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Stoesz v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division IV

June 18, 2015

Edna Ella Stoesz, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Defendant-Appellee.

Boulder County District Court No. 13CV31775 Honorable Bruce Langer, Judge

Fuicelli & Lee, P.C., R. Keith Fuicelli, Amanda C. Francis, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant

Wells, Anderson & Race, LLC, Sheryl L. Anderson, Marilyn S. Chappell, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee

OPINION

WEBB JUDGE

¶ 1 One might think that the meaning of "payment"- a word in everyone's vocabulary - is beyond dispute. But in this action to recover underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits from defendant, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, applying the three-year statute of limitations in section 13-80-107.5(1)(b), C.R.S. 2014, requires that this word be defined. And the statute does not do so.

¶ 2 Plaintiff, Edna Ella Stoesz, State Farm's insured, did not bring the action within three years of the underlying accident. Still, she entered into a settlement agreement with the underinsured motorist's liability insurer, Progressive Insurance Company, shortly before the limitations period ended. The trial court entered summary judgment against Stoesz on the basis that this settlement agreement did not constitute payment, which would have extended the limitations period for an additional two years. Based on undisputed facts, we reach the same conclusion, and therefore we affirm.

I. Background

¶ 3 The parties agree on the following timeline.

• On November 18, 2008, Stoesz was injured when an underinsured motorist rear-ended her car.

• On November 9, 2011 - just days before the three-year limitations period expired - Stoesz sent an e-mail to Progressive confirming a policy-limits settlement.

• On December 13, 2011 - shortly after this limitations period had ended - State Farm approved the settlement, at Stoesz's request.

• On December 16, 2011, Progressive issued the settlement check.

• On December 12, 2013 - within two years of receiving the settlement payment - Stoesz commenced this action.

II. Standard of Review

¶ 4 Familiar principles inform our review.

• A trial court's order granting or denying summary judgment is subject to de novo review. Westin Operator, LLC v. Groh, 2015 CO 25, ¶ 19.
• Summary judgment is appropriate only if "'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Id. (quoting C.R.C.P. 56(c)).
• "All doubts must be resolved against the moving party; at the same time, the nonmoving party must receive the benefit of all favorable inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the undisputed facts." I ...

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