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Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co. v. Grier

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

March 2, 2016

Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company, National Association f/k/a the Bank of New York Trust Company, N.A. as successor to JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A. s/b/m Bank One National Association as Trustee for RAMP 2002RS5, Plaintiff,
v.
Chartrease Grier, Palmetto Health Alliance, and Palmetto Richland Memorial, Defendants. Chartrease Grier, Appellant,
v.
Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Company and Tonya D. Parks, Respondents

         Heard November 4, 2015.

          Appeal From Richland County. Alison Renee Lee, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2013-002403.

         M. Allison Moon and Sarah E. Brown, of Moon Law Firm, and Scott J. Bradley, of The Joel Bieber Firm, of Greenville; and Michael G. Wimer, pro hac vice, all for Appellant.

         Michael J. Anzelmo, Alana Odom Williams, and Jay T. Thompson, all of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, of Columbia, for Respondents.

         WILLIAMS, J. HUFF, A.C.J., and THOMAS, J., concur.

          OPINION

         WILLIAMS, J.

         Chartrease Grier appeals the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Company (Nationwide), arguing the court erred in (1) finding section 38-75-740 of the South Carolina Code (2015) was inapplicable to homeowners insurance policies, (2) ruling her breach of contract claim failed as a matter of law, (3) concluding Nationwide's refusal to pay was not in bad faith, and (4) denying Grier's motion to amend her third-party complaint. We affirm.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In 2006, Grier purchased a homeowner's insurance policy from Nationwide through her insurance agent, Tanya Parks. The policy covered her home and its contents in Columbia, South Carolina. The Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company (the Bank) held a mortgage on Grier's property, and GMAC Mortgage, LLC (GMAC) serviced the mortgage on behalf of the Bank. Pursuant to the mortgage, Grier was required to pay the homeowners insurance premium as a part of her monthly mortgage payment into an escrow account managed by GMAC.

         In March or April of each year, GMAC issued a check to Nationwide for the amount of the insurance premium it withdrew from the escrow account, and Nationwide renewed the policy. Nationwide renewed Grier's homeowner's policy annually from 2007 to 2010. In January 2011, however, Nationwide decided not to renew Grier's policy--which was set to expire on March 24, 2011--because she failed to remedy various hazards and risks on her property. Nationwide claims it mailed proper notice of nonrenewal to Grier on January 14, 2011, at her home address listed on the policy.

         On March 11, 2011--before the policy expired--a GMAC representative contacted Nationwide about paying the premium for Grier's policy for the upcoming renewal period. Grier contends Nationwide welcomed the payment in this conversation and stated it would renew the policy if it received the premium.

         Thereafter, GMAC mailed a check to Nationwide on March 15, 2011, for the same amount it submitted the prior year for the renewal. Nevertheless, because no active policy was listed for Grier in its records, Nationwide returned the premium to Grier by a check dated April 1, 2011.

         On April 6, 2011, a fire destroyed Grier's home, leaving it uninhabitable. Grier filed a claim for insurance coverage, but Nationwide denied her claim, explaining that Grier had no policy in place. Grier soon defaulted on her mortgage, and on September 13, 2011, the Bank filed a foreclosure action against her.[1] Grier answered and filed a third-party complaint against Nationwide and Parks,[2] asserting causes of action for breach of contract, bad faith failure to pay her insurance claim, and indemnity and contribution.

         While the parties participated in discovery, Grier filed a motion on June 8, 2012--with leave of court pursuant to Rule 15(a), SCRCP--to amend her complaint and add a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation against Nationwide. Grier asserted Nationwide breached its duty of care by falsely " representing to GMAC that [Grier's] policy would be renewed upon payment of the policy premium."

         On November 5, 2012, Grier filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing Nationwide violated section 38-75-740 of the South Carolina Code by failing to deliver written notice to Parks, the insurance agent of record, that Grier's policy was not being renewed. According to Grier, Nationwide could not deny coverage because its attempt to nonrenew the policy was invalid. Nationwide filed its own ...


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