (8th Cir. 2011). " Interpretation of an insurance policy is a matter of state law." Progressive N. Ins. Co. v. McDonough, 608 F.3d 388, 390 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Stan Koch & Sons Trucking, Inc. v. Great W. Cas. Co., 517 F.3d 1032, 1039 (8th Cir. 2008)). Here, Missouri law applies, as Missouri is the forum state, and neither party has raised a choice-of-law claim. See id.

Because the Gohagans have already received $1,000,000 from Cincinnati under the CGL policy, their appeal fails if the BOP and CGL policies' anti-stacking provisions limit the combined total of coverage for Mr. Gohagan's injury to $1,000,000. " The interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law," McCormack Baron Mgmt. Servs., Inc. v. Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co., 989 S.W.2d 168, 171 (Mo. 1999), to which Missouri courts apply general contract-interpretation principles, Todd v. Mo. United Sch. Ins. Council, 223 S.W.3d 156, 160 (Mo. 2007). In disputes over the meaning of contract language, " [t]he key is whether the contract language is ambiguous or unambiguous." Id. (quoting Peters v. Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co., 853 S.W.2d 300, 302 (Mo. 1993)). The exercise of interpreting an insurance policy requires that we " ascertain the intention of the parties and . . . give effect to that intention." Secura Ins. v. Horizon Plumbing, Inc., 670 F.3d 857, 861 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting J.E. Hathman, Inc. v. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Club, 491 S.W.2d 261, 264 (Mo. banc 1973)). The intention of the parties " is presumptively expressed by the 'plain and ordinary meaning' of the policy's provisions," id. (quoting Mo. Emp'rs Mut. Ins. Co. v. Nichols, 149 S.W.3d 617, 625 (Mo.Ct.App. 2004)), " which [we] read 'in the context of the policy as a whole,'" id. (quoting Am ...

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