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Williams v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 25, 2014

CHRISTINE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
AUTO-OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARCIA S. KRIEGER, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (# 36). The Plaintiff filed a Response (# 40), and the Defendant replied (# 41). Having considered the same, the Court

FINDS and CONCLUDES that:

I. Jurisdiction

The Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

II. Issue Presented

In this action, Plaintiff Christine Williams alleges that Defendant Owners Insurance Company ("Owners") failed to pay benefits that it owed to her under the uninsured/underinsured motorist ("UIM") provision of an auto insurance policy that Owners issued to Ms. Williams.

Ms. Williams asserts three claims, all under Colorado law: (i) breach of contract, (ii) bad faith breach of contract, and (iii) unreasonable denial of a claim in violation of C.R.S § 10-3-1115 and §10-3-1116. Owners moves for summary judgment on all of Ms. Williams' claims.

III. Material Facts

Based upon the evidence submitted by the parties, which the Court construes most favorably to the Plaintiff, the Court finds the following for the purposes of this motion:

On August 25, 2008, Ms. Williams was injured in a motor vehicle accident with another driver. Ms. Williams promptly notified Owners of the accident, and then filed a claim with the other driver's insurer, GEICO. GEICO accepted liability for the accident, but no settlement between Ms. Williams and GEICO occurred until January 3, 2012. GEICO paid Ms. Williams the driver's total policy limit of $25, 000.

Ms. Williams' policy with Owners provided maximum UIM coverage of $100, 000. Subject to that limitation, the UIM provision of Ms. Williams' policy provided that she was entitled to recover from Owners the "damages [she] is legally entitled to recover from" an "underinsured" driver.

On January 10, 2012, Ms. Williams demanded $100, 000 in UIM coverage from Owners. In her demand, she stated that she had more than $50, 000 in unreimbursed medical costs and $60, 000 in unreimbursed lost income caused by the accident in excess of the GEICO settlement.

Upon receipt of Ms. Williams' demand, Mark DeLeon, the Owners adjuster overseeing the claim, consulted with Amy Brugam, one of Owners' attorneys. Mr. DeLeon and Ms. Brugam raised concerns about whether the medical records supplied by Ms. Williams supported her claims. Among other things, Ms. Brugam was "concerned that it seemed that her symptoms may have gotten worse over time"; Mr. DeLeon believed that "some of her alleged injuries were degenerative in nature, as opposed to traumatically caused by the accident", and they noted that despite Ms. Williams' claim for lost wages, none of her medical providers had placed her on work restrictions. Based upon these concerns, Ms. Brugam authorized Mr. DeLeon to offer to settle Ms. Williams' UIM claim for $50, 000.

Owners conveyed the settlement offer orally on February 6, 2012, and followed it up with a written proposal on February 7. At the same time, Owners requested that Ms. Williams provide further documentation. Ms. Williams (through counsel) responded on February 21, 2012, providing the requested supplemental ...


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