United States District Court, D. Nevada
MELINDA BOOTH DOGRA, as Assignee of Claims of SUSAN HIROKO LILES; JAY DOGRA, as Assignee of the Claims of SUSAN HIROKO LILES, Plaintiffs,
LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
M. Navarro, Chief Judge United States District Judge.
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company
(“Liberty Mutual”). (ECF No. 52). Plaintiffs
Melinda Booth Dogra and Jay Dogra (“Plaintiffs”)
filed a response, (ECF No. 64), and Liberty Mutual filed a
reply, (ECF No. 68). For the reasons discussed below, Liberty
Mutual's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED
in part and DENIED in part.
case arises from a series of disputes related to a car
accident that took place in Clark County, Nevada on August
22, 2008. (Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1). The accident
occurred when Susan Hiroko Liles (“Liles”)
drifted from her lane and collided with an adjacent vehicle,
causing injury to multiple individuals, including Plaintiffs
in the instant action. (Id. ¶ 11). At the time
of the accident, Liles was a covered driver on an automobile
insurance policy (the “Policy”) provided by
Liberty Mutual. (See Policy, Ex. 1 to Def.'s
MSJ, ECF No. 25-1). The Policy contained limits of $100, 000
per claim and $300, 000 per accident. (Id.).
November 25, 2008, Liberty Mutual filed an Interpleader
Complaint in Clark County District Court (“Clark County
Court”), asserting its position that Liles'
potential liability exceeded the policy limits. (See
Interpleader Compl., Ex. 2 to Def.'s MSJ, ECF No. 25-2).
On November 17, 2009, Liberty Mutual filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment and Disbursement of Funds. (Interpleader
MSJ, Ex. 10 to Pls.' Resp., ECF No. 28-10). In that
motion, Liberty Mutual proposed a distribution where one of
the injured parties would receive $160, 500. (Id.).
Multiple claimants opposed the motion for suggesting a
distribution in excess of the $100, 000 per claim policy
limit. (See Opposition to Interpleader MSJ, Ex. 11
to Pls.' Resp., ECF No. 28-11). The Clark County Court
deferred ruling on the motion, as it was unclear at the time
whether one of the claimants, Melinda Hespen, should remain a
party to the action. (See Interpleader Hearings,
Exs. 15, 16 to Pls.' Resp., ECF Nos. 28-15, 28-16).
April 13, 2010, Liberty Mutual filed a Motion to Deposit
Funds with the Clark County Court and sought to be discharged
from further liability. (Mot. to Deposit, Ex. 3 to Def.'s
MSJ, ECF No. 25-3). The Clark County Court granted this
motion and directed claimants to agree upon a distribution of
the policy proceeds. (Order, Ex. 4 to Def.'s MSJ, ECF No.
25-4). The claimants provided the Clark County Court with an
agreed upon distribution on January 6, 2011. (See
Status Hearing, Ex. 18 to Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 29-18).
However, by this time, multiple parties had commenced
individual lawsuits against Liles, including Plaintiffs in
the instant action. (Id.) Ultimately, Plaintiffs
received a jury verdict against Liles for $2, 945, 604.48 in
favor of Melinda Booth Dogra and $42, 840.75 in favor of Jay
Dogra. (Judgements, Exs. 5, 6 to Def.'s MSJ, ECF Nos.
discussion with her independent counsel, Liles decided
against appealing this verdict, purportedly due to a
financial inability to post the approximately $2.9 million
appeal bond and a desire to “move on.”
(See Counsel Email, Ex. 7 to Def.'s MSJ, ECF No.
25-7). On August 4, 2014, Liles assigned all potential rights
and claims she had against Liberty Mutual to the Plaintiffs
in this action. (Assignment, Ex. 9 to Def.'s MSJ, ECF No.
25-9). Shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs initiated this case in
federal court, alleging four causes of action against Liberty
Mutual: (1) Breach of Contract; (2) Breach of Duty of Good
Faith and Fair Dealing and Fiduciary-like Duties; (3) Breach
of Unfair Claims Practices Act; and (4) Punitive Damages.
(Compl., ECF No. 1). On September 27, 2017, the Court granted
summary judgment on Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim.
(ECF No. 44). On October 21, 2016, Liberty Mutual filed the
instant Motion seeking summary judgment on Plaintiffs'
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary
adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show 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).
Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the
case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine
if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to
return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Id.
“Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable
jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's
favor.” Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P'ship,
521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing United States
v. Shumway, 199 F.3d 1093, 1103-04 (9th Cir. 1999)). 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
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).
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. Pac. 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
competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial.
See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.
summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is “to
be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn
in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence
of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
See Id. at 249-50.
preliminary matter, the Court notes that Liberty Mutual
predominantly relies on the argument that the Court's
prior findings on the breach of contract claim, (ECF No. 44),
are dispositive of the remaining bad faith and unfair
settlement practices claims. (See Def.'s MSJ
2:10-28, ECF No. 52). In response, Plaintiffs assert that the
remaining claims present different questions of fact, and
“[t]he rulings on the breach of contract motion were
confined to the four corners of the contract.”
(Pls.' Resp. 15:24-27, ECF No. 64). Although the Court
recognizes potential overlap between the claims, Plaintiffs
are correct that the legal and factual questions presently
before the Court are different than ...