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Nyakondo v. Still Water Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 13, 2018

Charles Nyakondo, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Still Water Insurance Company, Defendant.

          ORDER

          James A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 30). The Court now rules on the motion.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 28, 2018, Defendant Stillwater Insurance Company (“Defendant”) filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 30). Plaintiffs Charles and Elizabeth Nyakondo (individually and collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a Response on July 30, 2018 (Doc. 31). Defendant did not file a reply memorandum. The Court liberally construes Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 1-1) to assert causes of action for breach of contract and bad faith. (Doc. 1-1 at 4-7).[2]

         A. Facts

         The following facts are either undisputed or recounted in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. At all relevant times, Plaintiffs' home was insured by Defendant. (Doc. 31 at 2).[3] On April 24, 2017, Plaintiffs' home suffered water damage from a toilet overflow. (Id. at 1). Plaintiffs contacted Defendant the same day (Id.). The following day, Defendant sent a property claims examiner and an inspector to the home. (Compare Doc. 30 at 1-2 with Doc. 31 at 2). Defendant also secured temporary lodging for Plaintiffs through a temporary housing placement company, starting April 25, 2017. (Doc. 31 at 3).

         On April 26, 2017, Pelican Power, LLC (“Pelican”) inventoried Plaintiffs' personal property items that were damaged in the incident and took some of the damaged items into storage. (Id.).[4] Pelican valued the totality of Plaintiffs' damaged personal items at $17, 931.47. (Id. at 6 (citing Id. at 19-21)). Plaintiffs sent a copy of this list of damaged items and Pelican's valuation to Defendant's property claims examiner on June 9, 2017. (Id. at 7 (citing Id. at 38)). Following Defendant's inspection process, Defendant reimbursed Plaintiffs $6, 369.44 for the damaged personal property on or around July 27, 2018. (Id. at 5-6 (citing Id. at 30); see also Doc. 30-11 at 2).[5] Plaintiffs disputed the sufficiency of this compensation and requested that Pelican not dispose of any items stored by Pelican. (Doc. 31 at 6-7). Nevertheless, Pelican disposed of Plaintiffs' items without Plaintiffs' consent. (Id. at 6).

         On May 30, 2017, the temporary housing placement company notified Plaintiffs that they would have to vacate their temporary lodging on June 28, 2017. (Id. at 7 (citing Id. at 40)). The remodeling company working at Plaintiffs' home, however, did not certify that remodeling work was complete until July 12, 2017. (Id. (citing Id. at 42)).

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support that assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits, or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” or by “showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus, summary judgment is mandated “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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         Initially, the movant bears the burden of demonstrating to the Court the basis for the motion and the elements of the cause of action upon which the non-movant will be unable to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the existence of material fact. Id. A material fact is any factual issue that may affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-movant “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts” by “com[ing] forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). A dispute about a fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). The non-movant's bare assertions, standing alone, are insufficient to create a material issue of fact and defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247-48. However, in the summary judgment context, the Court construes all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2004).

         At the summary judgment stage, the Court's role is to determine whether there is a genuine issue available for trial. There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence in favor of the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50. “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Id. (citations omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims, which the Court believes sound in bad faith and breach of contract. (Doc. 30). Due to the ambiguity of the Complaint (Doc. ...


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