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Rick Chaidez v. Progressive Choice Insurance Company and Does 1-50

May 9, 2013

RICK CHAIDEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PROGRESSIVE CHOICE INSURANCE COMPANY AND DOES 1-50, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew Senior, U.S. District Court Judge

ORDER Re: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [14]

Currently before the Court is Defendant Progressive Choice Insurance Company's ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment, or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment [14]. The Court, having reviewed all papers and arguments submitted pertaining to this Motion, NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS:

The Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

This Action stems from a Complaint filed by Plaintiff Rick Chaidez ("Plaintiff") against Defendant Progressive Choice Insurance Company ("Progressive" or "Defendant") for bad faith denial of insurance benefits

[1]. The only cause of action that Plaintiff asserts against Defendant is bad faith denial of insurance benefits. Compl. ¶¶ 9-13. Plaintiff asserts that by denying the claim for his allegedly stolen vehicle ("Vehicle"), Defendant unreasonably and in bad faith denied benefits promised to Plaintiff under his insurance contract. Id. On March 20, 2013, Defendant filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment [14]. Defendant's Motion is based on the contention that 1) Defendant did not improperly withhold policy benefits from Plaintiff because Plaintiff's intentional misrepresentation of material facts during Defendant's claim investigation voided his policy coverage, 2) Defendant did not act in bad faith because it made a diligent and reasonable investigation of Plaintiff's claim and denied said claim because of the advice of outside counsel and because of a genuine dispute over Defendant's coverage liability, and 3) Plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages because he does not have clear and convincing evidence that Defendant denied his claim out of oppression, fraud, or malice.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" for purposes of summary judgment if it might affect the outcome of the suit, and a "genuine issue" exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The evidence, and any inferences based on underlying facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. v. MCA, Inc., 715 F.2d 1327, 1329 (9th Cir. 1983).

Where the moving party does not have the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, the moving party may meet its burden for summary judgment by showing an "absence of evidence" to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

The non-moving party, on the other hand, is required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) to go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Conclusory allegations unsupported by factual allegations are insufficient to create a triable issue of fact so as to preclude summary judgment. Hansen v. United States, 7 F.3d 137, 138 (9th Cir. 1993). A non- moving party who has the burden of proof at trial must present enough evidence that a "fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [non-moving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court's function is not to weigh the evidence, but only to determine if a genuine issue of material fact exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

B. Partial Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(g) authorizes courts to grant partial summary judgment in order to limit the issues to be tried in a case. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Geary, 699 F. Supp. 756, 759 (N.D. Cal. 1987) (citing Lies v. Farrell Lines, Inc., 641 F.2d 765, 769 n.3 (9th Cir. 1981)). Absent a specific statute authorizing otherwise, a partial summary judgment under Rule 56(g) is not a final judgment but rather an interlocutory summary adjudication or a pre-trial order, neither of which is ...


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