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Williams v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co., S.I.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 4, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant American Family Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, in which Defendant requests that the Court enter summary judgment in its favor on Plaintiff Shawn Williams's three claims against it. (Doc. # 25.) For the reasons described below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was involved in a two-car motor vehicle collision on July 1, 2015, in Denver, Colorado. (Doc. # 6 at 1.) Plaintiff was driving a 1993 Lexus sedan owned by his romantic partner, non-party Toni Wagner, at the time of the crash and collided with a semi-truck driven by an uninsured motorist. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that he suffered significant injuries, including “a posterior wall fracture of the right acetabulum, ”[1] and required surgery as a result of the accident. (Id.) Plaintiff maintained an automobile insurance policy with non-party Dairyland Insurance and made a claim for his injuries. (Doc. # 25 at 1.) Dairyland Insurance paid Plaintiff $25, 000 in uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. (Id.)

         On the date of the collision, Toni Wagner, Plaintiff's romantic partner and the owner of the car he was driving, carried an automobile insurance policy with Defendant, Policy No. 1741-9737-02-89-FPPA-CO (the “Policy”). The Policy provided, in relevant part:

1. We will pay compensatory damages for bodily injuries which an insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle . . .
2. The bodily injury must:
a. be sustained by an insured person;
b. be caused by an accident; and
c. arise out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of an uninsured motor vehicle or an underinsured motor vehicle.

(Doc. # 25-13 at 14.) The Policy defined an “[i]nsured person” as: “a. you or a relative; b. anyone else occupying or using your insured car; [and] c. anyone entitled to recover damages due to bodily injury to you, a relative, or another occupant of your insured car.” (Id. at 13.) “[Y]ou” meant “the policyholder shown in the Declarations and spouse, if living in the same house.” (Id. at 6) (emphasis added). A “relative” was defined as “a person who, at the time of the accident, is related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the named insured or resident spouse and who resides in the named insured's household, even if temporarily living elsewhere.” (Id.) (emphasis added). The Policy's UM coverage for bodily injury was limited to $100, 000 per person and $300, 000 per accident. (Id. at 2.)

         On August 22, 2016, Plaintiff, through his counsel, notified Defendant that he was making a claim under the Policy's UM coverage. (Doc. # 25-12.) Plaintiff asserts that he was an “insured person” under the terms of the Policy and thus entitled to its UM coverage because he was Toni Wagner's common law spouse at the time of the collision. (Doc. # 6 at 2-4.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant issued a reservation of rights letter on March 20, 2017, “questioning [Plaintiff's and Toni Wagner's] common law marriage, ” and “requested ‘objective proof' of their common law marriage in order to determine that [Plaintiff's] claim was not based ‘solely to gain an economic advantage.'” (Id.) He alleges that he cooperated with Defendant-specifically, that he “provided documentation . . . showing that he has incurred $732, 049.00 in damages to date, ” “provided a recorded statement, ” and “provided additional documentation regarding his marriage to [Toni] Wagner, ” such as “affidavits from coworkers, friends, and family members as objective proof of their common law marriage.” (Id. at 3.)

         Defendant denied Plaintiff's claim for UM coverage under Toni Wagner's Policy on May 30, 2017, purportedly “based upon statements made by Plaintiff and [Toni] Wagner and based upon the fact that documents that were provided indicated that Plaintiff was single and not married to [Toni] Wagner at the time of the [motor vehicle accident]” on July 1, 2015. (Doc. # 25 at 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has continued to insist that he and Toni Wagner were and “are not common-law married” and to “deny coverage despite additional information being provided.” (Doc. # 6 at 3-4.)

         Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant on February 20, 2018, and asserts three claims for relief: (1) a claim of breach of contract for UM benefits, (2) a claim of unreasonable delay or denial of benefits under Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 10-3-1115 and -1116, and (3) a common law bad faith claim.[2] (Id. at 4-6.)

         Defendant filed the Motion for Summary Judgment presently before the Court on December 18, 2018. (Doc. # 25.) Plaintiff responded on January 8, 2019 (Doc. # 30), to which Defendant replied on January 22, 2019 (Doc. # 34).


         Summary judgment is warranted 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). A fact is “material” if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim under the relevant substantive law. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). A dispute 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, Okl., 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party-in the matter presently before the Court, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Id. ...

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