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Busby v. Steadfast Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 31, 2019

ROBIN BUSBY
v.
STEADFAST INSURANCE CO., et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          Bartle, J.

         Plaintiff Robin Busby (”Busby”) brings this diversity action against defendants Steadfast Insurance Co. (“Steadfast”) and USAA Casualty Insurance Co. (“USAA”) for breach of contract and for bad faith under Pennsylvania law for failure to pay certain claims of Busby arising out of serious injuries she suffered as a passenger in a motor vehicle on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia.

         Before the court are the cross-motions of the parties for partial summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         I

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986). We view the facts and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See In re Flat Glass Antitrust Litig., 385 F.3d 350, 357 (3d Cir. 2004).

         Summary judgment is granted where there is insufficient record evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the nonmovant. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party]'s position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [that party].” Id. In addition, Rule 56(e)(2) provides “[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         II

         The parties have stipulated to the relevant facts. On October 29, 2016, Busby was a passenger in the backseat of a 2013 Nissan Altima driven by Thomas Curtain, who Busby had hired as a driver through Lyft, Inc. (“Lyft”). Curtain was traveling eastbound on the Schuylkill Expressway in the left-hand lane near mile marker 334.3. The traffic came to a stop in front of Curtain's vehicle. Curtain drove his vehicle into the rear of the car in front of him which was stopped in traffic.

         After Curtain hit the car in front of him, a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan driven by Gerald Crossley collided with the rear of Curtain's vehicle. Curtain's vehicle was equipped with an event data recorder which recorded “two separate events.” The data was retrieved and analyzed by plaintiff's and defendants' respective experts. The data established that approximately one second had passed between the two crashes. The data also demonstrated that Curtain had been travelling in the left lane for at least six seconds before Crossley hit the rear of Curtain's car. Curtain's car was not moving and had come to a complete stop at the time it was rear-ended by Crossley.

         As a result of the first impact, Busby had a delta force of 18 applied to her, that is, the vehicle's speed was abruptly reduced by 18 miles per hour due to the impact.[1] As a result of the second impact, the delta force applied to her was 13, that is, the speed of Curtain's vehicle was accelerated forward by 13 miles per hour due to the impact. To date, Busby's treating physicians have attributed her injuries to “the incident” or “the accident” and have not opined as to which injuries were caused by the first as opposed to the second impact.

         At the time in question, the Steadfast policy provided liability coverage for Lyft drivers like Curtain as well as uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits for passengers such as Busby using Lyft. The limits of coverage were an aggregate one million dollars for both liability and uninsured or underinsured motorist (“UIM”) claims for “each accident.” The Steadfast policy defines “accident” as follows: “Accident includes continuous or repeated exposure to the same conditions resulting in ‘bodily injury' or ‘property damage.'” The policy further states that “[r]egardless of the number of covered ‘autos,' ‘insureds,' premiums paid, claims made or vehicles involved in the ‘accident', [sic] the most we will pay for the total of all damages . . . combined resulting from any one ‘accident' is the Limit of Insurance for Covered Autos Liability Coverage shown in the Declarations.”

         The “Pennsylvania Underinsured Motorists Coverage” endorsement to the Steadfast policy similarly provides that “[r]egardless of the number of covered ‘motor vehicles,' ‘insureds,' premiums paid, claims made or vehicles involved in the ‘accident,' the most we will pay for all damages resulting from any one ‘accident' is the Limit of Insurance for Underinsured Motorists Coverage shown in the Schedule or Declarations.”

         In addition to the benefits under the Steadfast policy, Busby had UIM coverage under her personal automobile policy with USAA. The USAA policy provides UIM coverage of $100, 000 per person and $300, 000 per “accident” with stacking on Busby's two covered vehicles for a total of $200, 000 in UIM coverage per person and $600, 000 per accident. The USAA policy does not define “accident.” In the “LIMIT OF LIABILITY” section related to UIM benefits, the USAA policy states that for bodily injury sustained by the insured or a family member:

(1) Our maximum limit of liability for all resulting damages including, but not limited to, all direct, derivative, or consequential damages recoverable by any persons is the limit of liability shown on the Declarations for “each person” for UIM Coverage multiplied by ...

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