United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT STATE
FARM'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE CLAIMS OF
PLAINTIFF SHARON SARCOPSKI
FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
for defendant State Farm Automobile Insurance Company
(“State Farm”) removed this case to this Court on
April 3, 2017, from the Circuit Court of Ohio County, West
Virginia. The case arises from an automobile accident in
which a woman, Misty Merinar, collided with the vehicle
Douglas Sarcopski (“Mr. Sarcopski”) was driving
and in which Sharon Sarcopski (“Mrs. Sarcopski”)
was a passenger. Plaintiffs Douglas and Sharon Sarcopski were
insured under a first-party automobile insurance policy
purchased and contracted from State Farm. The plaintiffs
allege that the collision was entirely the fault of Ms.
Merinar. Mr. Sarcopski made a claim for Mr. Merinar's
liability policy limits of $50, 000.00 and was paid by Ms.
Merinar's first-party liability carrier, Safeco Insurance
Company. The plaintiffs allege that State Farm has refused to
timely settle Mr. Sarcopski's claim for underinsured
motor vehicle insurance policy benefits, even though it was
clear to State Farm that they were liable to Mr. Sarcopski
for the injuries, damages, and losses sustained by him in
excess of the liability policy limits paid by Safeco.
Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, punitive damages,
attorney's fees and expenses, pre-judgment interest,
post-judgment interest, and costs.
October 12, 2018, the defendant State Farm filed a motion for
summary judgment on the claims of plaintiff Sharon Sarcopski.
ECF Nos. 147. In the defendant's memorandum in support of
its motion for summary judgment, defendant State Farm argues
that: (1) Mrs. Sarcopski lacks Article III standing to bring
this action; (2) Mrs. Sarcopski made no claim for insurance
coverage that could give rise to either common-law or
statutory bad faith claims; (3) Mrs. Sarcopski cannot show a
change in position or reliance on any alleged material
misrepresentation to establish a claim for fraud; and (4)
there is no evidence to support an award of punitive damages
to Mrs. Sarcopski. ECF No. 148 at 1-13.
plaintiffs did not file a response to the defendant's
motion for summary judgment.
August 22, 2018, this Court scheduled a supplemental pretrial
conference/final settlement conference on November 26, 2018.
ECF No. 137 at 5. At the supplemental pretrial conference,
the Court explained that it cannot grant a dispositive motion
by default, but rather must consider the motion on the
merits, citing Custer v. Pan Am. Life Ins. Co., 12
F.3d 410, 416 (4th Cir. 1993) (“Although the failure of
a party to respond to a summary judgment motion may leave
uncontroverted those facts established by the motion, the
moving party must still show that the uncontroverted facts
entitle the party to ‘a judgment as a matter of
following reasons, the defendant's motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 147) is granted.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” The party seeking summary
judgment bears the initial burden of showing the absence of
any genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). “The burden
then shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with facts
sufficient to create a triable issue of fact.”
Temkin v. Frederick County Comm'rs, 945 F.2d
716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S.
1095 (1992)(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)).
as the United States Supreme Court noted in
Anderson, “Rule 56(e) itself provides that a
party opposing a properly supported motion for summary
judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of
his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. “The inquiry
performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether
there is the need for a trial - whether, in other words,
there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be
resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably
be resolved in favor of either party.” Id. at
250; see also Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597
F.2d 406, 414 (4th Cir. 1979) (Summary judgment “should
be granted only in those cases where it is perfectly clear
that no issue of fact is involved and inquiry into the facts
is not desirable to clarify the application of the
law.” (citing Stevens v. Howard D. Johnson
Co., 181 F.2d 390, 394 (4th Cir. 1950))).
Celotex, the Court stated that “the plain
language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 322. Summary judgment is not appropriate until after the
non-moving party has had sufficient opportunity for
discovery. See Oksanen v. Page Mem'l Hosp., 912
F.2d 73, 78 (4th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 502 U.S.
1074 (1992). In reviewing the supported underlying facts, all
inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
party opposing the motion. See Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
defendant State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment on
the claims of Mrs. Sarcopski asserting that, as a matter of
law, Mrs. Sarcopski is not entitled to any damages. ECF No.
motion, defendant State Farm first argues that Mrs. Sarcopski
lacks Article III standing to bring this action, because she
fails to demonstrate that she has suffered an injury-in-fact;
and she fails to meet the two-prong test for establishing
third-party standing. ECF No. 148 at 6-9. Second, the
defendant contends that Mrs. Sarcopski made no claim for
insurance coverage that could give rise to either common-law
or statutory bad faith claims, since she was not involved in
the accident, did not sustain injuries, did not incur medical
expenses or lost wages, and did not make a claim for
liability coverage. Id. at 9-11. Third, defendant
State Farm argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on
Mrs. Sarcopski's claim for fraud, because she cannot show
a change in position or reliance on any alleged material
misrepresentation. Id. at 11. Specifically,
defendant argues that Mrs. Sarcopski did not sustain injuries
that could be covered under the underinsured motorist policy,
she did not file the underlying underinsured motorist claim,
and she did not present any evidence that State Farm made any