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State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Sakash

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

May 22, 2017

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Plaintiff,
v.
George Patrick Sakash and Janice Brown Sakash, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's unopposed motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.

         I. Background

         Defendants George and Janice Sakash filed a lawsuit in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas against Stephen Lund alleging that George Sakash sustained serious and permanent injuries on January 13, 2014, when a vehicle owned by Stephen Lund struck him as he was crossing the street as a pedestrian while within the scope of his employment with Coca-Cola Company. Mr. Lund's liability insurer paid its available liability coverage to the Sakashes in exchange for a covenant not to execute, and the Sakashes then presented an underinsured motorist claim to their own insurance carrier, State Farm.

         At the relevant time, the Sakashes had two insurance policies with State Farm, each providing $100, 000 in underinsured motorist coverage. State Farm tendered the underinsured motorist coverage of $100, 000 under one of the policies, but declined to make further payment of underinsured motorist benefits under the second policy based on policy language providing, “the maximum amount that may be paid from all such [underinsured motor vehicle coverage] policies combined is the single highest limit provided by any one of the policies.” (Dkt. No. 16-2.)

         On July 13, 2016, State Farm filed the present declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that “that the maximum amount the Defendants may recover from the State Farm policies issued to the Defendants is the single highest limit of underinsured motorist coverage provided by any one of the policies which has already been paid to the Defendants and, further, ask that the Court declare that Plaintiff State Farm is entitled to an offset and/or credit against any underinsured motorist benefits that may be due for the amounts that were paid, could have been paid, or that could be paid to or for the Defendant in worker's compensation benefits.” (Dkt. No. 1 at 6.) Defendants have not opposed summary judgment for Plaintiff.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact” and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted “only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts.” Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). “In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party.” HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, “[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a ‘mere scintilla of evidence'” in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion

         The State Farm policy in question provides that if other underinsured motor vehicle coverage applies, then If:

a. you or any resident relative sustains bodily injury or property damage:
(1) while occupying a motor vehicle not owned by you or any resident relative; or
(2) while not occupying a motor vehicle; and b. Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage provided by this policy and one or more other vehicle policies issued to you or any resident relative by the State Farm Companies apply to the same bodily injury or property damage, then the maximum amount that may be paid from all such policies combined is the single highest limit ...

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