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Joseph v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 30, 2014

STEPHEN JOSEPH, Plaintiff(s),
v.
HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant(s)

ORDER

JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendant Hartford Fire Insurance Company's (hereinafter "Hartford") motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. #79). Plaintiff Stephen Joseph (hereinafter "plaintiff") filed a response, (doc. # 122), and Hartford filed a reply. (doc. #128).

Also before the court is a second motion for summary judgment filed by Hartford pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. #82). Plaintiff filed a response, (doc. #117), and Hartford filed a reply, (doc. #129).

I. Background

On December 14, 2005, plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident with an underinsured motorist, Jenna Jabara ("Jabara"). At the time of the accident, plaintiff was insured by Hartford and had paid a premium for an umbrella policy. Plaintiff received the policy limit of $100, 000 from Jabara's insurance and subsequently sought underinsured motorist benefits from Hartford.

Plaintiff alleges that he has incurred more than $250, 000 in medical expenses since the accident, including the cost of four surgeries to his lower back and left shoulder. Plaintiff's attorney provided Hartford with an invoice for a surgery performed on March 10, 2008. (Doc. 122, Ex. 8). However, after a letter on July 1, 2008, plaintiff's attorney ceased communication with Hartford.

Hartford inquired into whether plaintiff would be subject to additional surgeries stemming from the 2005 accident. Hartford also requested prior medical records. When this request was not met, Hartford asked for an authorization to gather the medical records on its own.

Hartford attempted to procure this information in a plethora of letters and phone calls between July 1, 2008, and October 26, 2011, to which plaintiff's attorney failed to respond. In an October 26, 2011, letter, plaintiff's attorney acknowledged a delayed response and informed Hartford he would forward additional medical records. (Doc. 122, Ex. 13). However, plaintiff's attorney did not provide the requested medical records. Instead, on December 14, 2011, he filed the instant action.

II. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case." C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987).

In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing ...


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