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Schwab v. Reamstown Mutual Insurance Co.

November 14, 2006

WILLIAM G. SCHWAB, AS CHAPTER 7 TRUSTEE FOR BEVERLY A. FEARON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
REAMSTOWN MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 12) and Plaintiff's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion and deny Defendant's motion. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334.

BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts are as follows. On September 13, 2004, John F. Fearon and Beverly A. Fearon (collectively "Debtors") filed a Petition under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 13 p. 2.) The matter was docketed at Bankruptcy Petition No. 5:04-bk-54585-JJT. (Doc. 13 p. 2.) Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 1306(a)(2), Charles J. DeHart III was appointed as the trustee of the Debtors' Estate. (Doc. 13 p. 2.)

On February 27, 2005, John Fearon intentionally set fire to Debtors' residence. (Doc. 13 p. 2 and Doc. 20 p. 2.) On April 5, 2005, the Debtors' bankruptcy case was converted to Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1330 . (Doc. 20 p. 2.) On April 7, 2005, Plaintiff William G. Schwab, Esquire, was appointed as the trustee. (Doc. 13 p. 2.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff asserted a right to collect on the homeowner's insurance policy for the loss of the residence and personal property as a result of the fire. (Doc. 20 p. 2.) Upon denial of coverage by Defendant, Plaintiff filed a Complaint on March 7, 2006. (Doc. 1.) On September 28, 2006, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 12.) On October 2, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 14.) On October 10, Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 20) and a Reply (Doc. 21). On October 23, 2006, Defendant filed a Reply. (Doc. 23.)

This motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate 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). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-257.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to ...


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