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Tony and Stephanie Sullivan v. Westfield Insurance Company

January 22, 2013

TONY AND STEPHANIE SULLIVAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
WESTFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Civil Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 11CV000397.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Jane Trapp, J.

Cite as

Sullivan v. Westfield Ins. Co.,

OPINION

Judgment: Affirmed.

{¶1} Appellants, Tony and Stephanie Sullivan, appeal from two judgments of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas. The first is an order dismissing certain named defendants from the action, while the second is an order granting appellee, Westfield Insurance Company's ("Westfield"), motion for summary judgment. Through the two orders, the trial court fully disposed of the action.

{¶2} We find that the trial court did not err in dismissing two of the named defendants, American Select Insurance Company ("American Select") and Ohio Farmers Insurance Company ("Ohio Farmers"), because the Sullivans failed to state a claim against those two entities upon which relief could be granted. We further find no error in the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the remaining defendant, Westfield, because the Sullivans' claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Therefore, the decisions of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas are affirmed.

Substantive Facts and Procedural History

{¶3} On October 5, 1994, the Supreme Court of Ohio, in Martin v. Midwestern Group Insurance Co., 70 Ohio St.3d 478, ruled that uninsured/underinsured ("UM/UIM") coverage followed the insureds under the policy and not the different vehicles in the household, eliminating the "other-owned vehicle exception" to UM/UIM coverage. This decision removed the necessity for insureds to pay UM/UIM premiums on each of the vehicles on their policy, allowing them to pay for such coverage on only one vehicle, but to have coverage for themselves and their resident family members while in any of their owned vehicles.

{¶4} Prior to and at the time of the Martin decision, the Sullivans had an automobile insurance policy through Westfield. Three cars were listed on the policy, and the Sullivans paid UM/UIM premiums on all three vehicles. On December 10, 1994, the Sullivans' insurance policy was up for renewal, however, they never completed their premium payments, and Westfield cancelled their insurance policy for non-payment on June 6, 1995.

{¶5} Over fifteen years after their policy was cancelled, the Sullivans filed a complaint against Westfield, American Select, and Ohio Farmers, asserting claims of breach of contract, and misrepresentation and fraud. They asserted these claims on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated. The crux of the Sullivans' complaint was that Westfield, American Select, and Ohio Farmers had sold them automobile insurance, including UM/UIM coverage, and had unnecessarily and fraudulently continued to charge them premiums for UM/UIM coverage on more than one vehicle, despite the holding in Martin, supra.

{¶6} As to the breach of contract claim, the Sullivans alleged Westfield provided "something other than what the parties contracted the plaintiffs would receive for payment of premiums for 'UM' on vehicles beyond the first; charging a fee for a 'benefit' which does not exist; breaching the fiduciary duty owed by the carrier to its customers; and breaching the contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing."

{¶7} In regard to the misrepresentation and fraud count, the Sullivans asserted that Westfield represented to them that "the amount they were paying for vehicles after the first was for UM coverage for the named insured and family members, when that was untrue; and was instead for guest coverage." They contended that they had so relied, to their detriment.

{¶8} Westfield, American Select, and Ohio Farmers filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which the trial court denied in part, granted in part, and converted in part to a motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), the trial court dismissed American Select and Ohio Farmers from the suit, finding that the Sullivans had failed to state a claim against those entities upon which relief could be granted.

The trial court determined that "[n]othing in the complaint indicates that the named plaintiffs had any contractual relationship with American Select Insurance Company or Ohio Farmers Insurance Company. The only allegation against American Select Insurance Company and Ohio Fa[r]mers Insurance Company is that they are subsidiaries of Westfield."

{ΒΆ9} Westfield also sought dismissal pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), but the trial court converted this branch of the motion into a motion for summary judgment and permitted the parties to further brief the matter. The trial court did so because Westfield's 12(B)(6) motion presented material outside ...


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