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Gregoire v. AMCO Insurance Co

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 23, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant AMCO's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 24] filed by defendant AMCO Insurance Company. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         This case concerns an insurance claim related to a traffic accident. On November 28, 2011, plaintiff Pamela Gregoire was involved in a motor vehicle accident. Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“DSUMF”) 2; Docket No. 24 at 2, ¶ 2. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was insured by defendant under an automobile insurance policy that included underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage with a policy limit of $100, 000.00 per accident. DSUMF 3-4. In November 2014, plaintiff settled her claims with the other party involved in the accident for $100, 000.00, with defendant's consent. DSUMF 5. On December 1, 2014, plaintiff submitted a package of materials to defendant related to her UIM claim that included medical records after the accident. DSUMF 6, 8.

         On December 30, 2014, defendant offered plaintiff $5, 500.00 to settle her UIM claim. DSUMF 10. After some negotiation, on June 8, 2015, defendant offered plaintiff $15, 000.00 to settle her UIM claim. DSUMF 13. On July 2, 2015, plaintiff requested that defendant pay the undisputed amount and, shortly thereafter, defendant issued a $15, 000.00 check to plaintiff. DSUMF 14, 15. After receiving additional medical records from plaintiff and further negotiation, on December 16, 2016, defendant issued a check to plaintiff for an additional $85, 000.00. DSUMF 23. This brought the total amount that defendant paid on plaintiff's UIM claim to the policy limit of $100, 000.00. DSUMF 24.

         On November 8, 2016, plaintiff filed her complaint in the District Court for Jefferson County, Colorado. Docket No. 5. Plaintiff's complaint includes two claims for relief: (1) breach of contract under the insurance policy, id. at 4-5; and (2) unreasonable delay and denial of payment of covered benefits pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 10-3-1115 (“statutory bad faith claim”). Id. at 5. On December 14, 2016, defendant removed the lawsuit to this Court. Docket No. 1.

         On April 24, 2017, defendant filed its motion for summary judgment. Docket No. 24. Defendant argues that plaintiff's breach of contract claim must be dismissed because it has paid the full value of the UIM coverage. Id. at 8-9. With respect to plaintiff's statutory bad faith claim, defendant argues that it is barred by a one year statute of limitations. Id. at 11.


         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 & Cty. 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).

         However, when “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 & Cty. 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 “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). “To avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must establish, at a minimum, an inference of the presence of each element essential to the case.” Bausman, 252 F.3d at 1115 (citing Hulsey v. Kmart, Inc., 43 F.3d 555, 557 (10th Cir.1994)). “In applying this standard, we view all facts and any reasonable inferences that might be drawn from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Henderson v. Inter-Chem Coal Co., Inc., 41 F.3d 567, 569 (10th Cir. 1994).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Breach of Contract Claim

         Defendant argues that, because it has paid the policy limits under plaintiff's UIM coverage, plaintiff is not entitled to further damages and, as a result, plaintiff's claim for breach of contract must be dismissed. Docket No. 24 at 8 (citing Old Republic Ins. Co. v. Ross, 180 P.3d 427, 437 (Colo. 2008)).[2] Plaintiff responds that she is seeking non-economic damages for defendant's breach of contract and argues that “damages for an insured's emotional distress are available in actions for bad faith breach of insurance contract.” Docket No. 34 at 7 (citing Goodson v. Am. Stand. Ins. Co. of Wisconsin, 89 P.3d 409, 417 (Colo. 2004)).

         Under Colorado law, the general rule is that “mental anguish which results solely from pecuniary loss following a breach of contract is not recoverable.” Smith v. Hoyer, 697 P.2d 761, 764 (Colo.App. 1984). There is an exception to this rule that allows recovery for anguish in the case of an “intentional breach, involving willful, wanton, or insulting conduct, and without any legal justification or excuse.” Id. (citing McCreery v. Miller's Groceteria Co., 64 P.2d 803 (Colo. 1936)); see also Williams v. Cont'l Airlines, Inc., 943 P.2d 10, 16 (Colo.App. 1996) (holding that “damages for mental or emotional suffering” are not available in breach of contract actions without “willful or wanton” conduct). Although plaintiff is correct that damages for emotional distress are available under a common law claim for bad faith breach of an insurance contract, plaintiff brings no such claim. See Docket Nos. 5, 40, 42. Plaintiff does not argue, and provides no evidence, that defendant engaged in willful and wanton conduct in denying plaintiff's insurance claims. See Docket No. 34. Accordingly, plaintiff has ...

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