United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
an action for breach of contract and bad faith refusal to pay
underinsured motorist benefits. The matter is before the
Court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment on both
the breach of contract and bad faith claims and
Plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment on
the breach of contract claim. See ECF Nos. 23 &
26. The Court denies both motions for the reasons
9, 2016, Plaintiff Ethel Powell (“Plaintiff”) and
her husband Joseph (“Mr. Powell”) (collectively,
“the Powells”) were injured in an automobile
accident in Longs, South Carolina, when their 1996 Ford
Ranger pickup was struck by a vehicle operated by Benjamin
Thibert, the at-fault driver. See Complaint [ECF No.
1-1] at ¶¶ 4-5; Answer [ECF No. 4] at ¶¶
4-5. At the time of the accident, the Powells had four
vehicles insured by Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty
Company (“Defendant”): (1) the Ford Ranger, (2) a
2008 Nissan Altima, (3) a 1998 Cadillac Seville, and (4) a
2016 Hyundai Sonata. See Compl. at ¶ 7; Ans. at
¶ 7. The Powells owned the Ford, Nissan, and Cadillac,
and as explained below, they had just recently leased the
Hyundai. Defendant asserts that the Powells had three
policies in effect at the time of accident, that the policy
insuring the Cadillac was transferred to insurance on the
Hyundai (and the Cadillac simply had temporary coverage for
fourteen days), and that at no time were there more than
three policies of insurance.
See ECF No. 23-1 at p. 2; ECF No. 34 at pp. 7-8.
liability insurer paid its policy limits, and the Powells
filed a claim with Defendant seeking underinsured motorist
(“UIM”) benefits. See Compl. at ¶
6-7; Ans. at ¶ 6-7. Defendant paid the Powells $300, 000
in UIM coverage, asserting that the Powells had three
policies in effect at the time of the accident and that the
maximum amount of UIM coverage available under each policy
was $100, 000. See Boatright Letter [ECF No. 23-5].
The Powells, however, claimed they were owed $400, 000 in UIM
coverage because they had four vehicles insured with
Defendant, and therefore they demanded an additional $100,
000 in UIM benefits. See Morris Letter [ECF No.
35-1]. Unable to resolve the dispute, the Powells filed a
complaint in state court asserting claims for breach of
contract and insurance bad faith. See ECF No. 1-1.
On August 11, 2016, Defendant removed the action to this
Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, and the parties
subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment and
responses. See ECF No. 1, 23, 26, 34, &
judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material
fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md.,
789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(a) (“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.”). “A party asserting that a fact
cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion
by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record
. . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and
inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court
“cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility
determinations.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of
the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).
“the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “A dispute of
material fact is ‘genuine' if sufficient evidence
favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to
return a verdict for that party.” Seastrunk v.
United States, 25 F.Supp.3d 812, 814 (D.S.C. 2014). A
fact is “material” if proof of its existence or
nonexistence would affect disposition of the case under the
applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
summary judgment stage, “the moving party must
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Once the moving party has met his burden, the nonmoving party
must come forward with some evidence beyond the mere
allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is
a genuine issue for trial.” Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of
Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992) (internal
citation omitted). Summary judgment is not warranted unless,
“from the totality of the evidence, including
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
affidavits, the [C]ourt believes no genuine issue of material
fact exists for trial and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Whiteman v.
Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 729 F.3d 381, 385 (4th
Cir. 2013); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
When faced with cross-motions for summary judgment, the court
must review each motion separately on its own merits to
determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as
a matter of law. When considering each individual motion, the
court must take care to resolve all factual disputes and any
competing, rational inferences in the light most favorable to
the party opposing that motion.
Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir.
2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
has moved for summary judgment on both the breach of contract
and bad faith claims, and Plaintiff has cross-moved for
partial summary judgment on the breach of contract claim.
See ECF Nos. 23 & 26. However, neither party is
entitled to summary judgment.
Breach of ...