United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
GUIROLA, JR., CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment 
filed by the defendant Geico Indemnity Company. Geico argues
that the plaintiff Jacob Ladner's bad faith breach of
contract claim and his demand for punitive damages should be
dismissed with prejudice. Ladner has not filed a response in
opposition to the Motion. After reviewing the Motion, the
record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court
finds that the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment should be
21, 2013, Ladner was driving south on Mississippi 609 when
his vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by Pamela Novak.
(1st Am. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 13). Ladner claims that Novak
caused the accident when she failed to yield the right of
way. (Id.) He further asserts that Novak was an
uninsured motorist. (Id.)
was listed as an additional driver on an automobile insurance
policy issued to his parents, Tracy H. and Nicholas J.
Ladner, by Geico Indemnity Company for the period April 22,
2013, through October 22, 2013. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. A, ECF
No. 29-1). The policy, which insured four vehicles, provided
$5000 in medical payments coverage and $100, 000 per person/
$300, 000 per accident uninsured motorists bodily injury
a deposition, Ladner testified that he suffered neck and back
pain after the accident, as well as scratches and scrapes on
his foot and ankles and a rash on his neck. (Def.'s Mot.,
Ex. C at 17, ECF No. 29-3). He initially requested medical
payments coverage under the Geico policy, but in May of 2015,
after it became apparent that Novak was uninsured, Ladner
filed an uninsured motorists bodily injury claim. (Def.'s
Mot., Ex. B at 20, ECF No. 29-2). Geico paid Ladner $4185.50
for the injuries he suffered. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. D, ECF
No. 29-4). The claim records produced by Geico reveal that
Ladner, by and through counsel, demanded $40, 000 during
settlement discussions, and Geico offered $5300, because it
felt that some of the medical bills submitted were not
related to the accident. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. G, H, ECF No.
April 22, 2016, Ladner filed the present lawsuit against
Geico seeking coverage for injuries he claimed he suffered in
the accident. (Compl., ECF No. 1-2). Ladner later filed an
amended complaint in which he alleged that Geico
“failed to reasonably and promptly adjust the
claim.” (1st Am. Compl. at 6). Ladner attempted to
assert the following claims against Geico: breach of
contract, negligence, gross negligence, breach of the
covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary
duty, and bad faith. (Id. at 4-9). In support of his
bad faith claim, Ladner alleges:
By refusing to provide benefits of coverage and payment of
valid claims under the subject policy or policies, Defendant
[Geico] acted fraudulently, oppressively, maliciously, and
outrageously toward the Plaintiff with conscious disregard
for his rights under the law and under the subject policy or
policies, and with the intent and design of benefiting
[Geico] financially, of harassing Plaintiff, of avoiding the
payment of amounts due for the valid claim of Plaintiff, and
of causing or willfully disregarding the probability of
causing severe emotional distress to the Plaintiff. [Geico]
has also refused to timely communicate with Plaintiff as to
the status of the evaluation of Plaintiff's claim, and
fail[ed] to pay policy limits after promising to do so.
(Id. at 9). He seeks compensatory,
extra-contractual, and punitive damages. (Id. at
has filed the present Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,
alleging that Ladner's bad faith claim and demand for
punitive damages should be dismissed with prejudice. For the
purposes of its Motion, Geico does not dispute that Novak was
an uninsured motorist or Ladner's assertion that Novak
caused the accident that injured him.
motion for summary judgment may be filed by any party
asserting that there is no genuine issue of material fact and
that the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law on
any claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The movant bears the initial
burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings and
discovery on file, together with any affidavits, which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 325 (1986). Once the movant carries its burden, the
burden shifts to the non-movant to show that summary judgment
should not be granted. Id. at 324-25. The non-movant
may not rest upon mere allegations or denials in its
pleadings but must set forth specific facts showing the
existence of a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986).
noted above, Ladner did not file a response to Geico's
Motion. A motion for summary judgment cannot be granted
simply because there is no opposition, even if the failure to
oppose violated a local rule. Factual controversies are
resolved in favor of the non-moving party, but only when
there is an actual controversy; that is, when both parties
have submitted evidence of contradictory facts. Little v.
Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).
Ultimately, the movant has the burden of establishing the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact and, unless he
has done so, the court may not grant the motion, regardless
of whether any response was filed. Hibernia Nat. Bank v.
Administracion Cent. Sociedad Anonima, 776 F.2d 1277,
1279 (5th Cir. 1985).
law imposes on insurers ‘a duty to perform a prompt and
adequate investigation and make a reasonable, good faith
decision based on that investigation, ' and insurers
‘may be liable for punitive damages for denying a claim
in bad faith.'” Dey v. State Farm Mut. Auto.
Ins. Co., 789 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Broussard v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 523
F.3d 618, 627 (5th Cir. 2008)). “In order to succeed on
a bad faith claim, a claimant ‘must show that [the
insurer] denied the claim (1) without an arguable or
legitimate basis, either in fact or law, and (2) with malice
or gross negligence in disregard of the insured's
rights.'” Id. (quoting Hoover v.
United Servs. Auto Ass'n, 125 So.3d 636, 643 (Miss.
2013)). An “arguable basis” is “nothing
more than an expression indicating the act or acts of the
alleged tortfeasor do not rise to heightened level of an
independent tort.” Univ. Life Ins. Co. v.
Veasley, 610 So.2d 290, 293 (Miss. 1992). Pocketbook
disputes between an insurer and an insured as to the value of
a claim generally do not rise to the level of an independent
tort. Dey, 789 F.3d at 634 (citing Cossitt v.
Alfa Ins. Corp., 72 ...