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TOLEDO v. STATE FARM FIRE & CAS. CO.

November 23, 1992

DAVID TOLEDO
v.
STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY CO.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; JAMES T. GILES

 GILES, J.

 November 23, 1992

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff David Toledo ("Toledo") filed this suit in Pennsylvania state court on May 7, 1992. Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") removed the case to this court on the basis of diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy in excess of $ 50,000. Our decision is governed by Pennsylvania law.

 The complaint alleges facts as follows. Toledo is a scientist who does research on topics of importance to the pharmaceutical industry. When he moved into an apartment in May 1990, he stored 30 boxes and a suitcase in a separate storage unit at the apartment building. The stored materials included books and research materials relevant to and produced in connection with his career. In late May of 1991 Toledo checked the storage locker and discovered that it was empty. None of the property has since been recovered.

 State Farm issued a policy of homeowners insurance to Toledo which was in effect at all times relevant to the instant action. Following his discovery of the loss in late May 1991, Toledo asked State Farm to provide coverage for the loss under his homeowners policy. State Farm declined coverage in a letter dated October 9, 1991. Toledo filed the instant case on May 7, 1992, alleging that State Farm's failure to pay breached the insurance contract. He seeks to recover $ 77,061 for the loss of his property and $ 20,000 for future wages he claims will be lost as a result of the loss of his research materials. In addition, he seeks punitive damages for what he alleges was a bad faith failure to pay his claim.

 State Farm has filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff's suit is barred by a provision of the insurance contract which requires that all legal actions to recover insurance benefits must be started within one year after the date of loss or damage. Because we agree with defendant that this suit is time-barred, we grant the motion for summary judgment.

 II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

 Summary judgment will be entered if "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 moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). It is the moving party which must "demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Once the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The nonmoving party must satisfy this burden through the introduction of testimony "as would be admissible in evidence," Id., such as an affidavit or deposition testimony. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). If, however, the moving party ultimately persuades the court that there are no genuine issues of material fact, then the court must decide whether the law dictates an outcome in favor of the moving party. If so, the motion for summary judgment must be granted.

 III. DISCUSSION

 The sole issue presented by the summary judgment motion is whether this action is time-barred by a one year limitation on suit clause in the insurance contract. The clause provides:

 Suit Against Us. No action shall be brought unless there has been compliance with the policy provisions. The action must be started within one year after the date of loss or damage.

 See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendant's Motion") P 21; Plaintiff's Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Reply") P 21. It is long established in Pennsylvania that such a contractual modification of the ordinary statute of limitations is valid and enforceable. General ...


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