Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ridolfi v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 10, 2017

TRACEY RIDOLFI, Plaintiff
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         This is an insurance dispute between Tracey Ridolfi and her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, relating to claims concerning State Farm's alleged refusal to provide underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage to Ridolfi. Currently Ridolfi's second amended complaint, (Doc. 21), the operative pleading in this action, brings two claims against State Farm: First, Ridolfi alleges that State Farm's conduct constitutes a breach of this insurance contract. In addition, Ridolfi contends that State Farm violated Pennsylvania's bad faith statute, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8371, by: (1) misstating the scope of its coverage; (2) insisting upon a sworn statement from its insured; (3) unreasonably delaying its investigation of this claim and requiring the production of multiple sets of medical records; and (4) failing to keep Ridolfi fully informed in writing on the progress of her claim.

         Ridolfi's bad-faith claim is now being challenged by State Farm's pending motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. 41) In support of this motion State Farm argues that it promptly began adjusting this UIM claim upon receipt of the claim in September of 2013. State Farm also argues that any initial misstatement of the policy limits for this claim was a product of an innocent mistake, a mistake compounded by the fact that the amount of UIM insurance coverage requested and paid for by the Ridolfis was significantly lower than the actual coverage reflected on the policy issued by State Farm. State Farm also notes that it promptly corrected this error in a fashion that avoided any potential prejudice to Ridolfi. As for State Farm's requests for a sworn statement from Ridolfi and medical records, State Farm contends that these requests were permitted by the policy, and these requests for medical records were required due to discrepancies in the records produced by the plaintiff. Furthermore, State Farm also observes that Ridolfi resolved her underlying claim against the original tortfeasor for less than the tortfeasor policy limits, yet another factor which cautioned in favor of careful review of this specific UIM claim.

         Upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the evidence submitted by the parties, the Court finds insufficient evidence to support Ridolfi's bad-faith claim, and concludes that State Farm is entitled to summary judgment on this claim. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the motion for partial summary judgment will be granted.

         II. Statement of Facts and of the Case [1]

         The chain of events which led to this lawsuit began on October 26, 2008 when Tracey Ridolfi was involved in an automobile accident with a tortfeasor who was insured by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Following this collision, Ridolfi filed a claim with the tortfeasor's insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual, and notified her own insurance carrier, State Farm, of this accident. Following notification of this accident, Ridolfi's counsel exchanged correspondence with State Farm seeking information regarding medical bills paid out by State Farm on Ridolfi's behalf in January of 2009, but there is no record of Ridolfi making any specific demand upon State Farm for payment of UIM benefits prior to August 2013.

         Instead, the initial focus of Ridolfi's efforts to obtain compensation for her injuries appears to have been with the tortfeasor and the tortfeasor's insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual. As part of this effort, on October 20, 2010, Ridolfi filed a lawsuit against the original tortfeasor, alleging that she was injured as a result of the tortfeasor's negligence. After nearly four years of litigation, on September 15, 2014 Ridolfi settled this claim against Liberty Mutual, compromising the claim in return for the payment of $85, 000, a sum which was less than the full amount of the tortfeasor's policy limits with Liberty Mutual, $100, 000. State Farm consented in this settlement and waived any subrogation rights it might have as part of the settlement of this lawsuit.

         The first clear notice State Farm received of Ridolfi's intent to also bring a UIM coverage claim against her own insurer came on August 28, 2013, when Ridolfi's counsel wrote to State Farm. In this August 28, 2013, correspondence Ridolfi's counsel “put [State Farm] on notice that this case may involve a UM/UIM potential claim.” In this August 2013 correspondence, Ridolfi's counsel also sought policy limits and coverage information from State Farm. Three weeks later, later on September 20, 2013, State Farm's claims adjuster responded to this notice by providing Ridolfi's attorney a letter which, stated that the UIM coverage under Ridolfi's policy was $50, 000/$100, 000 with stacking coverage. In this September 20 letter State Farm also invited Ridolfi's counsel to advise the insurer if he disagreed with this policy limits report. In fact, this policy limits description was erroneous but the error was, in part, a product of confusion which stemmed from inconsistencies between the coverage sought by the Ridolfis, and the coverage actually conferred upon them by States Farm. The coverage limits described in State Farm's September 20, 2013, letter accurately described the policy limits requested in the Ridolfis' 2004 insurance application. However, in fact, the policy issued to the plaintiff and her spouse conferred UIM coverage to them beyond the coverage which they requested. The actual amount of this coverage was $100, 000 per person and $300, 000 per accident.

         On November 5, 2013, Ridolfi's attorney notified State Farm of this discrepancy in a letter which conveyed a $700, 000 demand upon State Farm, and threatened the filing of a statutory bad faith claim against this insurance company.[2] Having received this November 5, 2013, correspondence, State Farm promptly responded, declining Ridolfi's $700, 000 settlement demand but reforming and clarifying the scope of its coverage and confirming UIM policy coverage of $100, 000 per person and $300, 000 per accident on each of two vehicles. [3]

         As the parties strived to clarify these policy limitations, they also began exchanging requests for information regarding the nature and extent of Ridolfi's medical care and treatment. State Farm's efforts to fully document Ridolfi's injuries and medical expenses were both understandable and prudent given the various demands which had been tendered to this insurer by counsel, demands which initially sought $700, 000 and then later included what was described as a non-negotiable demand for State Farm's UIM insurance policy limits. These efforts to secure medical records were marked by some delays and confusion; however, those delays and confusion were not attributable exclusively to State Farm. Rather, they reflected a confluence of events, including some misunderstanding and mistakes on the plaintiff's part. Initially, on November 5, 2013, plaintiff's counsel reported that he was sending all of Ridolfi's medical records to State Farm. After State Farm was unable to confirm receipt of these records, the claims adjuster wrote to counsel requesting documentation of Ridolfi's medical specials on November 22, 2013.

         When these medical records were not forthcoming, State Farm's claims adjuster followed up on January 3, 2014, once again requesting these medical records. The claims adjuster then reached out to Ridolfi's counsel on January 7, 2014 and explained that State Farm had only received a single April 2012 medical report relating to the plaintiff. At this juncture, Ridolfi's counsel forwarded, and State Farm, received medical records from fifteen health care providers.

         These records, however, were incomplete in several particulars. First, the medical files did not include any records detailing Ridolfi's physical condition prior to the October 2008 accident. Second, the temporal scope of the records was limited in another respect in that the disclosed records did not include any treatment records relating to medical care received by Ridolfi after March of 2012. Finally, the medical records did not include any records pertaining to prior accidents involving Ridolfi. This oversight was understandable, since Ridolfi's counsel had previously been unaware of any prior accidents.

         Throughout March and April of 2014 State Farm and Ridolfi's counsel continued to exchange correspondence regarding State Farm's request for medical records. While the parties communicated with one another it is apparent that they did not fully understand one another. State Farm avers that it was seeking to obtain specific additional and supplemental material, and its correspondence seeks medical records, but does not identify specifically what further records were being sought. Ridolfi's counsel, in turn, simply repeated that he has provided the medical records, without appreciating that State Farm was seeking documents beyond those produced in January of 2014.

         The need for further medical records became more apparent as this matter progressed. In April 2014 State Farm retained counsel to assist in the resolution of this claim. As part of this claims resolution effort, counsel scheduled a sworn statement under oath from Ridolfi on June 19, 2014. While Ridolfi alleges that this act by State Farm evidenced its bad faith, the scheduling of this statement under oath was a procedure that was specifically authorized under Ridolfi's policy with State Farm, and was an appropriate measure given the scope of her insurance claim demands made here.[4] In the course of the statement under oath, Ridolfi testified to matters which renewed State Farm's interest in obtaining further medical records. Specifically, Ridolfi testified that she had received medical treatment after March of 2012, the last date upon which plaintiff's counsel had produced medical records. In addition, Ridolfi acknowledged that she had suffered injuries from a prior motor vehicle accident.

         Given these disclosures by Ridolfi, State Farm pursued additional efforts to secure further medical records, including several attempts to subpoena these records. These efforts were marked by some missteps and miscommunication between the parties, but ultimately resulted in the receipt of some additional, previously undisclosed medical records, information that was relevant to State Farm's evaluation of Ridolfi's $700, 000 claim and settlement demand.

         State Farm also sought employment records from Ridolfi as part of its evaluation of this claim. While Ridolfi has alleged that these requests were irrelevant to her UIM claim, it appears that plaintiff's counsel had suggested on several occasions that Ridolfi's future employability was uncertain, and had indicated that Ridolfi might be making a claim for loss of future earnings, assertions which made an assessment of Ridolfi's employment history relevant to any claims evaluation.

         As the parties engaged in these efforts, Ridolfi continued to litigate a claim against the tortfeasor's insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual. That underlying claim was not resolved until September 15, 2014, when Ridolfi settled this claim against Liberty Mutual, compromising the claim in return for the payment of $85, 000, a sum which was less than the full amount of the tortfeasor's policy limits with Liberty Mutual, $100, 000.

         It is against this factual background that Ridolfi brought this statutory bad faith claim in state court in April of 2015 pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8371, alleging that State Farm engaged in bad faith by, inter alia, (1) misstating the scope of its coverage; (2) insisting upon a sworn statement from its insured; (3) unreasonably delaying its investigation of this claim and requiring the production of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.