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Tucker v. Government Employees Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 10, 2014

DAVID TUCKER, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a Geico Indemnity Company d/b/a Geico, a corporation, Defendant.

ORDER

R. BROOKE JACKSON, District Judge.

This insurance coverage case is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment [ECF Nos. 19 and 20]. Because the Court finds that the subject policy did not provide underinsured motorist coverage for the plaintiff, the Court grants defendant's motion and dismisses the case.

I. Introduction

If one looks only at the facts of this case, its proper resolution is clear. A couple bought auto insurance from Geico. The female member of that couple, Ms. Bernadette Marquez, not once but twice explicitly declined to purchase coverage for injuries caused by underinsured or uninsured motorists ("UM/UIM coverage"). Accordingly, the couple never paid for any UM/UIM coverage. After the male member of the couple, Mr. David Tucker, was injured in a car accident caused by a driver with insufficient liability insurance to cover the extent of his claimed injuries, he asked Geico to pay him UM/UIM benefits. On these facts, it would seem clear that Mr. Tucker never purchased UM/UIM insurance, and that Geico has no obligation to pay them.

However, Colorado law introduces a wrinkle into this case. Under C.R.S. § 10-4-609(1)(a), any automobile liability insurance policy issued in Colorado must contain UM/UIM coverage "except that the named insured may reject such coverage in writing." (emphasis added). Mr. Tucker attempts to turn that wrinkle into a full-blown loophole. He argues that because he never signed anything purporting to reject such coverage, his policy contains it. For the reasons that follow, I am not convinced.

II. Facts

The parties do not dispute the relevant facts. Plaintiff David Tucker's truck was rear-ended on August 22, 2011. [ECF No. 1 ¶ 5.] He claims that the injuries resulting from the accident exceeded, in monetary terms, the value of the underinsured driver's insurance policy. Id. At the time, Mr. Tucker was covered by a Geico insurance policy. [ECF No. 20 ¶¶ 2, 3.] Therefore, Mr. Tucker turned to his own insurance provider, Geico, and asked it to pay underinsured motorist benefits. Geico denied the claim on the basis that the policy contains no such coverage.

To understand the dispute one must go back to 2004 when Mr. Tucker's companion, Bernadette Marquez, purchased a personal auto insurance policy from Geico. [ECF No. 21, Ex. 1, ¶ 3.] The policy named Ms. Marquez and Mr. Tucker. Id. ¶ 4. When first issued, the policy contained UM/UIM coverage. Id. However, Ms. Marquez later rejected the UM/UIM coverage on this policy by checking a box on a Colorado Information and Option Form. Id. ¶ 5. The following text accompanied the box: "Do not include Uninsured Motorist coverage in my policy. I understand that this rejection applies to all vehicles on my policy and any subsequent renewals or reissues." Id. As a result, she did not pay the extra premium that would have been due for that coverage.

Ms. Marquez checked that same box on a Colorado Information and Option Form in 2009. Id. ¶ 6. This form related to the policy that was in effect at the time of Mr. Tucker's accident. [ECF No. 18 at 4.] When Ms. Marquez signed that form in 2009, both she and Mr. Tucker were listed as named insureds on the policy, and Geico records indicated that Mr. Tucker was Ms. Marquez's spouse.[1] [ECF No. 21, Ex. 1 ¶ 7.] Again, Geico did not charge nor did it receive any money for UM/UIM coverage for this policy. Id. ¶ 10. Geico's records reflect the same contact information for both Ms. Marquez and Mr. Tucker. Id. ¶ 11. Ms. Marquez repeatedly contacted Geico regarding this policy, including communications regarding payments and adding or removing vehicles from the policy. Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.

III. Procedural History

Mr. Tucker filed suit against Geico, bringing claims of (1) breach of contract, (2) bad faith, (3) outrageous conduct, (4) and deceptive practices in violation of Colorado law. [ECF No. 1.] Each of these claims is premised in part on the notion that the policy in question contained UM/UIM coverage for Mr. Tucker. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, [ECF Nos. 19 and 20], and those motions are now fully briefed.

IV. Standard

The Court may grant summary judgment if "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). The moving party has the burden to show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The nonmoving party must "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324. A fact is material "if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim." Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court will examine the ...


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