United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
S. CARMODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 20), and Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 22). The parties
have consented to proceed in this Court for all further
proceedings, including trial and an order of final judgment.
28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). By Order of Reference, the
Honorable Janet T. Neff referred this case to the
undersigned. For the reasons discussed herein,
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF
No. 20), is granted and Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 22), is
operates approximately 300 greenhouses at its Hudsonville,
Michigan facility. Each greenhouse utilizes two blower fans
to circulate air and prevent the plants therein from
overheating. On Sunday, April 17, 2016, electric power to
thirty-one (31) greenhouses was interrupted preventing the
blower fans from operating. As a result, the temperatures in
the greenhouses increased significantly causing the
destruction of 61, 326 ornamental plants and flowers causing
Plaintiff $236, 811.02 in damages. Plaintiff filed a claim for
this loss, but Defendant denied the claim instead agreeing to
pay Plaintiff only five thousand dollars in
“spoilage” coverage. Plaintiff initiated this
action on September 13, 2016, alleging a single cause of
action, a breach of contract premised upon Defendant's
failure to indemnify Plaintiff for the loss in question. The
parties now each move for summary judgment. The parties have
not identified any material facts which are in dispute.
Instead, the present dispute simply concerns which provisions
of the relevant insurance contract apply to Plaintiff's
circumstance and how should such provisions be interpreted.
judgment “shall” be granted “if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party moving for summary
judgment can satisfy its burden by demonstrating “that
the respondent, having had sufficient opportunity for
discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of
his or her case.” Minadeo v. ICI Paints, 398
F.3d 751, 761 (6th Cir. 2005). Once the moving party
demonstrates that “there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case, ” the
non-moving party “must identify specific facts that can
be established by admissible evidence, which demonstrate a
genuine issue for trial.” Amini v. Oberlin
College, 440 F.3d 350, 357 (6th Cir. 2006).
the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party, the party opposing the summary
judgment motion “must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Amini, 440 F.3d at 357. The existence
of a mere “scintilla of evidence” in support of
the non-moving party's position is insufficient.
Daniels v. Woodside, 396 F.3d 730, 734-35 (6th Cir.
2005). The non-moving party “may not rest upon [his]
mere allegations, ” but must instead present
“significant probative evidence” establishing
that “there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Pack v. Damon Corp., 434 F.3d 810, 813-14 (6th Cir.
the non-moving party cannot defeat a properly supported
motion for summary judgment by “simply arguing that it
relies solely or in part upon credibility
considerations.” Fogerty v. MGM Group Holdings
Corp., Inc., 379 F.3d 348, 353 (6th Cir. 2004). Rather,
the non-moving party “must be able to point to some
facts which may or will entitle him to judgment, or refute
the proof of the moving party in some material portion, and.
. .may not merely recite the incantation, ‘Credibility,
' and have a trial on the hope that a jury may disbelieve
factually uncontested proof.” Id. at 353-54.
In sum, summary judgment is appropriate “against a
party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Daniels, 396 F.3d at 735.
moving party without the burden of proof need only show that
the opponent cannot sustain his burden at trial, a moving
party with the burden of proof faces a “substantially
higher hurdle.” Arnett v. Myers, 281 F.3d 552,
561 (6th Cir. 2002). Where the moving party has the burden,
the plaintiff on a claim for relief or the defendant on an
affirmative defense, “his showing must be sufficient
for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could
find other than for the moving party.” Calderone v.
United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986). The
Sixth Circuit has repeatedly emphasized that the party with
the burden of proof “must show the record contains
evidence satisfying the burden of persuasion and that the
evidence is so powerful that no reasonable jury would be free
to disbelieve it.” Arnett, 281 F.3d at 561.
Accordingly, summary judgment in favor of the party with the
burden of persuasion “is inappropriate when the
evidence is susceptible of different interpretations or
inferences by the trier of fact.” Hunt v.
Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 553 (1999).
Michigan Contract Law
parties do not dispute that there exists complete diversity
of citizenship in this matter and the amount in controversy
exceeds $75, 000, the Court has subject matter over the
present dispute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).
When presiding over a diversity action, federal courts must
apply the choice of law rules of the state in which the court
sits. See Mill's Pride, Inc. v. Continental
Ins. Co., 300 F.3d 701, 704 (6th Cir. 2002).
Michigan's choice of law rules indicate that Michigan
substantive law applies in this matter, see, e.g.,
Chrysler v. Skyline Industrial Services, Inc., 528
N.W.2d 698 (Mich. 1995), a determination with which the
parties agree. Accordingly, the Court will apply Michigan
substantive law in resolving the present dispute. The
relevant Michigan law was recently reiterated by the Michigan
An insurance policy is similar to any other contractual
agreement, and, thus, the court's role is to
“determine what the agreement was and effectuate the
intent of the parties.” “[W]e employ a two-part
analysis” to determine the parties' intent. First,
it must be determined whether “the policy provides
coverage to the insured, ” and, second, the court must
“ascertain whether that coverage is negated by an
exclusion.” While “[i]t is the insured's
burden to establish that his claim falls within the terms of
the policy, ” “[t]he insurer should bear the
burden of proving an absence of coverage.”
Additionally, “[e]xclusionary clauses in insurance
policies are strictly construed in favor of the
insured.” However, “[i]t is impossible to hold an
insurance company liable for a risk it did not assume,
” and, thus, “[c]lear and specific exclusions
must be enforced.”
Hunt v. Drielick, 852 N.W.2d 562, 565-66 (Mich.
2014) (internal citations omitted); see also,
Tabernacle-The New Testament Church v. State Farm Fire
and Casualty Co., 616 Fed.Appx. 802, 807-08 (June 22,
2015) (applying Michigan contract law).