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Cahall v. Ohio Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2015

SHELLIE CAHALL and WILLIAM CAHALL, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE OHIO CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, AMERICAN FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY and LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON THE PARTIES' CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. SUMMATION

For the reasons set forth more fully below, the Court concludes that Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) will be granted and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) will be denied.

First, the Court observes that it concurs with the cogent opinion of the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued in Glazer v. Nationwide Mutual Insur. Co., 872 F.Supp.2d 396 (M.D. Pa. 2012). The insured's addition of a vehicle to an existing automobile insurance policy, as to which there is a prior properly noticed and executed waiver of UIM benefits, does not create an obligation/requirement that the insurer re-notice or re-obtain a subsequent waiver of such coverage. In considering the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (the "PMVFRL"), it is clear that the statutory language of 75 Pa.C.S. §§1731 and 1791, governing the insurer's requisite notice/offer and an insured's optional waiver of UIM benefits, apply. And it is equally clear that the underlying/related considerations where an insured has waived UIM benefits are critically distinguishable from those addressed by case law regarding 75 Pa.C.S. §1738, pursuant to which the addition of a vehicle can trigger a requisite opportunity for the insured to waive or elect the "stacking" of previously purchased UIM coverage as to that additional vehicle.

Secondly, the Court observes that Plaintiffs cannot maintain a claim for statutory bad faith where Defendants are in fact correct in the basis of the denial of underinsured motorist coverage. Thirdly, the Court notes that Plaintiffs also cannot maintain a claim for violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law where they have made no Complaint allegations supportive of such claim and the record contains no suggestion that they could. Finally, because the Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, the question of whether each named Defendant is a proper Defendant is moot.

II. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The undisputed facts include that Plaintiff Shellie Cahill ("Wife Plaintiff") was, on August 9, 2010, involved in a motor vehicle collision with James Kildoo ("Kildoo") in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Kildoo was insured by Nationwide Insurance and his liability limits were $50, 000 per person and $100, 000 per accident. After settling with Kildoo, William and Shellie Cahall ("Plaintiffs") brought an underinsured motorist ("UIM") claim against Defendants The Ohio Casualty Insurance Company, American Fire and Casualty Company, and Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. (collectively "Defendants") which Ohio Casualty denied.

Defendant Ohio Casualty insured Plaintiffs under an automobile insurance policy (the "Policy") as to which William Cahall ("Husband Plaintiff"), as a named insured, executed a waiver form that rejected UIM coverage at the time of the policy's issuance in October, 2007. During the time between execution of the waiver form and the August, 2010 accident, Plaintiffs replaced both of the original vehicles and added a third vehicle under the policy. No new waiver form rejecting UIM coverage was ever executed and, because such coverage was waived, there was no relevance as to potential elections to "stack" or multiply such coverage by the number of vehicles insured under the policy.

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County in early August, 2014 and Defendants removed it to this Court on September 12, 2014 (ECF No. 1). The Complaint includes counts for breach of contract as to UIM coverage, a declaratory judgment claim as to the same, a statutory bad faith claim under 42 Pa.C.S.A. §8371 expressly premised on Defendants' "reasoning and rational for denying UIM benefits" (see Complaint at ¶ 72), an Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") claim under 73 P.S. 201-1 et seq. again expressly premised on Defendants' asserted improper denial of UIM benefits (see Complaint at ¶ 82), and a loss of consortium claim by Husband Plaintiff.

Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) seeking "summary judgment on [their] declaratory action" regarding entitlement to UIM coverage in the amount of $900, 000 ($300, 000 multiplied by three (3) vehicles) on grounds that Defendants were required "to provide them with another opportunity to reject UIM coverage and stacking" by a "natural progression of Pennsylvania case law in following the Sacket Trilogy...." See Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiffs' Memo In Support of MSJ") (ECF No. 19) at 3-4, 7. Defendants filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) asserting that (1) Plaintiffs claims for UIM benefits fail because Husband Plaintiff's waiver of UIM benefits remained effective despite the subsequent addition of a third vehicle under the policy; (2) Plaintiffs cannot, as a matter of law, maintain a statutory bad faith claim where the insurer had good cause to deny benefits; (3) Plaintiffs cannot maintain a UTPCPL claim premised on purported "misrepresentations" that are a characterization of Defendants' (legally correct) denial of UIM benefits; and (4) two of the three named Defendants should be dismissed. As more fully set forth below, this Court concurs with Defendants.

III. GENERAL APPLICABLE STANDARDS ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, "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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The party opposing the motion, however, cannot rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations, or suspicions to support the claim; rather, the non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, " Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, and must produce more than a "mere scintilla" of evidence to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact. See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir.1992). See also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (observing that Rule 56(e) permits a summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves).

The inquiry to be made is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." The non-moving party "must be able to produce evidence that when considered in light of that party's burden of proof at trial, could be the basis for a jury finding in that party's favor.'" SEC v. Hughes Capital Corp., 124 F.3d 449, 452 (3d Cir.1997) (quoting Kline v. First W. Gov't Sec., 24 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir.1994)). If the non-moving party fails to present evidence sufficient to establish an "element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial", summary judgment is ...


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