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Johnson v. American National Property and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 6, 2019




         In this insurance action, Plaintiffs Dr. Tyrone Johnson and Michelle Johnson (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) bring a breach of contract claim seeking payment of underinsured motorist (“UIM”) insurance benefits under a policy issued by Defendant American National Property & Casualty Companies (“American National”), as well as a common law bad faith breach of insurance contract claim and a statutory claim for unreasonable delay or denial of insurance benefits under Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 10-3-1115 & -1116. Dr. Johnson alleges that he was injured in a car accident, and Ms. Johnson brings a corresponding loss of consortium claim. Before the Court is American National's Motion for Summary Judgment (the “Motion”). (ECF No. 29.) For the reasons explained below, the Court grants the Motion.


         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).

         Where, as here, “the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may satisfy its burden on a motion for summary judgment 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) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the movant meets this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmovant “to go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific facts that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant.” Adler, 144 F.3d at 671 (internal quotation marks omitted). A party must support an assertion that a fact is genuinely disputed by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

         “[C]onclusory and self-serving statements are insufficient to survive summary judgment.” Ford v. West, 222 F.3d 767, 777 (10th Cir. 2000). Likewise, “general denials, or mere argument of an opposing party's case cannot be utilized to avoid summary judgment, ” Pasternak v. Lear Petroleum Expl., Inc., 790 F.2d 828, 834 (10th Cir. 1986), and “[v]ague, conclusory statements do not suffice to create a genuine issue of material fact, ” Ford, 222. F.3d at 777. Rather, “[t]o survive summary judgment, a nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial as to those dispositive matters for which he carries the burden of proof.” Christy v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Am., 810 F.3d 1220, 1233 (10th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, this Court is not obliged to “comb the record” to identify factual disputes or make a party's case for it. Ford, 222 F.3d at 777. Rather, “on a motion for summary judgment, it is the responding party's burden to ensure that the factual dispute is portrayed with particularity, without depending on the trial court to conduct its own search of the record.” Cross v. The Home Depot, 390 F.3d 1283, 1290 (10th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).


         The majority of the facts as presented by American National in the summary judgment briefing are undisputed. Plaintiffs do not present additional facts in their response brief. (ECF No. 32 at 6-7.)

         Dr. Johnson was involved in a slip-and-fall in his bathroom on April 18, 2012, and suffered a concussion and traumatic brain injury. (ECF No. 29-20 at 1.)[1] Though not explicitly set forth in the facts section by either party, Dr. Johnson's prior injury is relevant to the parties' dispute.

         On February 6, 2014, Dr. Johnson was in a car accident with “the underlying tortfeasor, ” David Hurley. (ECF No. 33 at 2, ¶ A.) Ms. Johnson was not involved. (Id.) Dr. Johnson claims that he sustained injuries from the accident resulting in pain, suffering, permanent impairment, lost wages, and a loss of earning capacity due to his inability to continue his work as a chiropractor. (Id.; see ECF No. 5 ¶ 7.) Ms. Johnson claims loss of consortium due to Dr. Johnson's injuries. (ECF No. 33 at 2, ¶ A.)

         Dr. Johnson sought and received $100, 000 in compensation from Hurley, the policy limits of Hurley's insurance carrier, on June 23, 2016. (Id. ¶ B.) Ms. Johnson did not seek loss of consortium from Hurley. (Id.) American National granted consent to settle with the Hurley's insurance company. (Id. ¶ E.)

         On June 30, 2016, Dr. Johnson notified American National of his claim for UIM benefits under a policy he maintained with American National, and American National acknowledged receipt of the claim. (Id. at 3, ¶¶ C, E.) Dr. Johnson's claim letter asked American National to “review Dr. Johnson's file, ” but did not include a specific monetary demand. (Id. ¶ D.)

         Dr. Johnson's policy contained the following provision for UIM coverage:

We will pay damages for bodily injury which an insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured or underinsured motor vehicle. The bodily injury must be caused by an accident and result from the ownership, ...

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