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Hall v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh

August 26, 2010

MILES HALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER: (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (2) SUA SPONTE GRANTING PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF (Doc. Nos. 63.)

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, partial summary judgment. (Doc. No. 63.) The Court has previously granted Plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment of the first cause of action for declaratory relief. (Doc. No. 144.) The Court, however, did not rule on Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment of the remaining causes of action. Instead, the Court requested supplemental briefing on two issues relating to the causes of action for breach of contract and California's Unfair Competition law. The Court did not request supplemental briefing on the cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith or fair dealing. Now, having received the requested briefing and respective oppositions (Doc. Nos. 148, 149, 152, 153), the Court HEREBY GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's motion for summary judgment and sua sponte GRANTS partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff.

BACKGROUND

The factual and procedural background as set forth in this Court's Order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff is hereby incorporated by reference. (See Doc. No. 144 at 1-3.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 permits a court to grant summary judgment where (1) the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and (2) entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Material," for purposes of Rule 56, means that the fact, under governing substantive law, could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). For a dispute to be "genuine," a reasonable jury must be able to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact falls on the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can carry his burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party "failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Id. at 322--23. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

Once the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The nonmoving party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by "rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

DISCUSSION

Defendant's motion seeks summary judgment of all causes of action remaining after this Court's motion to dismiss Order. (Doc. No. 51.) The remaining causes of action are: (1) Declaratory Relief; (2) Breach of Contract; (3) Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing; and (4) Violations of California's Business and Profession's Code § 17200 ("UCL"). (Id.) Having already granted Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment of the first cause of action, the Court HEREBY DENIES Defendant's motion for summary judgment of the first cause of action for declaratory relief. The remaining causes of action, however, render further discussion.

I. Breach of Contract

The Court has issued a declaratory judgment that Robert Hall was entitled to $1 million in coverage under the insurance policy at issue in this case. (Doc. No. 144.) Robert Hall's named beneficiary, Plaintiff Miles Hall, however, was paid only $50,000 in benefits and Robert Hall's surviving wife is in the process of being paid $200,000 in monthly installments. Plaintiff's breach of contract claim arises out of the allegation that, by failing to pay $1 million in coverage to Plaintiff as provided by the insurance policy, Defendant breached the contract. Pursuant to its declaratory judgment, the Court requested both parties further address whether genuine issues of material fact remain under the breach of contract cause of action. (See Doc. No. 144 at 14; see also Doc. Nos. 148, 149, 152, 153.)

Defendant's supplemental briefing, however, does not address the breach of contract claim in light of this Court's declaratory judgment as requested. Instead, Defendant elected to re-assert the very arguments which this Court has previously rejected in granting Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. Specifically, this Court has already held that the reasonable expectation of Robert Hall pursuant to the Certificate of Insurance is that $1 million in coverage would be awarded to his named beneficiary, Plaintiff Miles Hall, and that any limitation to this $1 million in coverage is not clear, plain and conspicuous and therefore unenforceable. (Doc. No. 144 at 12-13.) As such, the Court found that Robert Hall was entitled to $1 million in coverage to be paid to Plaintiff, his named beneficiary. Thus, the Order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff and the findings within preclude, as a matter of law, Defendants' contention that it did not breach the contract by paying only $50,000 to Plaintiff. Therefore, by failing to pay Plaintiff the $1 million due as determined by this Court, Defendants breached the contract. Defendants make no argument concerning any remaining issues of material fact as to the breach of contract cause of ...


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