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Lively v. Government Employees Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware

May 30, 2018

BESSIE Y. LIVELY Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          Submitted: April 20, 2018

          ORDER

          Abigail M. LeGrow, Judge

         Government Employees Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment: Granted

         1. Plaintiffs claim in this case arises from injuries she sustained in an auto accident. Plaintiff seeks benefits from an insurance policy she allegedly had with GEICO, while GEICO argues her insurance policy was cancelled before the accident due to nonpayment of premiums. A week before the accident, Plaintiff attempted to reinstate her policy through a phone call, but the call was disconnected before the payment was processed. Two days after the phone call, Plaintiff sent an email to GEICO inquiring as to the status of her policy. Five minutes later, GEICO responded by email explaining Plaintiffs policy was not reinstated. Five days later, Plaintiff was injured in the auto accident. The two issues in this case are (1) whether a binding insurance contract existed after the disconnected phone call, or, if not, (2) whether promissory estoppel applies to prevent GEICO from denying Plaintiff the benefits of the insurance policy. Because I find no contract existed after the disconnected phone call, and promissory estoppel does not apply, GEICO is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         2. The following facts are drawn from the joint stipulation of facts and the record appended to the parties' briefs. Bessie Lively had auto insurance with GEICO beginning in 2011. On January 25, 2016, GEICO sent Lively a Notice of Cancellation after she failed to pay several monthly premiums. The notice advised Lively that failure to pay $85.60 by February 5, 2016, would result in the immediate cancellation of her policy. Lively failed to tender payment on February 5, 2016, and GEICO cancelled her policy that day.

         3. On March 23, 2016, Lively called GEICO to reinstate her policy. During the call, Lively spoke with GEICO service representative Samuel Cooper for approximately forty-five minutes. Lively provided Cooper with all the information necessary to reinstate her policy with GEICO, including payment information, and the parties agreed on a quote for the cost of reinstatement. A GEICO policy becomes effective after: (1) the customer service representative receives the payment card information, (2) the customer grants authority to process the payment, and (3) the customer service representative processes the payment.[1]Under GEICO's procedures, Cooper had authority to reinstate Lively's policy once her payment was processed.

         4. The call was disconnected, however, before Cooper processed Lively's payment. Neither Cooper nor Lively attempted to reconnect the call, and Cooper neither processed the payment nor reinstated Lively's policy. Cooper made a note in GEICO's internal record system stating "policyholder called in to reissue, line disconnected. If policy holder [sic] calls back, please get new card information and go over discounts." Lively, on the other hand, allegedly believed GEICO renewed her policy after the March 23 call.

         5. On March 25, 2016, Lively found her insurance information was unavailable on GEICO's website. At 2:30 p.m. on that day, Lively sent an email to GEICO inquiring as to the status of her insurance. At 2:35 p.m., GEICO replied to Lively's email, informing her that her policy was not reissued because the premium payment was not processed. Lively did not respond to GEICO's email and took no steps to communicate further with GEICO.

         6. On March 30, 2016, Lively was involved in a motor vehicle accident. According to the complaint, Lively suffered physical injury and required medical attention. On March 31, 2016, Lively called GEICO to report a claim, but GEICO informed her she was not insured at the time of the accident.

         7. On July 13, 2016, Lively brought this action against GEICO. The complaint alleged Lively had an insurance policy with GEICO during the time of the accident, and that GEICO failed to fulfill its legal and contractual obligations by refusing to pay Lively's medical expenses. On February 14, 2017, the Court issued an order scheduling the case for a two-day trial beginning on April 30, 2018. The order also set a November 9, 2017, deadline for dispositive motions.[2]

         8. On November 9, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion proposing to amend the scheduling order by extending the dispositive motion deadline to December 9, 2017.[3] The Court denied the proposed amended scheduling order, noting the parties had offered no explanation for the delay, and the extension would impose on the Court's time to resolve the motions.[4]

         9. On November 28, 2017, GEICO filed a letter, explaining the proposed amended scheduling order was necessary due to an unavoidable delay in delivering several documents requested by Lively.[5] Additionally, the parties suggested the Court's summary judgment ruling would resolve the case and make trial unnecessary. On November 29, 2017, this Court extended the dispositive motion deadline to December 9, 2017. On January 5, 2018, nearly a month after the extended deadline had passed, GEICO filed its summary judgment motion.

         10. On January 9, 2018, this Court advised the parties by letter that it would not entertain GEICO's motion for summary judgment because the motion was filed substantially beyond the extended deadline.[6] The Court stated that, due to the history of the case, it intended to consider dispositive motions only if the parties agreed "to submit their dispute to the Court for resolution on a paper record. That is, unless the parties agree there are no disputed issues of material fact, this case will be tried."[7] The parties agreed to resolve the case on a paper record during a teleconference held on January 19, 2018. The Court therefore entered an order vacating the trial scheduling order and setting new deadlines for the ...


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