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Echevarria v. State, Insurance Coverage Office

Superior Court of Delaware

March 7, 2019

Clay Echevarria
v.
State of Delaware Insurance Coverage Office and Liberty Mutual General Insurance Company

          Joseph C. Handlon, Esquire

          Wade A. Adams III, Esquire Law Offices of Chrissinger & Baumberger

          Paul A. Wemle, Jr., Esquire Law Office of Paul A. Wemle, Jr.

         Dear Counsel:

         This is the Court's ruling on Defendant State of Delaware Insurance Coverage Office's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiffs Motion to Amend the Complaint to Seek Relief Pursuant to the Doctrine of Promissory Estoppel. For the reasons stated below, Defendant State of Delaware Insurance Coverage Office's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Plaintiffs Motion to Amend the Complaint is DENIED.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On March 9, 2013, Plaintiff Clay Echevarria ("Plaintiff") was involved in a motor vehicle accident with an underinsured motorist who negligently caused the collision.[1] Plaintiff claims to have suffered physical injury, mental anguish, and that he has incurred special damages.[2] At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was a State of Delaware employee. Plaintiff and the vehicle he was operating were insured under a policy issued by Defendant State of Delaware Insurance Coverage Office ("Defendant State").[3] Plaintiff and his personal vehicle were insured under a policy issued by Defendant Liberty Mutual General Insurance Company ("Liberty Mutual").[4] Both policies provided underinsured motorist ("UIM") benefits.[5]

         On July 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging both Defendants breached their respective insurance policies for failing to reimburse him for his losses and damages.[6] On October 12, 2018, Defendant State filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant State's Motion for Summary Judgment on November 15, 2018.

         Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint to Seek Relief Pursuant to the Doctrine of Promissory Estoppel. On December 10, 2018, Defendant State filed an Objection to the Motion to Amend the Complaint. A hearing was rescheduled from December 17, 2018 to give Plaintiff additional time to respond. On January 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed his response. On January 16, 2019, Defendant State filed its reply. Oral arguments were heard on March 4, 2019 and the matter is now ripe for review.

         Discussion

         I. Summary Judgment

         The burden of proof on a motion for summary judgment falls on the moving party to demonstrate that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[7] If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the non-moving party must sufficiently establish the "existence of one or more genuine issues of material fact."[8] Summary judgment will not be granted if there is a material fact in dispute or if "it seems desirable to inquire thoroughly into [the facts] in order to clarify the application of the law to the circumstances."[9] "All facts and reasonable inferences must be considered in a light most favorable to the non-moving party."[10]

         Exclusivity Provision Under the Workers' Compensation Act

         At the time of Plaintiff s accident in 2013, the applicable provision of 19 Del, C. § 2304 stated:

Every employer and employee, adult and minor, except as expressly excluded in this chapter, shall be bound by this chapter respectively to pay and to accept compensation for personal injury or death by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, regardless of the question of negligence and to the exclusion of all other rights and remedies.[11]

         In Simpson v. State,[12] the Superior Court interpreted this pre-amended version of § 2304 to determine if a State employee was entitled to underinsured motorist coverage from her self-insured employer (the State of Delaware), for the same injuries she received workers' compensation benefits.[13] The Court found that the phrase "to the exclusion of all other rights and remedies" prohibited the ...


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