United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
S. Krieger Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant State Farm
Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's (“State
Farm”) Motion for Summary Judgment (#
40), Plaintiff Joyce Rivera's Response
(# 41), and State Farm's Reply
Rivera is a Colorado resident. State Farm is a corporation
organized under the laws of Illinois. It is also domiciled in
Illinois. The amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. The
Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
Farm has only moved for summary judgment on Ms. Rivera's
statutory bad faith claim (i.e., her claim pursuant
to C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115 and 116). The following is
a summary of the facts relevant to that claim viewed in the
light most favorable to the non-movant, Ms. Rivera. More
factual details are provided as needed in the Court's
Rivera was involved in a rear-end automobile accident in El
Paso County, Colorado on June 15, 2012. At the time, she was
covered by a general liability insurance policy issued by
State Farm. That policy had a $100, 000 underinsured
motorist's (“UIM”) endorsement. On January
20, 2015, Ms. Rivera tendered (through counsel) a demand for
State Farm to pay its UIM limits, claiming that she had
incurred medical expenses of $14, 394.63 and had future
anticipated medical expenses of $132, 000. State Farm
acknowledged receipt of the demand on January 21, 2015. There
is no dispute that Ms. Rivera's injuries resulting from
the June 2012 accident are covered under the UIM benefit in
her automobile insurance policy.
before September 10, 2015, State Farm commissioned an
Independent Medical Examiner (an “IME”) to exam
Ms. Rivera. He ultimately opined that Ms. Rivera had reached
her pre-injury status by September 15, 2015, and that any
then-existing problems were attributable in equal parts
(i.e., fifty percent each) to the 2012 accident and
an earlier automobile accident that Ms. Rivera experienced in
in 1984 or 1985. Based, at least in part, on this opinion,
State Farm extended a first settlement offer of $29, 000 on
December 7, 2015. On January 18, 2016, Ms. Rivera's
counsel counteroffered $90, 000. State Farm's
representative rejected that counteroffer and tendered a new
offer of $35, 000. On that same day, Ms. Rivera's counsel
forwarded a progress note from a medical professional
indicating that a few days after the 2012 accident she
reported being free of any symptoms stemming from her
accident in the 1980s for several years prior to 2012.
point during the settlement communications between Ms.
Rivera's counsel and the State Farm claims
representative, the claims representative advised that there
was no way that State Farm would be willing to pay more than
$50, 000. Based on the diverging views of the amounts due
under Ms. Rivera's UIM benefit, settlement discussions
were abandoned, and Ms. Rivera filed the instant lawsuit on
January 29, 2016. In addition to her statutory bad faith
count, Ms. Rivera also brings a breach of contract claim, and
she requests declaratory judgment that she is entitled to the
full UIM limits, as well as costs and attorneys' fees.
the litigation, Ms. Rivera ultimately indicated that her
actual and anticipated medical expenses and noneconomic
damages were $213, 700. She also produced her own IME report
indicating that all of her injuries from 2012 and beyond
solely were attributable to the 2012 accident, and not the
1984/1985 accident. Ms. Rivera further engaged an expert on
insurance matters, who opined that State Farm had acted
unreasonably (according to industry standards) by tendering
offers of $29, 000 and $35, 000 without also providing an
explanation for the basis of those offers, especially in
light of the extent of Ms. Rivera's alleged injuries. Ms.
Rivera cites this purported unreasonableness as the basis for
her statutory bad faith claim.
Standard of Review
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure facilitates the entry
of a judgment only if no trial is necessary. See White v.
York Intern. Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995).
Thus, the primary question presented to the Court in
considering a Motion for Summary Judgment or a Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment is: is a trial required?
is required if there are material factual disputes to
resolve. As a result, entry of summary judgment is authorized
only “when 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); Savant Homes,
Inc. v. Collins, 809 F.3d 1133, 1137 (10th Cir. 2016). A
fact is material if, under the substantive law, it is an
essential element of the claim. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is
genuine if the conflicting evidence would enable a rational
trier of fact to resolve the dispute for either party.
Becker v. Bateman, 709 F.3d 1019, 1022 (10th Cir.
consideration of a summary judgment motion requires the Court
to focus on the asserted claims and defenses, their legal
elements, and which party has the burden of proof.
Substantive law specifies the elements that must be proven
for a given claim or defense, sets the standard of proof, and
identifies the party with the burden of proof. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. v.
Producer's Gas Co., 870 F.2d 563, 565 (10th Cir.
1989). As to the evidence offered during summary judgment,
the Court views it ...