United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Nugent United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court upon cross-motions for summary
judgment. Defendant Allstate Fire & Casualty Insurance
Company, ("Allstate") filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF #52), and Plaintiffs, Amos and Laura Baldwin
filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF #51). The
briefing was completed on December 23, 2019, and both parties
had the opportunity to orally argue their motions at a status
conference on December 30, 2019. (ECF #56, 57, 58, 59, 60).
The parties agree that there is no factual dispute which
would be relevant to the issue of coverage or Plaintiffs'
claim of bad faith. Both sides, therefore, are asking the
Court to decide these issues based on the agreed facts and
the language of the applicable contracts. If the Court finds
that Plaintiffs were covered under the policy, Plaintiff
maintains that the question of damages would remain a triable
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
originally filed this action in Cuyahoga County Court of
Common Pleas against Defendant, Allstate, seeking coverage
under their insurance contract with Allstate. The Complaint
alleged that Mr. Baldwin suffered bodily injury in an
automobile accident in which he was hit from behind by an
unidentified driver. (ECF #1-2). Mr. Baldwin's wife also
claimed damages for loss of consortium and the cost of Mr.
Baldwin's treatment. (Id.) Plaintiffs included a
bad faith claim against Allstate. (Id.).
removed the case to federal court. (ECF #1). The parties both
admit to the authenticity of the certified copy of the
insurance policy attached as Exhibit A to the Plaintiffs
Complaint. (ECF #1-2, 4). Plaintiffs later filed a First
Amended Complaint naming Danielle Sanders as a defendant.
(ECF #15). Ms. Sanders is a Georgia resident who is now known
as Danielle Key Wright. Allstate did not object. (ECF #14).
The First Amended Complaint alleged that Ms. Wright was the
driver of the car that hit Mr. Baldwin, causing his injuries.
Following discovery, it was determined that Ms. Wright had
been misidentified and was not the driver of the vehicle at
issue, nor was she present at, or in any way connected to the
accident. (ECF #46). She was, consequently, dismissed from
the action without opposition. (ECF #55).
purposes of these motions, the parties agree to the following
facts. An unidentified driver struck Mr. Baldwin's
vehicle from behind on May 20, 2016 at the intersection of
South Taylor Road and Terrace Boulevard in the City of East
Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Baldwin was stopped at a traffic signal
at the time of impact. The impact was severe enough to cause
damage to Mr. Baldwin's vehicle and to cause him bodily
injury. Mr. Baldwin required treatment for his injuries.
person who hit Mr. Baldwin was a man in his late thirties or
early forties with black hair and was driving a grey Dodge
truck. (ECF #46-1: A. Baldwin Depo. at 45-46, 49-50). This
other driver stopped and came over to Mr. Baldwin to
apologize explaining that the brakes had gone out on his
truck. He did not give Mr. Baldwin his name, insurance
information, or any contact information. The man did remain
at the scene until the East Cleveland Police arrived, and
spoke with the police. (ECF #46-1: A. Baldwin Depo. at
46-47). After speaking with the police officer, the man left
is no evidence that the other driver left his name or any
other identifying information with the officer. When Mr.
Baldwin sought to obtain the driver's information from
the police, he received a report that did not include any
identifying information for the other driver or the vehicle
that struck him. (ECF #51-3). Mr. Baldwin later received a
supplemental report. The supplemental report misidentified
the other vehicle as a white Dodge Ram that was rented to Ms.
Wright at the time of the accident. (ECF #51 -4). Neither Ms.
Wright, nor a white Dodge Ram were actually involved in or
present at the time of the accident. (ECF #46-1, 46-2). The
supplemental report did not identify the driver of the other
vehicle, or identify any insurance covering the driver or the
vehicle. (ECF #51 -4).
time of the accident, Mr. Baldwin was insured by Defendant,
Allstate. That policy provides coverage for medical payment
benefits, and for damages a person is "legally entitled
to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured
auto." (ECF #1-2, at 41). An "uninsured auto"
is defined, in relevant part, as follows:
4. a hit-and-run motor vehicle which causes bodily injury to
an insured person or an additional insured person. The
identity of both the operator and the owner of the vehicle
must be unknown; however, independent corroborative evidence
must exist to prove that the bodily injury of the insured
person or additional insured person was proximately caused by
the negligence or intentional acts of the unidentified
operator of the motor vehicle. The testimony of any insured
person or additional insured person seeking recovery from us
shall not constitute independent corroborative evidence
unless the testimony is supported by additional evidence. The
accident must be reported within 24 hours to the proper
authorities. We must be notified within 30 days from the date
of the accident. If the insured person or additional insured
person was occupying a vehicle at the time of the accident,
we have a right to inspect it.
claims that the medical expenses for treatment of his
accident related injuries totalled $19, 300.00. Prior to the
filing of this lawsuit, and following the receipt of a demand
letter, Allstate eventually offered Mr. Baldwin $5, 000.00 in
medical coverage plus an additional $5, 994.00 to avoid suit.
judgment is appropriate when the court is satisfied
"that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). A fact is
"material" only if its resolution will affect the
outcome of the lawsuit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Accordingly, proper
summary judgment analysis entails "the threshold inquiry
of determining whether there is the need for a trial -
whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues
that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact
because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party." Id. at 250.
coverage questions are generally questions of law for the
Court to decide. See, Stafford v. Jewelers Mut. Ins.
Co.,554 Fed.Appx. 360, 373 (6th Cir. 2014).
"[W]ords and phrases used in an insurance policy must be
given their natural and commonly accepted meaning, where they
in fact possess such meaning, to the end that a reasonable
interpretation of the insurance contract consistent with the
apparent object and plain intent of the parties may be
determined." Sauer v. Crews, 140 Ohio St.3d