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Clark v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

June 23, 2015

REBECCA CLARK and JAMES SMITH, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

Submitted: March 30, 2015

ORDER

JAN R. JURDEN, PRESIDENT JUDGE

Before the Court is Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's ("State Farm") Motion for Summary Judgment on Count I (Declaratory Judgment) of Plaintiffs' Complaint.

1. On February 20, 2014, Plaintiffs Rebecca Clark and James Smith, and and others similarly situated ("Plaintiffs"), filed a Proposed Class Action Complaint ("Complaint") against State Farm, which included four counts: (1) Declaratory Judgment; (2) Breach of Contract; (3) Bad Faith Breach of Contract; and (4) Statutory Consumer Fraud.[1] All four counts were based on Plaintiffs' allegations that State Farm had improperly deducted statutory interest payments from Plaintiffs' Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") coverage limits in their automobile policies, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 2118B.[2]

2. On June 19, 2014, State Farm filed a Motion for Summary Judgment ("June 19 Motion for Summary Judgment").[3]

3. On August 20, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to Amend their Complaint pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 15(a).[4] Count I of Plaintiffs' Proposed Amended Complaint ("PAC") sought a declaratory judgment against State Farm for improperly deducting statutory interest payments, a claim identical to Count I of the Complaint.[5] In Count II of the PAC, Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that State Farm violated 21 Del. C. § 2118B by adopting an improper practice of delaying processing, payment, and denial of claims for PIP.[6]

4. On October 14, 2014, the Court granted State Farm's June 19 Motion for Summary Judgment on all four counts of the Complaint ("October 14 Order")[7]because Plaintiffs advised the Court that they would not contest State Farm's motion.[8] On October 15, 2014, however, the Court modified the October 14 Order by deferring ruling on Count I (Declaratory Judgment) until after the pending Motion for Leave to Amend was resolved.[9]

5. On March 30, 2015, the Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend, finding that Plaintiffs failed to plead an immediate, or about to be immediate, controversy between the parties.[10] The Court found Plaintiffs' claim for declaratory relief amounted to a request for an advisory or hypothetical opinion.[11]

6. Thus, State Farm's Motion for Summary Judgment on Count I of the original Complaint is now ripe. In reviewing a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, the Court must determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist.[12] The moving party bears the burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact so that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[13] The Court must view all factual inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.[14] Summary judgment will not be granted if it appears that there is a material fact in dispute or that further inquiry into the facts would be appropriate.[15]

7. As noted above, Count I of the Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that State Farm was deducting statutory interest payments from PIP limits in violation of 21 Del. C. § 2118B.[16] Count I of the Complaint relies on a theory the Plaintiffs are no longer pursuing.[17] Consequently, the Court finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute with regard to Count I of the Complaint.

WHEREFORE, State Farm's Motion for Summary Judgment on Count I of the Complaint is GRANTED.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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