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Frisenda v. Floyd

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

April 5, 2018

DAWN FRISENDA, Plaintiff,
v.
LINDSEY FLOYD and STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 19]

          IRENE M. KEELEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The defendant, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”), has filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, presenting the question whether West Virginia law requires that it pay a pro rata share of the attorney's fees and costs incurred by the plaintiff, Dawn Frisenda (“Frisenda”), when State Farm applies the non-duplication of benefits provision applicable to Frisenda's underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage. Concluding that State Farm is under no such obligation, the Court GRANTS the motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 19).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Court recites the facts based on the parties' undisputed submissions, and views them in the light most favorable to Frisenda, the non-moving party. Providence Square Assocs., LLC v. G.D.F., Inc., 211 F.3d 846, 850 (4th Cir. 2000). On March 20, 2015, Frisenda was involved in an automobile collision with the defendant, Lindsey Floyd (“Floyd”). Frisenda alleges that Floyd crossed the center line and struck the driver's side of Frisenda's vehicle (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2). At the time of the accident, State Farm's policy with Frisenda provided $100, 000 of UIM coverage and $25, 000 of medical payments coverage (“MPC”). Floyd's policy with Westfield Insurance Co. (“Westfield”) provided $50, 000 in liability coverage.

         Frisenda's policy contained provisions regarding reimbursement, subrogation, and non-duplication of benefits. State Farm retained the right to recover certain payments, as follows:

12. Our Right to Recover Payments
Death, Dismemberment and Loss of Sight Coverage and Loss of Earning Coverage payments are not recoverable by us. Under all other coverages, the following apply:
a. Subrogation If we are obligated under this policy to make payment to or for a person who has a legal right to collect from another party, then we will be subrogated to that right to the extent of our payment.
The person to or for whom we make payment must help us recover our payments by:
(1) doing nothing to impair that legal right;
(2) executing any documents we may need to assert that legal right; and
(3) taking legal action through our representatives when we ask; and
b. Reimbursement
If we make payment under this policy and the person to or for whom we make payment recovers or has recovered from another party, then that person must:
(1) hold in trust for us the proceeds of any recovery; and
(2) reimburse us to the extent of our payment.

(Dkt. No. 19-3 at 40). In addition, the policy provided for the non-duplication of UIM benefits:

The most we will pay for all damages resulting from bodily injury to any one insured injured in any one accident, including all damages sustained by other insureds as a result of that bodily injury is the lesser of:
1. the limit shown under “Each Person”; or
2. the amount of all damages resulting from that bodily injury, reduced by:
. . .
c. any damages that have already been paid or that are payable as expenses under Medical Payments Coverage of this policy, the medical payments coverage of any other policy, or other similar vehicle insurance.

Id. at 25.

         With the assistance of counsel, Frisenda settled her claim for Floyd's $50, 000 policy limits. On July 7, 2016, Frisenda advised State Farm of her settlement with Westfield, which was contingent on State Farm's consent, waiver of subrogation, and full release of Floyd. Frisenda also reiterated that she had incurred $34, 809.27 in medical expenses, and demanded that State Farm pay her the full $100, 000 UIM coverage available under her policy (Dkt. No. 33-1). On August 8, 2016, State Farm responded that it would settle Frisenda's UIM claim for $5, 707, but failed to address the pending settlement with Westfield (Dkt. No. 33-2). Following further inquiry, on August 30, 2016, State Farm consented to the settlement with Westfield and waived its right to subrogation (Dkt. Nos. 33-3; 33-4).

         On September 20, 2016, State Farm indicated that, after taking into account the non-duplication of damages paid as expenses under MPC, it had determined the amount of the proposed settlement as follows:

• Medical Bills $36, 716.06
• Future Medical $13, ...

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