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Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Murphy

September 25, 2008

ALLSTATE INDEMNITY COMPANY, PLAINTIFF
v.
RANDALL LEE MURPHY AND JOY A. MURPHY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Allstate Indemnity Company ("Allstate") initiated this civil action by filing a declaratory judgment complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, on July 25, 2007, seeking a declaration of rights, duties and liabilities of the parties under the homeowners insurance policy issued by Allstate to defendant Joy A. Murphy ("Joy Murphy"). On September 18, 2007, defendants Joy Murphy and Randall Lee Murphy ("Randall Murphy") filed an amended answer to Allstate's declaratory judgment complaint which set forth a counterclaim against Allstate for breach of contract for failure to provide payment and coverage in accordance with the homeowners insurance policy. On October 2, 2007, Allstate filed an answer to the defendants' counterclaim, denying the defendants' breach of contract claim and asserting a counterclaim against defendants for civil insurance fraud pursuant to Pennsylvania's insurance fraud statute, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4117. Defendants filed a reply to Allstate's answer on October 22, 2007.

Allstate filed its motion for summary judgment on August 15, 2008, moving the court to grant its declaratory judgment and counterclaim for civil insurance fraud and dismiss defendants' breach of contract counterclaim. Plaintiff filed a memorandum of law in support of its motion on the filing date. Defendants neglected to file an opposing brief within the time allotted by the local rules. Therefore, this matter is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, we will grant plaintiff's motion.

As indicated, defendants have failed to file a brief in opposition to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. LR 7.6 of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania reads in part as follows:

Any party opposing any motion shall file a responsive brief, together with any opposing affidavits, deposition transcripts or other documents within fifteen (15) days after service of the movant's brief,... Any respondent who fails to comply with this rule shall be deemed not to oppose such motion.

Although defendants are therefore deemed not to oppose plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, we will review the motion on its merits.

DISCUSSION:

I. Standard of Review

It is appropriate for a court to grant a motion for summary judgment "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). An issue is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Material facts" are those which might affect the outcome of the suit. Id.; Justofin v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 517, 521 (3d Cir. 2004). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment the court will draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence in the record in favor of the nonmoving party. Am. Flint Glass Workers Union v. Beaumont Glass Co., 62 F.3d 574, 578 (3d Cir. 1995).

Regardless of who bears the burden of persuasion at trial, the party moving for summary judgment has the burden to show an absence of genuine issues of material fact. Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental Corp., 85 F.3d 1074, 1080 (3d Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). To meet this burden when the moving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, it must point to evidence in the record that supports its version of all material facts and demonstrate an absence of genuine issues of material fact. National State Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). If the moving party does not meet this burden, the court must deny summary judgment even if the nonmoving party does not produce any opposing evidence. Id. However, if the moving party meets its burden, the nonmoving party cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment by merely offering general denials, vague allegations, or conclusory statements; rather the party must point to specific evidence in the record that demonstrates that there is a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Celotex Corp. V. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986); Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999).

If, however, "the nonmoving party has the burden of persuasion at trial,'the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial.'" Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 706 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Chippolini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d. Cir. 1987)); see also Celotex, 477 at 323 (1986).

II. Statement of Facts

On October 16, 2005, defendant Joy Murphy filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Docket No. 1:05-BK-09891-MDF.*fn1 Defendants admit that the value of the personal property owned at that time by Joy Murphy ...


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