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Deanne Degrandpre v. Usaa Casualty Insurance

January 10, 2011



Pending before the court is the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket 20]. For reasons discussed below, the court GRANTS the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket 20], and ORDERS that this action be dismissed and stricken from the docket.

I. Background

This case arises from a dispute over insurance coverage. One of the plaintiff's vehicles was involved in an accident on December 26, 2008. The plaintiff, DeAnne DeGrandpre, asserts that she had a valid insurance policy with the defendant, USAA Casualty Insurance Company ("USAA"),*fn1 at the time of the accident. USAA contends that it had cancelled the plaintiff's policy for nonpayment of premiums two months before the accident.

In May 2008, the plaintiff purchased an automobile insurance policy from USAA to cover her 2005 Audi A4 and her 2003 Ford Mustang for the period from July 1, 2008 to January 1, 2009.*fn2

The plaintiff fell behind on her monthly payments and, as of September 10, 2008, the plaintiff owed USAA $1044.53 in overdue premium payments.

It is at this point that the parties' versions of events diverge. USAA asserts that it mailed the plaintiff a Notice of Cancellation for Non-Payment of Premium (the "Notice") on October 8, 2008. This Notice stated that unless the plaintiff paid the full $1086.71 owed by either money order or cashier's check on or before October 26, 2008, her insurance policies would be cancelled. The plaintiff asserts that she never received this Notice. On October 10, 2008, the plaintiff attempted to make a partial payment of $363.18, but USAA rejected this payment and instructed the plaintiff to send a certified form of payment. The plaintiff did not send any payments by money order or cashier's check before October 26, 2008. On October 26, 2008, USAA cancelled the plaintiff's insurance policy.

The record contains evidence of subsequent communications between the parties, which I will only briefly summarize here as it does not bear directly on the pending Motion. After USAA cancelled the plaintiff's policy, USAA continued to send the plaintiff correspondence regarding the cancellation of the policy as well as bills to collect the outstanding premiums. The plaintiff called USAA regarding the overdue payments and the cancellation of the policies, sent at least one personal check which was rejected by USAA, and sent USAA at least one payment via certified check.

On December 26, 2008, while driving the plaintiff's Ford Mustang, the plaintiff's daughter was involved in an accident with another automobile. The plaintiff's husband reported the accident to USAA that day. On December 29, 2008, USAA denied the plaintiff's claim over the phone, informing the plaintiff that she did not have a policy in effect with USAA at the time of the accident.

On January 9, 2009, after further investigating the plaintiff's claim, USAA sent a follow-up letter advising the plaintiff that USAA "had no coverage obligation in connection with the December 26, 2008 accident since there was no active USAA automobile insurance policy insuring the subject automobile on said date." (Pl.'s Statement of Genuine Issues of Material Facts in Opp'n ¶ 32.)

On March 19, 2009, the plaintiff filed this action in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Riverside. The plaintiff alleged causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and tortious bad faith breach of insurance contract. The plaintiff sought damages for property damage to her vehicle, attorney's fees and costs associated with any third-party claims against the plaintiff arising from the accident, and mental distress. On April 28, 2009, USAA removed the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, based on diversity of citizenship between the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

USAA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, and this court held a hearing at the defendant's request after the parties briefed the Motion. During the hearing, the court explained that it was awarding summary judgment to the defendant and that this written opinion would follow.

II. Standard of Review

To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court will not "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Instead, the court will draw any permissible inference from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986).

Although the court will view all underlying facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the nonmoving party nonetheless must offer some "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his [or her] favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmoving party has the burden of proof on an essential element of his or her case and does not make, after adequate time for discovery, a showing sufficient to establish that element. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322--23 (1986). The nonmoving party ...

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