Insured’s Failure To Cooperate In Auto Claim Leads to Summary Judgment for State Farm

CSCC-Lawsuit-Dismissed

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 3 — A Nevada federal judge has granted State Farm’s motion for summary judgment in a case involving an auto insurance claim, finding that the insureds did not comply with the policy requirement of cooperation with the investigation of the claim.

Jessica Auriemma was insured under an automobile insurance policy from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.  After she and Charlette Auriemma were involved in a rear end collision during which the other motorist fled the scene, they filed a claim pursuant to the policy.  State farm asked for information from the Auriemmas  which was not returned.

State Farm made repeated request for information without response.  Nevertheless, the Auriemmas sued State Farm in the Clark County, Nev., District Court, alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Nevada Unfair Claims Practices Act and unjust enrichment.  State Farm removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada after which the parties agreed to voluntary dismissal of all extracontractual claims.

With respect to the remaining claim for breach of contract, State Farm moved for summary judgment, and the Auriemmas failed to respond to the motion within the allotted time, choosing instead to seek remand of the case to state court on grounds that the value of the controversy  fell to below $75,000 after the extracontractual claims were dismissed.. They also moved to obtain more  time to respond to State Farm’s summary judgment motion.

U.S. District Judge  Judge Andrew P. Gordon denied the Aureimma’s motions, specifically refusing remand  because “the parties were diverse and the amount in controversy at the time of removal more likely than not was above the jurisdictional amount.”

Judge Gordon also found that the Auriemmas were not entitled an extension of time to file opposition to State Farm’s summary judgment motion because although State Farm alleged no prejudice, “[t]he filing of a timely opposition was entirely within the plaintiffs’ control.”

Judge Gordon also denied the request for more time to respond to State Farm’s motion for summary judgment, and granted judgment for State Farm,  ruling:

“[N]othing prevented [the Auriemmas] from challenging subject-matter jurisdiction before the response deadline expired. They also could have provided an opposition along with the extension motion, which was filed long after the response deadline had already expired. They did none of these things. Under these circumstances, I find no excusable neglect and I deny the plaintiffs’ motion to extend. . .

State Farm has satisfied its initial burden to show that no genuine dispute exists as to the plaintiffs’ failure to comply with their contractual duties because the plaintiffs did not cooperate before they filed suit. . . The plaintiffs have not responded with any specific facts to show that a genuine dispute exists. Nor does the evidence before me demonstrate any such facts. Because the plaintiffs did not comply with an express condition precedent of the policy, State Farm is entitled to summary judgment on the remaining breach of contract claim.”

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Author: CJ Haddick

C.J. Haddick is a Director with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey, & Chilcote, PC, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. He has advised and represented insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation for more than a quarter of a century, and written and spoken throughout the United States on insurance coverage and bad faith prevention and litigation. He is Managing Director of the firm's Harrisburg, Pa. office. Reach him at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800.

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