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Williams v. Liberty Mutual Insurance

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 23, 2018



          GOLDBERG, J.

         Plaintiff Marc Williams initiated this action against Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company alleging breach of contract and bad faith in connection with Defendant's alleged failure to provide adequate underinsured motorist coverage pursuant to an insurance policy issued by Defendant to Plaintiff. Defendant moves for partial summary judgment as to Plaintiff's bad faith claim. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the Motion and enter judgment in favor of Defendant on the bad faith claim.


         The following facts are undisputed unless indicated otherwise:

         On February 10, 2016, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident near the intersection of Kelly Drive and Midvale Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tortfeasor, Agustin Lano, was operating a motor vehicle at approximately 7:30 p.m., when he rear-ended Plaintiff's vehicle. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff settled the underlying claim with Infinity Insurance, Esteban Ortiz Garcia, and Agustin Cano for the policy limits of $15, 000. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. C.)

         At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was insured under LibertyGuard Auto Policy No. A06-288-903573-00 5 4 (the “Policy”) issued by Defendant for the period June 27, 2015 to June 27, 2016. (Compl. ¶ 14, Answer ¶ 14.) On July 13, 2017, Defendant's claim professional, Matthew Timko, received and reviewed a new assignment for an uninsured motorist (“UIM”) case relating to this Policy. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. G.) Mr. Timko immediately reached out to Plaintiff's attorney via both phone and e-mail seeking additional information about Plaintiff's UIM claim. (Id.) The following day, Mr. Timko contacted Adrian Tomlin at Infinity Insurance, who advised that Infinity had accepted liability on the underlying claim and offered to settle for $15, 000. (Id. Ex. H.) On the same day, Mr. Timko sent a letter to Plaintiff's attorney acknowledging receipt of Plaintiff's demand packet and requesting a telephone statement from Plaintiff. (Id. Ex. I.) In addition, Mr. Timko received a copy of the proposed release from Infinity and granted consent to settle. (Id. Ex. J.)

         On July 15, 2017, Mr. Timko received an email from Plaintiff's attorney advising of his $75, 000 demand. Mr. Timko responded that, in order to evaluate this demand, he needed medicals and a client statement. (Id. Exs. J, K.) Mr. Timko received the requested information on July 22, 2017, but noted internally that he still needed more information to complete the evaluation, including tort status, cervical film review, and a determination if there is a medical special claim and/or wage loss claim (Id. Ex. L, M.)

         On August 1, 2017, Plaintiff's attorney emailed Mr. Timko asking if he reviewed the demand packet. Mr. Timko responded that he had, but was still in need of a statement from Plaintiff, as well as MRI films, in order to determine whether the injury caused a “serious impairment.” (Id. Exs. N, O.) Counsel e-mailed back saying, “Sounds to me like a lot of hoops to jump through just so you can say you don't think there's a breach. Best option seems to filing a lawsuit, which would then allow for depositions, ime, film review, etc.” (Id. Ex. O.) Mr. Timko responded that he would await the complaint. (Id. Ex. N.)

         On August 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County alleging both breach of contract and bad faith. (Id. Ex. A.) Defendant removed the action to federal court on August 28, 2017, and timely filed an Answer with Affirmative Defenses. (Id., Exs. B, D.) Defendant served Plaintiff with Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents on October 2, 2017, but Plaintiff did not respond until January 23, 2017. (Id., Exs. F, P.)

         On January 29, 2018, Plaintiff was deposed. (Id., Ex. Q.) When specifically asked about his bad faith claim, Plaintiff admitted that he had no knowledge of the investigation that was done by Defendant in connection with this claim. (Id. Ex. Q, at 63:3-64:9.)

         Jaimo Ahn, MD, PhD, FACS, FAOA authored and submitted an expert report on February 28, 2018, following an independent medical examination of Plaintiff on February 22, 2018. (Id. Ex. R.) On March 2, 2018, Andrew Shaer, M.D. authored an expert report based on his review of MRIs of Plaintiff's left shoulder, cervical spine, and MRI lumbar spine from September 17, 2016, October 26, 2016, and October 28, 2016 respectively.

         Defendant filed the current Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's bad faith claim on April 16, 2018. Plaintiff submitted an untimely response on May 16, 2018.[1]


         Summary judgment is proper 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is “material” only if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For an issue to be “genuine, ” a reasonable fact-finder must be able to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Id. To establish “that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed, ” a party must:

(A) cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), ...

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