United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
KYLE STECHERT and MARIE STECHERT, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated
THE TRAVELERS HOME AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, THE TRAVELERS COMPANIES, INC., TRAVELERS PROPERTY CASUALTY COMPANIES and TRAVELERS INDEMNITY COMPANY
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
putative class action has been brought before this Court for
disposition of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on
the individual claims of the Plaintiffs, Kyle and Marie
Stechert. For the reasons outlined in the following
paragraphs, the Motion shall be GRANTED.
of the Case
instant action has its origins in an automobile accident
which occurred on January 23, 2015 when the 2014 Chevrolet
Equinox which Plaintiff Marie Stechert was driving was struck
by another vehicle when it turned left directly into Mrs.
Stechert's path of travel, pushing her off the road into
a utility pole. As a result of this accident, Mrs. Stechert
and her two small children were injured and their car had to
be towed away.
thereafter, Plaintiff Kyle Stechert contacted his insurance
agent at the Univest Insurance Agency in Lansdale, PA to
notify them of the accident and the agent then turned the
matter over to the Stecherts' automobile insurance
carrier, Travelers Home and Marine Insurance
Company. Under their Travelers policy, Plaintiffs
had an “extended transportation expense” or
“ETE” benefit which afforded them the ability to
secure a rental vehicle at the maximum rate of $30 per day up
to a total of $900, or for a period not to exceed 30 days.
After receiving notification of the accident, a Travelers
representative arranged for a five-day rental car reservation
for Plaintiffs through Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Thus, following
discharge of Mrs. Stechert and the children from the hospital
emergency room later that afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Stechert
obtained a rental car from Enterprise. Plaintiffs however,
required a larger car than what was available for $30 per
day, and therefore they personally paid the overage of $11.49
daily for the vehicle they rented.
days after the accident, Travelers sent an appraiser to
Souderton Auto Body in Souderton, Pennsylvania to examine the
damaged Equinox. On January 27, 2015, that appraiser, Brian
Killen, determined the vehicle to have been a total loss. On
that same date, Mr. Killen sent a form “Rental
Reimbursement/Loss of Use Notice” to Mr. Stechert
which, in addition to notifying him that the vehicle had been
deemed a “Total Loss, ” also contained the
“Throughout this process, if your vehicle is determined
to be a total loss, your rental will be limited to 5 days
from when your vehicle was deemed non-repairable.”
this language, Plaintiffs did not return their rental vehicle
within five days. Rather, it took until February 6, 2015 for
Travelers to determine, in consultation with the leasing
company which owned the Equinox, that its value was $19,
752.60. Plaintiffs disagreed with that assessment and
requested an extension on the rental car. Travelers granted
the extension to February 13, 2015 and told them to submit
comparable values for consideration. Although Travelers had
been in discussions with Ally Bank (the lienholder on the
Stecherts' vehicle) about Ally sending a letter of
guarantee, this issue was not resolved until after
February 13th. On the morning of February 12,
2015, the Travelers adjuster assigned to the Plaintiffs'
claim entered the following notes into the claim file:
Spoke with Gloria at Ally Bank Total Loss and she advised
that the LOG request is still in progress and will send it
out as soon as their review has been completed, and could not
give me an eta.
Called insured and left voicemail message following up on the
status of the LOG request and if he had found any comparables
to submit for review.
Extended rental to 2/18. Updated reserves to authorized total
however, that voicemail message was not received by
Plaintiffs and that evening, believing that they would have
to return their rental the next day, Plaintiffs purchased a
pre-owned 2012 Chevrolet Equinox. The following morning, the
rental vehicle was returned to Enterprise. However, it also
does not appear that Plaintiffs informed Travelers that they
had purchased a replacement vehicle or that they had returned
the rental to Enterprise because the adjuster added the
following note to the claim file at 12:05:52 p.m. on February
Spoke with Mr. Stechert and reviewed total loss claim status.
Advised waiting for LOG from Lienholder. Comparable submitted
by agent is n/a and also reviewed rental and 30 days would be
I extended rental to 2/21 which is the maximum. Updated
reserves to $900.00.
adjuster's notes reflect that the letter of guarantee was
finally received from Ally Financial for $19, 752.60 on
February 17, 2015 and that at 3:27:47 p.m. that same day, she
left a voicemail message for Plaintiff “following up on
valuation of vehicle prior to payment, as he thought he would
be receiving a payment for settlement.”
action, Plaintiffs assert that in sending them the
Rental/Reimbursement/Loss of Use Notice (hereafter “the
Rental Letter”) with the language limiting the rental
to five days from the date the total loss determination is
made, Travelers breached its contract with them insofar as
their policy did not contain such a limitation. Plaintiffs
also submit that the policy was further breached by
Travelers' failure to make a determination as to what
period of time was reasonably required to repair or replace
their vehicle. In addition to seeking monetary damages for
breach of contract, Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants
acted in bad faith and in violation of 42 Pa. C. S.
§8371 thereby entitling them to further compensatory and
punitive damages as well as declaratory and
equitable/injunctive relief. Further, Plaintiffs seek to
represent a class consisting of:
All persons, since at least six years prior to the filing of
this Complaint, who have been policyholders of automobile
insurance policies sold in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
by Defendants (and/or their subsidiaries, affiliates and/or
related entities) that have provided Extended Transportation
Expense Coverage, who have made a claim to Defendants for
Extended Transportation Expense Coverage as a result of a
total loss of a vehicle damaged in a covered accident, and as
to whom Defendants have limited the amount of time such
coverage is provided to a period of time less than thirty
(30) days. Excluded from the Class are Defendants, each of
the parents, subsidiaries, authorized distributors and
affiliates, and their legal representatives, heirs,
successors, and assigns of any excluded person.
Order of November 8, 2017, this Court granted Defendants'
Motion to Stay Class Certification or for Protective Order
and prohibited the taking of discovery relative to the class
and the issue of class certification until after such time as
we issued a decision on summary judgment motions on the
Plaintiffs' individual claims. On January 17, 2018,
Defendants timely filed the motion for summary judgment which
is now before us.
for Determining Summary Judgment Motions
A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense - or the part of each claim or defense - on which
summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary
judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the
record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.
Rule makes clear then, summary judgment is appropriately
entered only when the movant shows 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.
Willis v. UPMC Children's Hospital of
Pittsburgh, 808 F.3d 638, 643 (3d Cir. 2015). An issue
of fact is material and genuine if it “affects the
outcome of the suit under the governing law and could lead a
reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving
party.” Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 323
(3d Cir. 2016)(quoting Willis, supra. and
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).
considering a motion for summary judgment, the reviewing
court should view the facts in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. Burton v. Teleflex, Inc.,
707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013). “If the non-moving
party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, ‘the
moving party may meet its burden on summary judgment by
showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is
insufficient to carry that burden.'” Kaucher v.
County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir.
2006)(quoting Wetzel v. Tucker, 139 F.3d 380, 383,
n.2 (3d Cir. 1998)). In response, and “to prevail on a
motion for summary judgment, ‘the non-moving party must
present more than a mere scintilla of evidence; there must be
evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the
non-movant.'” Burton, supra,
(quoting Jakimas v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., 485
F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007)). Thus, “[t]he moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the
non-moving party fails to make “a sufficient showing on
an essential element of her case with respect to which she
has the burden of proof.” Moody v. Atlantic City
Board of Education, 870 F.3d 206, 213 (3d Cir.
2017)(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
motion for summary judgment is essentially premised on the
argument that since Plaintiffs received the Extended
Transportation Expense benefits to which they were entitled,
Defendants are entitled to the entry of judgment in their
favor as a matter of law and Plaintiffs are therefore not
proper class representatives. We address each of
Plaintiffs' claims seriatim.