United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NO. 11.]
MARILYN L. HUFF, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT JUDGE
26, 2017, Plaintiff Pulte Home Corporation filed a motion for
partial summary judgment. (Doc. No. 11.) On June 26, 2017,
Defendant American Safety Indemnity Company
(“ASIC”) filed an opposition to Plaintiff's
motion. (Doc. No. 16.) On June 28, 2017, the Court took the
matter under submission. (Doc. No. 17.) On June 30, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc. No. 18.) For the reasons
below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for summary
a motion for summary judgment over choice of law. The present
action is an insurance coverage dispute between Plaintiff
Pulte and Defendant ASIC, where Plaintiff asserts that it
qualifies as an “additional insured” under the
relevant insurance policies issued by Defendant. (Doc. No. 1,
Compl. ¶ 8.) Each of the relevant policies contains a
choice-of-law provision stating: “This policy and all
additions to, endorsements to, or modifications of the policy
shall be interpreted under the laws of the State of
Georgia.” (Doc. No. 16-8, Newton Decl., Ex. 1 at 64,
Ex. 2 at 127, Ex. 3 at 197, Ex. 4 at 262, Ex. 5 at 331, Ex. 6
October 14, 2016, Plaintiff Pulte filed a complaint against
Defendant ASIC, alleging claims for declaratory relief,
breach of contract, and breach of the duty of good faith and
fair dealing. (Doc. No. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 25-60.) On
December 16, 2016, Defendant filed an answer to the
complaint. (Doc. No. 5.) In the answer, Defendant alleges as
an affirmative defense that the ASIC policies at issue are
governed by Georgia law pursuant to the Choice of Law/Consent
to Jurisdiction endorsements in the policies. (Id.
at 20.) By the present motion, Plaintiff moves for summary
judgment as to Defendant's choice-of-law affirmative
defense. (Doc. No. 11-1 at 2.) Specifically, Plaintiff argues
that the choice-of-law provision contained in the relevant
policies is unenforceable and that California law governs the
substantive issues in the case. (Id. at 1.)
Legal Standards for Summary Judgment
judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure if the moving party demonstrates that there
is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law,
it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986);
Fortune Dynamic, Inc. v. Victoria's Secret Stores
Brand Mgmt., Inc., 618 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2010).
“A genuine issue of material fact exists when the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Fortune
Dynamic, 618 F.3d at 1031 (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted); accord Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248. “Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts
will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.”
T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors
Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).
seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of
establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can
satisfy this 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 establish an essential element of the
nonmoving party's case that the nonmoving party bears the
burden of proving at trial. Id. at 322-23; Jones
v. Williams, 791 F.3d 1023, 1030 (9th Cir. 2015). Once
the moving party establishes the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
“set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in
Rule 56, ‘specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” T.W. Elec.
Serv., 809 F.2d at 630 (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e)); accord Horphag Research Ltd. v. Garcia, 475
F.3d 1029, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). To carry this burden, the
non-moving party “may not rest upon mere allegation or
denials of his pleadings.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 256; see also Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299,
309 (1996) (“On summary judgment, . . . the plaintiff
can no longer rest on the pleadings.”). Rather, the
nonmoving party “must present affirmative evidence . .
. from which a jury might return a verdict in his
favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
“Choice of law determinations, as well as contract
interpretation issues, are pure legal questions well-suited
to summary judgment.” Flintkote Co. v. Aviva
PLC, 177 F.Supp.3d 1165, 1172 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (citing
Shannon-Vail Five Inc. v. Bunch, 270 F.3d 1207, 1210
(9th Cir. 2001); TH&T Int'l Corp. v. Elgin
Indus., Inc., 216 F.3d 1084 (9th Cir. 2000)).
ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view the
facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The court should not weigh the
evidence or make credibility determinations. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “The evidence of the
non-movant is to be believed.” Id. Further,
the Court may consider other materials in the record not
cited to by the parties, but it is not required to do so.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Simmons v. Navajo
Cnty., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).
moves for summary judgment as to Defendant's
choice-of-law affirmative defense. (Doc. No. 11-1 at 1-2.) In
its motion, Plaintiff argues: (1) that the choice-of-law
provision in the relevant ASIC policies is unenforceable and
that California law governs the substantive issues in this
case; (2) that Defendant should be estopped from asserting
that Georgia law applies in this case; and (3) that even if
the choice-of-law provision is enforceable, Georgia law would
not apply to Plaintiff's tort claims. (Id. at
3-13.) The Court addresses each of these arguments raised by
Plaintiff in turn below.
Enforceability of the Choice-of-Law Provision
argues that the choice-of-law provision in the ASIC policies
is unenforceable and that California law governs the
substantive issues in this case. (Id. at 1, 3-9.) In
response, Defendant argues that the choice-of-law provision
is enforceable and presumptively applies because ASIC was