United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
B. BIGGERS, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is the defendant Allstate Property and
Casualty Insurance Company's motion for partial summary
judgment. Upon due consideration of the motion, response,
exhibits, and applicable authority, the court is ready to
and Procedural Background
diversity action against Allstate Property and Casualty
Insurance Company for contractual and bad faith claims arises
as the result of an automobile accident occurring on May 25,
2017, in Tate County, Mississippi. Plaintiff Sherry Knight
alleges she was exiting Interstate 55, traveling southbound
on the exit ramp to merge onto East Main Street, when an
automobile driven by Ms. Betty Webb collided with her
automobile. Following the accident, Plaintiff was transported
via medical helicopter to Regional One Health Center where
she underwent numerous diagnostic tests. She was discharged
after approximately twelve hours and was not admitted to the
five days after the accident, Plaintiff sought treatment at
Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics. She also sought physical
therapy treatment. At the time the present motion was filed,
Plaintiff's medical expenses totaled approximately $71,
insurer, Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance, has paid to
Plaintiff its liability limit of $50, 000.00 in this matter.
Additionally, Defendant Allstate has paid its
“MedPay” limit of $1, 000.00.
initially demanded, via letter dated January 17, 2018, that
Allstate pay $300, 000.00 to settle the underinsured motorist
portion of the claim against Allstate. In response to this
demand, Allstate offered $30, 000.00. Allstate alleges that
Plaintiffs' counsel counter-demanded $245, 000.00 in
response, but this counter-demand was apparently not reduced
to writing. Plaintiffs assert the counter-demand to the $30,
000.00 offer was $275, 000.00. Regardless, Allstate
counter-offered $35, 000.00 on April 16, 2018, which
represents the last offer made prior to Plaintiffs'
filing this lawsuit.
filed their complaint on May 17, 2018, asserting claims for
breach of contract and bad faith. Plaintiff Darryl Knight,
Sherry Knight's husband, also asserts a claim for loss of
consortium. Plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint on
July 30, 2018, to assert additional information regarding
Defendant Allstate's citizenship for the purposes of
establishing diversity jurisdiction. Allstate has now moved
for partial summary judgment seeking dismissal of the bad
faith claim against it.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). On a motion for summary judgment, the
movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant makes
such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to
“go beyond the pleadings and . . . designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324. Further, the non-movant “must do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view
the underlying facts in the “light most favorable to
the party opposing the motion.” United States v.
Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). As such, all
reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the
non-movant. Id. Before finding that no genuine issue
for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no
rational trier of fact could find for the non-movant.
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (1986). “Summary
judgment, although a useful device, must be employed
cautiously because it is a final adjudication on the
merits.” Jackson v. Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1241
(5th Cir. 1989).
faith claim is essentially a plaintiff's request that
punitive damages be assessed against a defendant for certain
types of especially egregious conduct. “Punitive
damages should be assessed with caution and within narrow
limits as an example and warning.” Standard Life
Ins. Co. v. Veal, 354 So.2d 239, 247 (Miss. 1977). A
plaintiff carries a “heavy burden” when pursuing
punitive damages based on a bad faith claim. Jenkins v.
Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 794 So.2d 228, 232 (Miss. 2001).
Mississippi Supreme Court has set forth a two-step inquiry to
be utilized when a court is presented with determining
whether a bad faith claim may proceed. “The issue of
punitive damages should not be submitted to the jury unless
the trial court determines that there are jury issues with
regard to whether: 1. The insurer lacked an arguable or
legitimate basis for denying the claim, and 2. The
insurer committed a willful or malicious wrong, or acted with
gross and reckless disregard for the insured's
rights.” State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v.
Grimes, 722 So.2d 637 (Miss. 1998). Both questions must
be answered in the ...