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Ward v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

July 19, 2019

Teena Ward, individually and as administrator for deceased Charles W. Ward, Plaintiff
v.
Auto-Owners Insurance Company, Defendant

          ORDER

          JAMES G. CARR SR. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an insurance dispute. Plaintiff Teena Ward (Teena) raises bad-faith and breach of contract claims against defendant Auto-Owners Insurance Company (Auto-Owners).

         Auto-Owners insured the truck Teena's husband, Charles Ward (Charles) drove for work. Charles died after a July 18, 2017, on-the-job collision that another driver, Lisa Price, allegedly caused. Believing Price had insufficient insurance coverage to compensate her losses, Teena filed a claim with Auto-Owners for underinsured motorist benefits. While processing the claim, Auto-Owners agreed to advance Teena $100, 000, which was the limit on Price's insurance policy, in exchange for an assignment of Teena's rights to pursue further relief against Price. Teena alleges, however, that Auto-Owners repeatedly delayed processing her claim and, eventually, offered her a “low-ball” sum to resolve it.

         Pending is Auto-Owners's motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7) and 19. (Doc. 5). Auto-Owners contends that Price is a necessary and indispensable party to this action, and, because joining Price would destroy jurisdiction, I must dismiss the case.

         For the reasons that follow, I deny the motion without prejudice.

         Background

         Charles Ward was a truck driver for Brookside Trucking, Inc. (Brookside), and Auto-Owners insured the truck he drove for work. (Doc. 1 at 1, ¶ 2). The policy covering the truck included $1 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. (Id.).

         The July 18, 2017, fatal crash occurred when Price, allegedly negligently, drove her car away from a stop sign and into Charles's path.[1] (Doc. 1 at 1, ¶ 1).

         On or about July 26, 2017, Teena, as administrator of Charles's estate, filed a claim with Auto-Owners for underinsured motorist benefits because she thought Price had insufficient insurance coverage to pay the costs of the crash. (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 6). Just over two weeks later, Auto-Owners confirmed that Price was underinsured. (Id. at 2, ¶ 7). In the meantime, Price's insurer, Erie Insurance Company (Erie), offered Teena $100, 000 - the limit on Price's policy - “to resolve her liability for the subject collision.” (Id. at 2, ¶ 8).

         The Auto-Owners policy's underinsured motorist provisions provide coverage where b. A tentative settlement has been made between an insured and the insurer of the underinsured motor vehicle and [Auto-Owners]:

(1) [Has] been given prompt written notice of such settlement; and
(2) Advance[s] payment to the insured in an amount equal to the tentative settlement within 30 days after receipt of notification.

(Doc. 5-2 at 44).

         Auto Owners memorialized its payment of $100, 000 Teena for her assignment of her right to recover against Price in a ...


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