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Akers v. Liberty Mutual Group

September 28, 2010

MARTHA AKERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos.: 44, 55, 57, 58, 68

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE THE PLAINTIFF'S AFFIDAVIT; DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE THE PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED AFFIDAVIT; DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE THE PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED AFFIDAVIT;GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE THE PLAINTIFF'S SUR-REPLY

I. INTRODUCTION

The pro se plaintiff had a homeowner's insurance policy with the defendant, Liberty Mutual Group. After the plaintiff's insured property was damaged in a fire, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim which was subsequently denied. The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendant alleging breach of contract and demanding specific performance. The matter is now before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Because the defendant relies on hearsay and unauthenticated exhibits, the court denies the motion without prejudice.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff owns a house on East Beach Drive N.W., Washington D.C. ("the property"). Compl. ¶ 4 The property was insured by the defendant pursuant to a homeowner's insurance policy in effect from November 24, 2006 to November 24, 2007 ("the policy"). See generally Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot."), Ex. 2; Pl.'s Aff. in Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Aff."), Ex. 3.*fn1 The policy provided that in the event of a loss, the plaintiff, as the insured party, was required to (1) provide the defendant with prompt notice of the loss, (2) protect the property from further damage, (3) prepare an inventory of damaged personal property and (4) make the property and pertinent records available to the defendant upon request. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 2 ("Homeowners 3 Special Form") at 18; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 3 at 24-25. The policy also excluded coverage for any "intentional loss," which it defined as "any loss arising out of any act committed... by or at the direction of an 'insured'; and with the intent to cause a loss." Homeowners 3 Special Form at 18.*fn2 Finally, the policy became void if the insured "[i]ntentionally concealed or misrepresented any material fact or circumstance; [e]ngaged in fraudulent conduct; or [m]ade false statements." Id. at 34.

On or about July 5, 2007, the property sustained fire damage. Compl. ¶ 5. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff submitted a claim for loss. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 3 ("Gould Aff.") ¶ 3. The defendant denied the claim on September 19, 2007 on the grounds that the plaintiff had "failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the policy." Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at 3. More specifically, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff failed to comply with policy's provisions regarding the insured's duties after loss and engaged "in concealment, fraud, material misrepresentation, false statements, and non-cooperation" thereby rendering the policy void. Id. at 1, 3.

The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendant on July 3, 2008 alleging breach of contract and demanding specific performance. See generally Compl. The defendant has moved for summary judgment. See generally Def.'s Mot.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] 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. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id.

The nonmoving party may defeat summary judgment through factual representations made in a sworn affidavit if he "support[s] his allegations... with facts in the record," Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (quoting Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993)), or provides "direct testimonial evidence," Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 338 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Indeed, for the court to accept anything less "would defeat the central purpose of the summary judgment ...


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