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Shelor v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Delaware

November 7, 2019

CASEY SHELOR, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          Submitted: August 9, 2019

         Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding Plaintiffs Punitive Damages Claim. Denied.

          William D. Fletcher, Jr., Esquire of Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware; attorney for Plaintiff.

          Kenneth M. Doss, Esquire of Casarino Christman Shalk Ransom & Doss, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM L. WITHAM. JR. RESIDENT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is Defendant, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., (hereinafter "Nationwide") and its motion for partial summary judgment in a claim for Underinsured Motorist (hereinafter "UIM") benefits filed by Plaintiff Casey Shelor (hereinafter "Plaintiff). After considering the record as presented and the parties' arguments, it appears to the Court that:

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         1. Plaintiff presently resides in the State of Delaware at 66 Nomad Trial, Camden-Wyoming, Delaware 19934.

         2. Nationwide is a licensed insurance provider authorized to transact insurance sales in Delaware.

         3. Plaintiff had a Nationwide automobile insurance policy that covered the period between November 14, 2015 through May 14, 2016.[1] This agreement provided coverage on her vehicle and included UM/UIM coverage in the amount of $100, 000 per person and $300, 000 per accident.[2]

         4. During the coverage period, Plaintiff was operating her car, a 2008 Acura TSX, on February 7, 2016. At approximately 11:18 a.m. that morning, Plaintiff was driving in Camden, Delaware, traveling westbound on Willow Grove Road approaching the intersection with Dundee Road.

         5. Anthony Wester (hereinafter "Wester"), the alleged tortfeasor, was driving a 2001 Toyota Celica and traveling northbound on Dundee Road. Wester allegedly ran a stop sign at the intersection of Dundee Road and Willow Grove Road and stuck Plaintiffs vehicle. Plaintiff suffered severe bodily injuries as a result of the accident.

         6. Wester was an underinsured driver pursuant to 18 Del. C.§ 3902(b)(2).[3]

         7. Plaintiff filed her claim in this Court seeking UIM benefits on June 27, 2018. Nationwide filed its response, in opposition, on August 22, 2018. Nationwide subsequently filed a motion for partial summary judgment on May 21, 2019 and seeks partial summary judgment regarding Plaintiffs punitive damages claim only.[4]Plaintiff responded, in opposition, on June 4, 2019.

         8. The Court conducted a hearing on the motion on August 9, 2019.

         LEGAL STANDARD OF REVIEW

         9. On a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 56, the moving party has the initial burden of showing that no material issues of fact exist and that he is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.[5] The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact exists.[6] The facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.[7]Summary judgment may not be granted if the record indicates that a material fact is in dispute, or if it seems desirable to inquire more thoroughly into the facts in order to clarify the application of the law to the circumstances.[8] However, when the facts permit a reasonable person to draw but one inference, the question becomes one for decision as a matter of law.[9]

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         10.Nationwide argues that because Plaintiff s policy with Nationwide "clearly and unambiguously" excludes coverage for punitive damages, the policy is enforceable and ...


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