Broadway v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment 92 is granted and this action is dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that all other pending motions in thisaction are denied as moot. Signed by Honorable Keith Starrett on 5/20/2016. (kh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JOSEPH J. BROADWAY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:13-CV-628
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Company’s Motion for Summary Judgment or, In the Alternative, Motion to Dismiss (“Motion for
Summary Judgment”) . After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court finds that this motion is well taken and should be granted.
This action is centered around an automobile accident involving Plaintiff Joseph J. Broadway
(“Plaintiff”) and Roger Channell (“Channell”) on July 10, 2012, in Montgomery, Alabama. Neither
party disputes that Channell was at fault for this accident, nor is there any dispute that, at the
applicable time, Plaintiff held an automobile insurance policy (the “Policy”) with Defendant State
Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“Defendant”), which included uninsured motorist
benefits.1 There is also no real dispute to the fact that Plaintiff was injured in the accident.
Plaintiff reached a settlement agreement with Channell’s automobile insurance company for
$25,000.00, the limit of Channell’s coverage under his policy. Plaintiff then sought uninsured
As defined by Alabama law, uninsured motorist benefits also covers underinsured motorist
benefits, and this definition is incorporated in the Policy. See Lowe v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 521
So.2d 1309 n.1 (Ala. 1988).
motorist benefits from Defendant, claiming that this $25,000.00 did not adequately cover his injuries
from the accident.
As of December 5, 2012, Plaintiff had submitted records showing that his medical bills
totaled $5,194.37 and that his loss of income totaled $6,385.06. (Letter from Plaintiff’s Attorney,
Exhibit 10 to Plaintiff’s Depo. [94-1].) Plaintiff had also submitted documentation from his
physician, Dr. Patrick Ryan, stating that he had a permanent physical impairment of four percent.
(Ryan Letter, Plaintiff’s Exhibit 28 to Taylor Depo. [93-3].) Plaintiff has consistently maintained
that his injuries exceed $50,000.00 and that Defendant is required to pay him the full policy limit
of $25,000.00 in addition to the settlement he received from Channell’s insurance company.
Because it does not agree that the amount of Plaintiff’s injuries total in excess of $30,000.00,
Defendant offered $5,000.00 to Plaintiff in satisfaction of his claim. On January 18, 2013,
Defendant sent Plaintiff, through his lawyer, a letter which stated
State Farm is committed to paying the amount reasonably owed to our insureds under
the uninsured coverage as soon as practical. To date, we have been unable to agree
on an amount.
Your current demand is $25,000.00 and our current offer is $5,000.00. Since it
appears we have reached an impasse, we are enclosing our payment for $5,000.00,
which constitutes our initial offer.
The remaining coverage available will be reduced by the enclosed advanced
payment. This payment will also be credited against any final determination of
This payment should be considered an advance without prejudicing your client’s
right to receive a higher amount in the future through continued negotiations.
We will continue to evaluate any and all new information you may have that could
effect our evaluation.
(Letter from Defendant, Exhibit 11 to Plaintiff’s Depo. [94-1].) Plaintiff admits that he received and
cashed the check enclosed with the letter. (Plaintiff Depo. [119-1] at p. 175:19-23.) Plaintiff further
admits that the next communication Defendant received from him was the complaint filed in this
action, dated July 26, 2013. (Id. at p. 176:16-23.) Plaintiff admits that he neither received nor sent
any further communication about the claim after the January 2013 letter and check were received.
(Id. at p. 178:20-23.)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary
judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The Eleventh Circuit has held that
[s]ummary judgment is appropriate if the evidence before the court shows 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. In making this determination, the court must view all
evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary
The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless
that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case. The
relevant rules of substantive law dictate the materiality of a disputed fact. A genuine
issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.
Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting Haves v. City of Miami,
52 F.3d 918, 921 (11th Cir. 1995)) (alteration in original).
Defendant makes two arguments. First, Defendant contends that the Court does not have
subject matter jurisdiction in this case as the action was never ripe for adjudication prior to
Plaintiff’s complaint being filed because the amount of damages was never fixed. Second,
Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s claims of breach of contract and bad faith must fail because
Plaintiff’s claim under the Policy was never denied.
Ripeness is a “threshold jurisdictional question of whether a court may consider the merits
of a dispute.” Elend v. Basham, 471 F.3d 1199, 1204 (11th Cir. 2006). “Ripeness analysis involves
the evaluation of two factors: the hardship that a plaintiff might suffer without court redress and the
fitness of the case for judicial decision.” Id. at 1211 (quoting Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S.
136, 149, 87 S. Ct. 1507, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967)). The Alabama Supreme Court has held that
“[t]here can be no breach of an insurance contract providing uninsured-motorist coverage until the
insureds prove that they are legally entitled to recover.” Ex parte State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.,
893 So.2d 1111, 1115 (Ala. 2004). The court clarified what “legally entitled to recover” entailed
in Pontius v. State Farm Mutual. Automobile Insurance Co., holding that a claim for bad-faith
failure to pay or breach of contract under an uninsured motorist insurance policy is premature
“[w]ithout a determination of whether liability exists on the part of the underinsured motorist and
the extent of the plaintiff’s damages.” 915 So.2d 557, 564 (Ala. 2005). When such a premature
action is filed, the Pontius court held, the action must be dismissed without prejudice for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
In the current case, there was an acknowledged dispute as to the extent of Plaintiff’s
damages. (See Letter from Defendant, Exhibit 11 to Plaintiff’s Depo. [94-1].) A letter was sent to
Plaintiff that recognized the dispute and indicated that Defendant was open to further negotiations
to resolve the dispute. (See id.) Plaintiff has put forward no evidence to show that there was no
dispute as to the extent of his damages, and he admitted to receiving of the check sent with
Defendant’s acknowledgment of the dispute. (See Plaintiff Depo. [119-1] at p. 175:19-23.) After
this letter was sent, no communication occurred between the parties until the filing of this action.
(See id. at pp. 176:16-23, 178:20-23.) The undisputed evidence before the Court therefore
establishes that the extent of Plaintiff’s damages was in dispute as to the amount of damages
Plaintiff was legally entitled to recover.
As stated above, the Alabama Supreme Court has held that when breach of contract and bad
faith refusal to pay claims, the only claims Plaintiff currently has before this Court, are premature
when there has been no determination as to the extent of a plaintiff’s damages. Pontius, 915 So.2d
at 564. As there has been no such determination in this case, the Court must find that Plaintiff’s
claims are premature and therefore not ripe for adjudication. Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment  is therefore granted and this action will be dismissed without prejudice for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction.
Because the Court does not have jurisdiction, it will not consider the merits of Defendant’s
second argument. All other pending motions in this case will be denied as moot.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment  is granted and this action is dismissed without prejudice for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that all other pending motions in this
action are denied as moot.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this the 20th day of May, 2016.
s/ Keith Starrett
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?