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Lete v. Travelers Casualty Insurance Co. of America

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 30, 2019

SIMON V. LETE, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVELERS CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, a Connecticut company, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Simon Lete brought this action against Defendant Travelers Casualty Insurance Company for breach of an insurance policy. Travelers now moves for partial summary judgment on two issues. Dkt. 10. First, Travelers argues that it did not breach the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Second, Travelers argues that the insurance policy did not cover losses arising solely from property damage. For reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on both claims.

         BACKGROUND

         In October 2015, Simon Lete was driving his dump truck when it was struck by an uninsured motorist. Lete suffered injuries to his right shoulder and his dump truck was damaged.

         On June 20, 2018, Lete filed a claim under his Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance policy for the injuries and damages he suffered. Letter from Kyle Duren to Juli Morrow re: Demand & Proof of UIM Claim at 1, Dkt. 10-2 at 54. Lete claimed economic damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, and wage loss, as well as non-economic damages, for a total of $385, 336.27. Id. at 9. His claim demanded a response from Travelers Casualty Insurance Company within sixty days. Id. at 10.

         Travelers agent Juli Morrow evaluated Lete's claim. She came to an award determination based on special damages for past medical expenses, lost income due to medical treatment, and mileage, as well as general damages for pain and suffering. Uninsured Motorist Worksheet at 2-5, Dkt. 10-2 at 35-38. Morrow did not include income loss arising from Lete's dump truck repair because the UIM endorsement “is for bodily injury only.” Morrow Depo. Transcript at 38:1-25, Dkt. 15-1 at 15. On September 13, Morrow called Lete's phone and left a voicemail offering to settle the claim for $20, 938.47. Id. at 23:4-22. At the time she left the voicemail, Lete had already initiated this lawsuit against Travelers. Travelers had not yet received notice or service regarding the suit. Id. at 20:8-21:25.

         On October 25, Lete's counsel demanded that the $20, 938.47 settlement offer be paid as the “undisputed” portion of Lete's claim. Email from Sam Johnson to Ronald Clark, Oct. 25, 2018, Dkt. 15-1 at 33. Travelers agreed to pay the amount with “no strings attached” but maintained the position that the payment represented a “fair and appropriate resolution on [Lete's] UIM claim.” Email from Ronald Clark to Sam Johnson, Nov. 20, 2018, Dkt. 15-1 at 34.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, “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). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural shortcut, ” but is instead the “principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact “that may affect the outcome of the case.” Id. at 248.

         The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

         This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show “by her [ ] affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         However, the Court is “not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment.” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist.,237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation omitted). Instead, the ‚Äúparty opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable ...


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