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Bray v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

March 24, 2014

EMILY BRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.

Submitted: January 28, 2014

Upon Consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss DENIED

William D. Fletcher, Jr., Esquire, Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware for Plaintiff.

Christina M. Gafford, Esquire, Tybout, Redfearn & Pell, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant.

ORDER

Robert B. Young J.

SUMMARY

Wal-Mart Stores East, LP ("Defendant") has moved to dismiss Emily Bray's ("Plaintiff") Complaint pursuant to Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12 (b)(6). This matter involves Plaintiff's premises liability personal injury claim, which arose from alleged injuries sustained while Plaintiff was present on Defendant's premises at the Wal-Mart store in Milford, Delaware on August 4, 2011. Plaintiff filed her suit on November 13, 2013, after the applicable two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions had expired. Plaintiff has asserted that, because she was not advised, pursuant to 18 Del. Code § 3914, of that applicable limitation, her claim is not time-barred. In this Motion to Dismiss, however, Defendant argues that, because Defendant is a commercial retail business, not an insurer, Defendant was not required to give Plaintiff notice of the applicable statute of limitations in compliance with 18 Del. Code § 3914. Since the factual issue of Defendant's status as a "self-insured" is not determined at this early stage, Defendant's present Motion is DENIED.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL POSTURE

Allegedly, on August 4, 2011, Plaintiff sustained injuries on Defendant's premises at the Wal-Mart store in Milford, Delaware. Plaintiff notified Defendant of her claim by a letter sent on August 19, 2011. Defendant's claims' handler Claims Management, Inc. ("CMI") responded to Plaintiff's letter by two written pieces of correspondence on September, 12, 2011, and one written correspondence on September 20, 2011. All of these written communications were signed by Christine Williamson, designated as GL Case Manager. In each communication, Christine Williams did not provide any notification about the applicable statute of limitations.

Plaintiff filed her lawsuit on November 13, 2013, two years, three months, and nine days after the alleged injuries occurred. On January 10, 2014, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. On January 27, Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. At this time, no discovery has been conducted on the issue of Defendant's status as an insurer.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"A motion to dismiss under [Superior Court Civil] Rule 12(b)(6) presents the question of 'whether a plaintiff may recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of proof under the complaint.'"[1] "When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must read the complaint generously, accept all well-[pled] allegations as true, and construe them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff."[2] "A complaint is 'well-pled' if it puts the opposing party on notice of the claim being brought against it. Dismissal is warranted only when 'under no reasonable interpretation of the facts alleged could the complaint state a claim for which relief might be granted.'"[3]

DISCUSSION

18 Del. Code § 3914, a brief, but only superficially simple, statute states that "an insurer" presented with a claim pursuant to "a casualty insurance policy" has obligations regarding information to the claimant. The failure to satisfy those obligations has been held to preclude the insurer's reliance upon an otherwise applicable statute ...


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