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Simmons v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 2, 2018

NICOLE SIMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a Massachusetts company, PEERLESS INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY, an Illinois company, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Nicole Simmons (“Plaintiff”) sues Defendants Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Peerless Indemnity Insurance Company (“Defendants”) for underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits that Defendants have refused to pay. Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 30) arguing that Plaintiff's causes of action are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is denied.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 “if 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 also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). A 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). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable trier of fact to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).

         In analyzing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). In addition, the Court must resolve factual ambiguities against the moving party, thus favoring the right to a trial. See Houston v. Nat'l Gen. Ins. Co., 817 F.2d 83, 85 (10th Cir. 1987).

         II. FACTS

         These facts are undisputed:

November 20, 2011.
A vehicle driven by non-party Pamela Curran strikes the vehicle in which Plaintiff was riding as a passenger (“Accident”). (ECF No. 30 at 2, ¶ 1.) Curran is insured under an American Family policy with a liability limit of $100, 000. (Id. ¶ 2.) The driver of the vehicle in which Plaintiff is riding is insured by Defendant Peerless, and that policy includes UIM coverage. (Id. ¶ 3.)
November 14, 2014.
Plaintiff signs a release of all claims against Curran in exchange for $100, 000 (Curran's policy limit), and her counsel provides the signed release form and payment instructions to American Family. (Id. at 3, ¶ 6; ECF No. 33 at 2-3, ¶ 5(A)(ii).)
November 18, 2014.
The American Family settlement check physically arrives at the office of Plaintiff's counsel. (Id. ¶ 5(A)(vi).)
November 19, 2014.
Plaintiff endorses the American Family check. (Id. ¶ 5(A)(vii).)[1]
February 12, 2015.
Plaintiff's counsel sends a letter to Defendants demanding UIM benefits under the Peerless policy and stating, among other things, that “Ms. Simmons settled her underlying liability claim for policy limits of $100, 000 on November 14, 2014.” (ECF No. 30 at 3, ¶ 8.)
November 16, 2016.
Plaintiff files this lawsuit. (ECF No. 1-1.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Framing the Dispute

         One of Defendants' affirmative defenses is that the statute of limitations on Plaintiff's UIM claim expired before she filed this lawsuit. (ECF No. 10 at 9; ECF No. 30 at 3, ¶ 10.) Defendants move for summary judgment on this defense, arguing that it may be resolved in their favor as a matter of law on the undisputed facts. (Id. at 5.)

Defendants' argument turns on the meaning of the following statutory text, to which the Court has added line breaks, indentation, and bracketed numerals for clarity:
An action or arbitration of an “underinsured motorist” insurance claim, as defined in section 10-4-609(4), C.R.S., shall be commenced or demanded by arbitration demand within three years after the cause of action accrues;
except that, if the underlying bodily injury liability claim against the underinsured ...

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