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Greene v. Allstate Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware

November 9, 2017

FRANK GREENE, Plaintiff,

          Submitted: September 25, 2017


          Vivian L. Medinilla, Judge

         AND NOW TO WIT, this 9th day of November, 2017, after ruling from the bench, upon consideration of the parties' representations at the pre-trial status conference immediately preceding trial on September 25, 2017, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Complaint must be DISMISSED for the following reasons:

         Factual and Procedural Background

         1. Plaintiff, Frank Greene ("Plaintiff) is a self-represented litigant who was involved in a motor vehicle accident on March 6, 2013. This matter does not involve personal or bodily injuries. Instead, the dispute is over additional monies allegedly owed by Defendant Allstate Insurance Company ("Defendant" or "Allstate"), the insurer responsible for the total loss of Plaintiffs 2007 Toyota Tundra ("vehicle").

         2. Following the accident, the record shows various exchanges and communications between the parties where Plaintiff sent the vehicle's title to Allstate after he received two checks, presumably related to the property loss.[1] One check was for $12, 684 for the total loss and the other for $250, reimbursing Plaintiff the amount of his property damage deductible.[2] Plaintiff deposited the checks in March and July of 2013, respectively.[3]

         3. Twenty months later, Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 6, 2015.[4]He alleged he was not paid enough to cover the "actual cash value" of his vehicle. Therefore, he claims he is owed the difference between the actual cash value of his vehicle and the amounts he previously received for a total of approximately $9, 000.

         4. Defendant maintained throughout the litigation that Plaintiff has settled his claim and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on July 18, 2016. In response, Plaintiff merely stated he "did not plan to attend the hearing on the Motion."[5]

         5. Plaintiff was instructed that his response did not provide the Court with specific reasons to excuse his appearance and that failure to show could result in dismissal of his case.[6] He appeared at the hearing and the Court gave him time to respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment. He was also reminded that he needed to comply with the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. On December 1, 2016, ten days after oral arguments, Plaintiff responded to the Motion for Summary Judgment.[7]

         6. Although Plaintiffs response was lacking under a proper Rule 56 analysis, Plaintiff survived Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment only because this Court found that the sole case that Allstate relied upon in support of their motion was distinguishable from the facts of this case such that dismissal was inappropriate at that time[8]

         7. At all times during the litigation, the Court has reiterated to Plaintiff during conferences, case status teleconferences, and from the bench the basic rules of evidence, concepts of hearsay, and how to present his matter to a jury. This was especially so when Plaintiff sought to introduce evidence without witnesses and through self-made exhibits created from unknown and known internet websites. These admonitions were memorialized in writing to remind Plaintiff that he needed to comply with all Rules of Evidence and the Superior Court Civil Rules.[9]

         8. Trial was continued three times.[10] A January 23rd trial had to be continued to July 20th in order to give Plaintiff time to procure a witness and to order mediation.[11] This was done in an effort to further assist Plaintiff not only to reach a resolution, but to allow Plaintiff to hear from a neutral party what would be expected of him at trial. This was unsuccessful.

         9. On February 13, 2017, this Court, again, ruled in favor of Plaintiff when it denied Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Witness.[12] Defendant had moved to strike this sole witness due to Plaintiffs failure to comply with the Court's trial scheduling order after Plaintiff identified, for the first time, Mr. Anthony Harris, in his February 8th Pretrial Stipulation, and did not disclose the scope or relevancy of Mr. Harris' testimony. This Court denied Defendant's motion on the basis that to exclude this testimony would result in dismissal, and such a sanction was not appropriate under Drejka v. Hitchens Tire Service Inc. or Christian v. Counseling Resources Associates, Inc.[13] Plaintiff was permitted to call Mr. Harris despite the untimeliness of naming him as a witness and his failure to comply with the scheduling order.

         10. Trial was re-scheduled for July 20. Unfortunately, this trial date had to be moved to September 25 after Plaintiff contacted the Court one or two days earlier to request another continuance because his sole witness had a scheduling conflict that made the witness unavailable to appear.[14] Again, without his witness, he would be unable to present his case so the Court granted Plaintiffs request to September 25, and told Plaintiff he would not be granted any more continuances.

         11. On September 25, 2017, this Court met with the parties to determine what evidence was expected to be presented by Plaintiff in advance of trial primarily because of the above-mentioned issues.

         12. In the courtroom, the Court heard for the first time from defense counsel that he had taken the deposition of Plaintiff s sole witness, Mr. Harris, who could not testify regarding the actual cash value of the vehicle. The Court asked the witness himself and he confirmed that he was unable to offer any opinion or comment related to the ...

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