United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.
This insurance-coverage dispute is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment  filed by Defendants The Allstate Corporation aka Allstate Life Insurance Company ("Allstate") and American Health and Life Insurance Company ("AHL"). Plaintiff Hazel Roberts filed no response. Having considered the premises, the Court concludes that the motion should be granted.
In very general terms, Jeffery D. Roberts purchased three insurance polices from the Defendants, the first in 1982 and the last in 1996. There appears to be no dispute that the policies were cancelled due to nonpayment and that all coverage expired by January 2011. Tragically, Roberts died in May of that year. Though the policies expired, Roberts's widow, Plaintiff Hazel Roberts, made a claim on all three-all three claims were denied.
Aggrieved by the insurer's decision, Roberts originally filed suit in the County Court of Laurderdale County, Mississippi, but Defendants removed the case July 24, 2013, based on diversity of citizenship. Roberts never moved to remand, the parties are clearly diverse, and the demand exceeds $75, 000. Accordingly, the Court exercises subject-matter jurisdiction.
A case-management conference occurred October 8, 2013, and nothing else happened until Defendants moved for summary judgment on February 5, 2014. Plaintiff failed to respond, prompting a March 21, 2014 show-cause order directing her to either respond or concede the motion no later than April 4, 2014. Plaintiff then sought and received an extension of time until April 11, 2014 to file her response. In that motion, counsel indicated that family medical issues had hampered his efforts. But the extended deadline also expired without response. Given the nature of Plaintiff's excuse, the Court entered a final show cause order on April 21, directing response by April 25. While the Court is sympathetic to counsel's stated reason for the initial failure to respond, it must now address the pending motion.
Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. "The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Washburn v. Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)); see also Custer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., 503 F.3d 415, 422 (5th Cir. 2007) (noting that the moving party bears the "burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact"). "The non-moving party must then come forward with specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508.
In this case, Plaintiff filed no response, but that alone will not justify granting Defendant's motion. See Uniform Local Rule 7.2(b)(3)(e) (dispositive motions may not be granted as unopposed). As explained by the Fifth Circuit, district courts must first consider the record.
[I]f the moving party fails to establish by its summary judgment evidence that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment must be denied-even if the non-movant has not responded to the motion. But where the movant's summary judgment evidence does establish its right to judgment as a matter of law, the district court is entitled to grant summary judgment, absent unusual circumstances.
McDaniel v. Sw. Bell Tel., 979 F.2d 1534, 1992 WL 352617, at *1 (5th Cir. 1992) (unpublished table decision) (citations omitted) (affirming summary judgment where counsel failed to file timely response).
In other words, the Court cannot grant a summary judgment motion for the mere lack of response, but if the record establishes that the movant met its burden under Rule 56(a), then the absence of responsive affidavits or other record evidence creating a genuine issue for trial will justify an order granting the motion. Id .; see also Sanders v. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., 199 F.Appx. 309, 310 (5th Cir. 2006) (holding that record supported summary judgment where nonmovant failed to respond); Stewart v. City of Bryan Public Works, 121 F.Appx. 40, 42 (5th Cir. 2005) (same); Ahart v. Vickery, 117 F.Appx. 344, 344 (5th Cir. 2004) (same).
A. Failure to ...