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Bryerton v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

March 20, 2006

KRISTIE BRYERTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Muir

(Notice of removal filed 09/30/2005)

ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Plaintiff Kristie Bryerton initiated this action on September 2, 2005, by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Clinton County, Pennsylvania. By way of a notice filed on September 30, 2005, Defendant Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (hereinafter "Nationwide") removed the matter to this court. Bryerton's sole claim is that Nationwide has improperly failed to pay her insurance claim for underinsured motorist benefits. The relief she seeks is a declaratory judgment.

On February 10, 2006, the parties filed a document entitled "Joint Submission of Stipulated Facts" which provides in relevant part as follows:

20. The sole issue before the Court in this declaratory judgment action is whether Plaintiff is entitled to underinsured motorist benefits pursuant to the Nationwide policy, 5827D133576, and Endorsement 2360 to said policy.

21. The parties agree that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is appropriate for Your Honorable Court to resolve this issue as a matter of law based upon cross-motions for Summary Judgment to be filed by Plaintiff and Defendant. (Joint Submission of Stipulated Facts, ¶¶20, 21)

On February 10, 2006, Bryerton filed her motion for summary judgment. A brief in support of that motion was filed on February 13, 2006. Nationwide filed its opposition brief on February 20, 2006. Bryerton filed her reply brief on February 20, 2006.

On February 27, 2006, Nationwide filed its summary judgment motion and a supporting brief. Bryerton filed her opposition brief on March 8, 2006. Nationwide filed its reply brief on March 14, 2006, thereby ripening both summary judgment motions for disposition.

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact which is unresolved and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This may be met by the moving party pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.

Rule 56 provides that, where such a motion is made and properly supported, the adverse party must show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The United States Supreme Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential elements of its case that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

The same standard governs cross-motions for summary judgment. Continental Ins. Co. v. Kubek, 86 F. Supp. 2d 503, 505 n.2 (E.D. Pa. 2000)(Katz, J.)(citing Appelmans v. Philadelphia, 826 F.2d 214, 216 (3d Cir. 1987)). When considering such cross-motions "each motion must be considered separately, and each side must still establish a lack of genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Nolen v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 32 F. Supp. 2d 211, 213 (E.D. Pa. 1998)(Robreno, J.). With those principles in mind we turn to the material facts of this case, all of which have been presented to us in the parties' "Joint Submission of Stipulated Facts."

Plaintiff, Kristie Bryerton, is an adult individual residing at 821 Woodward Avenue, Lock Haven, Clinton County, PA 17745. On June 2, 2003, Plaintiff was, and still is, married to Justin Bryerton, residing at 821 Woodward Avenue, Lock Haven, Clinton County, PA 17745. Plaintiff's husband, Justin Bryerton, owned a 1996 Honda Accord motor vehicle.

The Bryerton vehicle was insured under a policy of motor vehicle insurance issued by Horace Mann Insurance Company (hereinafter "Horace Mann"). The Horace Mann policy contained underinsurance motorist benefits in the amount of $15,000 per person/$30,000 per occurrence. As a resident relative (wife) of Justin Bryerton, Plaintiff, Kristie Bryerton, was an ...


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