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Skinner v. Horace Mann Insurance Co.

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

February 26, 2019

Annie Skinner, as assignee of Andrew Poston, Plaintiff,
v.
Horace Mann Insurance Company, Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. BRYAN HARWELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See ECF No. 16. The Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's motion for the reasons herein.[1]

         Background

         On February 10, 2014, Plaintiff Annie Skinner was “severely injured and suffered extensive property damage” when she was involved in an automobile accident with Andrew Poston and another driver. Amended Complaint [ECF No. 1-1] at ¶ 11; Am. Compl. Exh. A [ECF No. 1-1 at p. 21]. At the time, Defendant Horace Mann Insurance Company insured Poston through an automobile insurance policy providing bodily injury liability limits of $50, 000 per person/$100, 000 per accident and a property damage liability limit of $50, 000 per accident.[2] Am. Compl. at ¶ 10; see ECF No. 16-2 at p. 1.

         In April 2014, Defendant issued Plaintiff two checks totaling $7, 547, and in May 2014, both checks cleared the bank. See Am. Compl. Exh. E [ECF No. 1-1 at p. 40].

         On February 12, 2015, Plaintiff's counsel sent Defendant a demand letter offering to settle all claims against Poston in exchange for the full amount of Poston's liability insurance policy limits-$100, 000 (i.e., both the $50, 000 bodily injury liability limit and the $50, 000 property damage liability limit). See Am. Compl. Exh. A; ECF Nos. 16-5 & 16-6. The nine-page letter (laden with lengthy footnotes) set a two-week deadline, imposed various requirements and conditions, and had over 200 pages of attachments primarily consisting of Plaintiff's medical records.[3] See Id. The letter described Plaintiff's physical injuries and further noted her clothes and cell phone were destroyed in the accident. See Am. Compl. Exh. A. Besides the clothes and cell phone loss, no other property damage was identified in the letter or the attachments thereto.

         On February 20, 2015, Defendant sent Plaintiff's counsel a check for the $50, 000 bodily injury liability limit and a proposed settlement agreement (and a covenant not to enforce judgment). See Am. Compl. at ¶ 16; Am. Compl. Exh. B [ECF No. 1-1 at pp. 30-34]; Am. Compl. Exh. C [ECF No. 1-1 at pp. 36-37]. However, on March 5, 2015, Plaintiff's counsel returned the $50, 000 check in a letter asserting Defendant “failed to comply with the terms of” the February 12, 2015 offer because

the Offer of Compromise called for payment under all applicable policies, which necessarily includes any applicable BI or PD policies, as well as umbrella coverage, if any. It is our understanding that the policy in question provides, at a minimum, for $50, 000 in per person bodily injury coverage and $50, 000 in per occurrence property damage coverage. However, the check sent by Horace Mann was only for $50, 000, an amount less than the applicable policy limits. . . . Therefore, we have been forced to return the check to you and file suit against your insured.

Am. Compl. Exh. C; see Am. Compl. at ¶ 17.

         On March 13, 2015, Defendant's attorney sent a letter to Plaintiff's counsel stating, “I do not understand why you returned the check.” Am. Compl. Exh. D [ECF No. 1-1 at pp. 38-39]; see Am.

         Compl. at ¶ 18. The letter further stated:

In your March 5, 2015 letter, you claim there is Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50, 000.00) of liability coverage for bodily injury claims and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50, 000.00) in coverage for property damage coverage. It is my understanding that this representation is correct. However, you did not make an additional property damage claim in your February 12, 2015 demand letter, and the property damage claim previously presented has been settled. Therefore, there is no property damage claim for the coverage to apply. Was there something that was missed?
The purpose of this letter is to re-offer the Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50, 000.00) of bodily injury coverage on a Covenant Not to Enforce Judgment basis. Secondly, to ask you if you have some property damage for which you want to make a claim? Finally, please clarify your position because I'm not clear why you are rejecting the tender of the applicable limits. If you have some other basis for rejecting Horace Mann's offer and Covenant Not to Enforce Judgment[, ] please let me know because there ...

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