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Davis v. State Farm Insurance Companies

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

February 2, 2015

ANTHONY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANIES, a foreign corporation, Defendant.

Submitted: January 9, 2015

Upon Consideration of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

Upon Consideration of Plaintiff's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment.

Edward T. Ciconte, Esquire, CICONTE, WASSERMAN, SCERBA & KERRICK, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Plaintiff.

Patrick G. Rock, Esquire and Jason D. Warren, Esquire, HECKLER & FRABIZZIO, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION

Charles E. Butler Judge

FACTS

Anthony Davis ("Plaintiff") was in a car accident on August 11, 2011 and he sought, and received, "no fault" insurance coverage from his insurer, GEICO Casualty Company ("GEICO"). On November 21, 2012, GEICO sent a letter to Plaintiff's counsel informing counsel that Plaintiff's personal injury protection ("PIP") benefits had been exhausted. Somewhere along the way, it was learned that Plaintiff's mother had a policy with State Farm Insurance Company ("State Farm"). There is no dispute that Mr. Davis is a "covered person" under his mother's State Farm policy. On November 4, 2013 -- almost a year after exhausting the benefits under his GEICO policy -- Plaintiff sought coverage under his mother's State Farm policy.

Before State Farm responded, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit four days later, on November 8, 2013. According to Plaintiff, his November 4, 2013 letter included enclosures of medical bills, supporting medical records, and lost wage information. The PIP claim was opened by State Farm on December 3, 2013. On December 4, 2013 State Farm notified Plaintiff's counsel that two years had passed since the date of the accident and that Plaintiff's counsel should call to discuss the claim.

During December 2013, some communications were exchanged between State Farm and Plaintiff's counsel regarding information pertaining to Plaintiff's medical bills. State Farm formally denied the claim on February 24, 2014 in its Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint. State Farm affirmatively noted the Plaintiff's failure to submit the medical expenses within two years of the date of the accident in its defense.

PROCEDURAL POSTURE / SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS

State Farm has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that Delaware's PIP statute ("the Statute")[1] precludes recovery because Plaintiff failed to submit his medical expenses and lost wage information within the two years following the date of the accident. Plaintiff argues that his submission was timely and, even if not, that Defendant waived the right to raise the defense because it failed to do so in writing within thirty days of Plaintiff's submission of expenses to the carrier. Plaintiff filed a Cross Motion, arguing that State Farm's failure to comply with the requirements of 21 Del. C. §2118B(c), [2] by not paying the claim or providing a written explanation setting forth the basis for denial of the claim within thirty days of Plaintiff's submission of expenses to State Farm, entitles Plaintiff to summary judgment on the issue of liability. This Court heard argument on the instant motions on January 9, 2015.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When this Court considers a motion for summary judgment under Superior Court Civil Rule 56, the Court will "examine the record to determine whether genuine issues of material fact exist. If, after viewing the record in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, the Court finds there are no genuine issues of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate."[3] Where the parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment, and have not presented any genuine issues of material fact, "the Court shall deem the motions to be the equivalent of a stipulation for decision on the merits based on the record submitted with the ...


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