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Schniedwind v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 12, 2016

PATRICIA SCHNIEDWIND, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN FAMILY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER

PHILIP A. BRIMMER United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Docket No. 49] filed by defendant American Family Mutual Insurance Company (“American Family”). The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff owned a Homeowners Policy (“the policy”) with American Family that provided coverage for losses to her real property. Docket No. 49 at 2, Statement of Undisputed Material Fact (“SUMF”) 1. The policy states that any lawsuit by the policyholder against American Family “must be brought within one year after the loss or damage occurs.” Id. at 3, SUMF 7; Docket No. 49-1 at 13, § I.18. The policy period is from November 4, 2011 through November 4, 2012. Docket No. 49 at 3, SUMF 8.

Plaintiff alleges that the insured property was damaged by the Waldo Canyon fire on June 26, 2012. Id. at 2, SUMF 4. Plaintiff filed a claim with American Family under the policy in June 2012. Id. at 3, SUMF 5. The parties disputed the extent of the damage to the covered property. Id. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on June 20, 2014, alleging claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of contract, and statutory bad faith pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 10-3-1115, 1116. See Docket No. 1.

In May 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed the Homeowner’s Insurance Reform Act of 2013 (the “Act”). 2013 Colo. Legis. Serv. Ch. 183, § 2. The Governor signed the bill on May 10, 2013. http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2013a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont/B95B7D8CF123429187257 AEE005702F7?Open&file=1225enr.pdf (last visited January 11, 2016). Section 110.8(12) of the statute provides:

(a) Notwithstanding any provision of a homeowner’s insurance policy that requires the policyholder to file suit against the insurer, in the case of any dispute, within a period of time that is shorter than required by the applicable statute of limitations provided by law, a homeowner may file such a suit within the period of time allowed by the applicable statute of limitations; except that this paragraph(a):
(I) Does not revive a cause of action that, as of May 10, 2013, has already been barred by contract; and
(II) Applies only to a cause of action that, as of May 10, 2013, has not been barred by contract.
(b) On and after January 1, 2014, an insurer shall not issue or renew a homeowner’s insurance policy that requires the policyholder to file suit against the insurer, in the case of any dispute, within a period of time that is shorter than required by the applicable statute of limitations provided by law.

Colo. Rev. Stat. §10-4-110.8(12). While the rest of the Act took effect on January 1, 2014, Section 110.8(12) took effect on the date the governor signed the law. 2013 Colo. Legis. Serv. Ch. 183, § 5. Before the passage of Section 110.8(12), Colorado courts had held that parties to a contract “may require that actions founded on the contract be commenced within a shorter period of time than that prescribed by the applicable statute of limitations.” Grant Family Farms, Inc. v. Colo. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 155 P.3d 537, 539 (Colo.App. 2006). Section 110.8(12) creates an exception for homeowners insurance policies to the general rule that contractually-shortened limitations on lawsuits are enforceable under Colorado law.

American Family seeks summary judgment on plaintiff’s breach of contract and statutory bad faith claims on the ground that they are barred by the policy’s one-year limit on bringing suit. Plaintiff responds that, pursuant to Section 110.8(12), her claims are not time-barred.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 when the “movant shows that 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); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). A disputed fact is “material” if under the relevant substantive law it is essential to proper disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). Only disputes over material facts can create a genuine issue for trial and preclude summary judgment. Faustin v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 423 F.3d 1192, 1198 (10th Cir. 2005). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997). Where “the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may satisfy its burden at the summary judgment stage by identifying a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant’s claim.” Bausman v. Interstate Brands Corp., 252 F.3d 1111, 1115 (10th Cir. 2001) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted)). “Once the moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a material matter.” Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1518 (10th Cir. 1994) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). The nonmoving party may not rest solely on the allegations in the pleadings, but instead must designate ‚Äúspecific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for ...


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