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Roberts v. State Farm Mutual Automible Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 9, 2019




         This matter comes before the court on the Order to Show Cause dated July 10, 2019 [#36], Plaintiff James Roberts's (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Roberts”) Response to the Order to Show Cause (or “Plaintiff's Response”), filed July 11, 2019 [#37], and Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's (“Defendant” or “State Farm”) Response to Plaintiff's Response to Order to Show Cause (“Defendant's Response”), filed July 25, 2019 [#43]. The undersigned Magistrate Judge considers this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the Order of Reference for all purposes [#15]. This court concludes that oral argument will not materially assist in the resolution of these matters. Accordingly, having reviewed the Parties' Responses, the applicable case law, and being sufficiently advised in the premises, the court GRANTS summary judgment in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff and DISMISSES with prejudice Plaintiff's breach of contract claim.


         The court has discussed the background of this matter in its prior Memorandum Opinion and Order and Order to Show Cause, see [#36], and therefore limits its discussion here to only the most salient facts. This civil action arises out of an insurance dispute between Plaintiff and his insurer State Farm, stemming from bodily injuries Plaintiff sustained in an automobile collision. See [#1; #28 at ¶¶ 7-8]. Believing his medical bills were more than the tortfeasor's own insurance limits, Plaintiff sought additional underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits from State Farm under Policy Number 069 0807-D08-06J (the “Policy”). See [#28 at ¶ 9].

         The Parties exchanged several rounds of correspondence regarding Mr. Roberts's UIM claim. See [id. at ¶¶ 10-46]. Specifically, on April 17, 2018, State Farm offered $59, 319.45 to settle Plaintiff's claim. [Id. at ¶ 11]. Then, on June 12, 2018, State Farm wrote Mr. Roberts and stated that it had evaluated $23, 500 for pain and suffering for Plaintiff's UIM claim. [Id. at ¶ 14]. Though State Farm tendered benefits in the amount of $35, 819.45 under the insurance policy, see [id. at ¶¶19-20], Plaintiff initiated this civil action asserting claims for breach of contract and unreasonable delay or denial of an insurance benefit pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 10-3-1115 (“statutory bad faith”) on February 6, 2019, see [#1]. Following service of the Complaint on February 11, 2019, Defendant tendered an additional $23, 500 in benefits as a reasonable amount owed to Plaintiff. See [#28 at ¶ 49].

On May 16, 2019, the Parties appeared before the undersigned for a Scheduling Conference. See [#23]. Relevant here, the court had a discussion with the Parties regarding the claims Mr. Roberts asserted in this matter:
THE COURT: And so as I understand it, your previous complaint had both a late payment of the UIM benefits and then a breach of contract based on nonpayment. They paid the $23, 500; is that right?
MR. FRANKL: Correct, Your Honor.
MS. SALG: So, Your Honor, my understanding is that the plaintiff is actually withdrawing the breach of contract claim, and if that is the case -- so the only case that's going to go forward would be the statutory delay/denial claim . . . .
THE COURT: That's not exactly the way I read the statements of the claim, so Mr. Frankl, do you want to clarify that?
MR. FRANKL: That is not how I read it either. I'm a little -- as I - I've had a chance to do more research and I found that there are cases which hold that where there is payment of an amount claimed after a lawsuit is filed, that that can be deemed a confession under some circumstances. It depends in part on whether State Farm, either through its witnesses or representatives, basically says the amount was due all along. And based on that interpretation, I think it's both breach of contract and unreasonable denial, but also unreasonable delay now that that money has been paid.
THE COURT: Okay. So it sounds to me, Mr. Frankl, based on that -- so I'm going to be frank with you. I'm not sure how you can recover on both a breach contract for delay as well as a statutory delay, but --
MR. FRANKL: I can't.

[#46 at 3:1-5, 3:11-15, 3:17-4:9].[1] Counsel for Plaintiff later clarified that Plaintiff was not seeking any additional benefits under the Policy:

MR. FRANKL: No. Basically at this point when the complaint was filed, there was $23, 000 ...

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