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Lokuta v. Security Insurance of Hartford

April 17, 2006

ANN H. LOKUTA, PLAINTIFF
v.
SECURITY INSURANCE OF HARTFORD, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Jones III United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment ("the Motion") (doc. 27) filed by Defendant Security Insurance of Hartford ("Defendant" or "Hartford") on March 1, 2006. For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Plaintiff, the Honorable Ann H. Lokuta ("Plaintiff" or "Judge Lokuta"), a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, commenced this action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County on March 31, 2005 against Royal Insurance Company.*fn1 On April 28, 2005, Defendant removed the case sub judice to this Court. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and § 1441 as the parties are of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy is over $75,000.

In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has failed to pay medical bills totaling $4818.00 for treatment from various providers and treatment dates ranging from March 2002 through February 2004.*fn2 Plaintiff's complaint consists of three counts: Count I is entitled "Violation of 1712 and 1702;" Count II is a bad faith claim; and Count III is a civil conspiracy claim. In our March 13, 2006 Order, we memorialized stipulations entered into on that date by the parties on the record. One such stipulation included Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal of Counts II and III of her complaint, specifically, her bad faith claim and her civil conspiracy claim. In our March 13, 2006 Order, we therefore explained that Count I is the only remaining count in Plaintiff's complaint, which will form the basis for our resolution of Defendant's Motion. (Rec. Doc. 31).

On March 1, 2006, Defendant filed the instant Motion, which has been briefed by the parties. The Motion is therefore ripe for disposition.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED .R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing "there is no genuine issue for trial." Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 357 (3d Cir. 1992). Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences which a fact finder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982).

Initially, the moving party has a 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.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that, where such a motion is made and properly supported, the non-moving party must then 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 their case that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.

It is important to note that "the non-moving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). However, all inferences "should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993) (citations omitted).

Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)(emphasis in original). "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material." Id. at 248. A dispute is considered to be ...


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