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Kane v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 14, 2015

STEVEN KANE, Plaintiff(s),
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant(s)

ORDER

JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.'s ("State Farm") motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. # 20). Plaintiff Steven Kane filed a response (doc. # 48), and defendant filed a reply (doc. # 51).

I. Background

The instant action is for underinsured motorist benefits by plaintiff. Plaintiff's claim arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on December 26, 2012, in Pahrump, Nevada. Plaintiff was struck by an adverse driver who failed to stop at a four-way stop sign. (Doc. # 20 at 3).

Plaintiff is the named insured under State Farm policy 076 3197-E10-28. (Doc. # 20, exh. B). The policy's limits are for $25, 000 per person/$50, 000 per accident for liability and $15, 000 per person/$30, 000 per accident for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. ( Id. ).

The adverse driver was insured by Allstate Insurance Co. ("Allstate"), with liability limits of $15, 000 per person/$30, 000 per accident. (Doc. # 20 at 2, exh. A). Allstate tendered its liability limits of $15, 000 to plaintiff around December 4, 2013. (Doc. # 1-1 at 4; doc. # 20-13 at 8).

On September 11, 2013, plaintiff sent a letter to State Farm claiming that the $15, 000 tendered to him by Allstate was insufficient to cover his medical expenses. (Doc. # 1-1 at 4; doc. # 20-4 at 2). Plaintiff requested "an offer of settlement" from State Farm regarding his underinsured motorist policy with them. (Doc. # 1-1 at 4; doc. # 20-4 at 2). Plaintiff claimed that his medical expenses totaled $9, 748, and noted that he would supplement his wage loss since that could not yet be determined.[1] (Doc. # 20-4 at 5).

State Farm offered plaintiff $1, 000 to settle his claim. On October 3, 2013, State Farm sent a letter to plaintiff's counsel to confirm that a State Farm representative had spoken with a member from plaintiff's counsel's office regarding the $1, 000 settlement offer. (Doc. # 20-4). Upon receiving no response from plaintiff, State Farm then sent letters on November 20, 2013, January 27, 2014, and May 27, 2014, to follow up. (Doc. # 20-4 at 16, 18, 20).

At some point, a State Farm claim representative prepared an evaluation with respect to plaintiff's claim.[2] The representative evaluated plaintiff's past medical bills as $7, 642 and past pain and suffering between $6, 000 and $10, 000 for a total claim value of $13, 642 to $17, 642.[3] (Doc. # 20-4 at 11).

On June 5, 2014, plaintiff initiated the instant action in for Clark County, Nevada. (Doc. # 1-1). Plaintiff asserts five claims for relief: (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) a "Violation of Nevada Insurance Trade Practices" under Nevada Revised Statutes ("NRS") ยง 686A.310 (4) "Refusal to Pay Insurance Benefits;" and (5) punitive damages. (Doc. # 1-1).

State Farm removed the instant action on June 20, 2014. (Doc. # 1). State Farm now moves for partial summary judgment regarding plaintiff's claims for bad faith/breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, statutory violations, and punitive damages. (Doc. # 20).

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 ...


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