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Naccarato v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 21, 2015

LARRY and CATRENA NACCARATO, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
LIBERTY NORTHWEST INSURANCE CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Pending before the Court in the above-titled matter is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 24.) Plaintiffs have responded to the Motion, and Defendants have replied. The matter is now ripe for the Court's review. Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Larry Naccarato ("Mr. Naccarato") was involved in a motor vehicle collision on February 17, 2011. Mr. Naccarato reported the incident to Defendant Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation ("Liberty Northwest") because of damage to the other vehicle and to its occupants. However, because he initially believed the damage to his own vehicle, a 1995 Dodge pickup truck (hereinafter "the Dodge"), was not more than his deductible, Mr. Naccarato declined to make a claim for his own vehicle.

Mr. Naccarato parked the Dodge for several months. On January 13, 2012, he contacted Liberty Northwest's adjuster to make a claim on his commercial policy because he learned the damage to the Dodge was more extensive than he had originally thought. The claim was reopened and an adjuster was assigned.

An independent adjuster inspected the Dodge on January 16, 2012. On February 6, 2012, Mr. Naccarato received a letter from Liberty Northwest offering him $7, 329.00 to cover a total loss of the Dodge. This amount was substantially less than what Mr. Naccarato believed the Dodge was worth. Specifically, Mr. Naccarato believed the evaluation of the Dodge should also include a number of upgrades he had purchased for, but not yet installed in, the vehicle.

The parties dispute what occurred following Liberty Northwest's initial offer on February 6, 2012. Mr. Naccarato contends he attempted to resolve the claim throughout February, March, April and May, but that Liberty Northwest was completely unresponsive, and essentially ignored 25-30 phone calls he made in an attempt to ascertain the status of his claim. Liberty Northwest contends that it diligently investigated Mr. Naccarato's claim, and made numerous requests for additional information that Mr. Naccarato failed to provide. Regardless, the parties do not dispute that Liberty Northwest conducted a second investigation of the Dodge on May 8, 2012. The parties also agree that Liberty Northwest made new settlement offers on May 25, 2012 and June 1, 2012.

Following the June 1, 2012 offer, the parties eventually agreed to a total of $13, 308 for the Dodge, after the deductible and other deductions, and $1, 500 for rental car expenses Mr. Naccarato incurred during the time he was negotiating with Liberty Northwest. Mr. Naccarato, and his wife, Catrena Naccarato, thereafter sued Liberty Northwest in Idaho state court for breach of contract and bad faith, alleging Liberty Northwest's delay in processing Mr. Naccarato's claim caused him to lose $94, 976.00 in income.[2] Liberty Northwest removed the state-court action to this Court on September 6, 2013 (Dkt. 1), and filed the instant motion for summary judgment on September 15, 2014 (Dkt. 24).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper 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. FRCP 56(a). On summary judgment, all disputed facts and reasonable inferences must be construed in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, to raise a fact issue for trial, the nonmoving party must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence, and must come forward with evidence sufficient to show that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in its favor. Id. at 248. Further, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 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." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the nonmoving party cannot make a showing on elements essential to his claims, there can be no genuine issue of material fact "since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element on the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.

ANALYSIS

1. Proper Party

In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Liberty Northwest claims that Mr. Naccarato sued the wrong party, alleging that the relevant insurance contract, Policy Number 06-CC-014109-3 (hereinafter the "Policy"), was issued to Mr. Naccarato by American States Preferred Insurance Company, and not by Liberty Northwest. Mr. Naccarato counters that there is substantial evidence to suggest Liberty Northwest is the parent corporation of American States Preferred Insurance Company and was his actual insurance company and administrator of the Policy. For instance, Mr. Naccarato only dealt with employees from Liberty Northwest throughout the investigation of his claim, submitted his monthly premium to Liberty Northwest, and believed Liberty Northwest was his insurance company. (Dkt. 25, pp. 3-4.) While Liberty Northwest has failed to identify its precise relationship to American States Preferred Insurance Company, and though it is clear from the facts that Liberty Northwest administered the Policy, the Policy itself provides that American States Preferred Insurance Company was actually Mr. Naccarato's insurance company. Specifically, under the declarations section, the Policy expressly provides: "INSURANCE COMPANY WITH RESPECT TO EACH AUTO IS DESIGNATED AS FOLLOWS: 06 AMERICAN STATES PREFERRED INSURANCE COMPANY."[3] (Dkt. 24-8, p. 17.)

Courts must construe "a contract of insurance as it is written, and the Court by construction cannot create a liability not assumed by the insurer, nor make a new contract for the parties, or one different from that plainly intended, nor add words to the contract of insurance to either create or avoid liability." Kromrei v. AID Ins. Co., 716 P.2d 1321, 1323-24 (Idaho 1986) (quoting Unigard Ins. Group v. Royal Globe, Etc., 594 P.2d 633 (Idaho 1979)). As the Policy unambiguously provides that American States Preferred Insurance Company was Mr. Naccarato's insurer, his claims for breach of contract and bad faith should have been brought against American States Preferred Insurance Company. See Wing v. Martin, 688 P.2d 1172, 1177 (Idaho 1984) ("A party must look to that person with whom he is in a direct contractual relationship for relief, in the event that his expectations under the contract are not met."); Idaho State Ins. Fund ...


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