Beal v. Old Reliable Casualty Company
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 8 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Honorable P. K. Holmes, III on August 26, 2014. (jas)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CAROLYN BEAL, individually and
on behalf of all others similarly
Case No. 4:14-CV-04079
OLD RELIABLE CASUALTY COMPANY
OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court are Defendant Old Reliable Casualty Company’s (“ORCC”)
motion for summary judgment (Doc. 8), Plaintiff Carolyn Beal’s response (Doc. 12), ORCC’s reply
(Doc. 14), and the parties’ supporting documents. The issue is whether the case should be allowed
to proceed into the initial phases of discovery following ORCC’s explanation of its depreciation
calculations applied to Beal’s insurance claim. For the reasons discussed below, ORCC’s motion
for summary judgment (Doc. 8) is DENIED without prejudice.
For the purpose of considering the instant motion, the Court assumes the following facts to
be true: Beal contracted with ORCC for an insurance policy covering losses to a dwelling and other
structures. For losses covered under the policy, ORCC was to reimburse the “actual cash
value”—the total cost of repair minus depreciation. In May 2009, Beal sustained a covered loss to
her dwelling, which ORCC confirmed. Following an inspection of the damage, ORCC calculated
the initial cost of repair as $2,573.05. Pursuant to Beal’s policy, ORCC then subtracted the $200.00
deductible and accounted for an additional $463.40 in depreciation costs, resulting in a net payment
of $1,909.65 to Beal.
The dispute in this case focuses on ORCC’s method of calculating depreciation costs. Beal
argues that ORCC improperly included labor costs in its depreciation calculations. ORCC denies the
allegation and, in support of its motion for summary judgment, has provided screenshots of digital
company records purporting to show that only material costs were depreciated. Beal argues that the
complete lack of discovery so far in this litigation has hindered her ability to fully address ORCC’s
arguments in support of its motion, and she seeks, at minimum, to be provided with some
opportunity for discovery.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[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 Court must review the facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmovant and give that party the benefit of any inferences that can logically be drawn from those
facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat’l. Bank of
Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 606 (8th Cir. 1999). Once the
movant has met its burden, the nonmovant must present specific facts showing a genuine issue of
material fact for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. To show a genuine issue of material fact, the
nonmovant must produce evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
[nonmovant].” Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66–67 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
Rule 56(d)1 “authorizes a district court to defer considering a motion for summary judgment
Effective December 1, 2010, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56(f) was recodified
without substantial change as Rule 56(d).
if a party opposing the motion ‘shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot
present facts essential to justify its opposition.’” Chambers v. Travelers Companies, Inc., 668 F.3d
559, 568 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d)). The purpose of Rule 56(d) is to “provide
an additional safeguard against an improvident or premature grant of summary judgment.” United
States ex rel. Bernard v. Casino Magic Corp., 293 F.3d 419, 426 (8th Cir. 2002). As the Eighth
Circuit has noted, the rule “should be applied with a spirit of liberality.” Id. “Although discovery
does not have to be completed before a court can grant summary judgment, summary judgment is
proper only after the nonmovant has had adequate time to engage in discovery.” Stanback v. Best
Diversified Prods., Inc., 180 F.3d 903, 911 (8th Cir. 1999). In addition, “[w]hen relevant
information is entirely within one party’s control, discovery requests must be enforced to ensure that
the other party has access to adequate information to respond to a motion for summary judgment.”
Iverson v. Johnson Gas Alliance Co., 172 F.3d 524, 531 (8th Cir. 1999).
The Court finds that ORCC’s motion for summary judgment should be denied without
prejudice. Beal has had no opportunity to conduct any discovery, as ORCC filed its motion for
summary judgment only four days after filing an answer. In addition, the bulk of the evidence relied
upon by ORCC to support its motion for summary judgment is in ORCC’s exclusive control. Not
affording Beal some opportunity to conduct discovery presents an unreasonable risk of prematurely
granting ORCC’s motion for summary judgment—a risk that rule 56(d) aims to prevent. Casino
Magic Corp., 293 F.3d at 426. Here, Beal has filed a declaration under Rule 56(d) (Doc. 12, Ex. 1).
Though the declaration is lacking in some details, it specifies factual areas in which further discovery
would allow Beal to better respond to ORCC’s motion for summary judgment. Taking all of this
information into consideration with the liberal spirit with which Rule 56(d) is to be applied, the
Court concludes that the declaration is sufficient to meet the standard of Rule 56(d) and to allow the
parties to proceed with discovery.
Although the Court declines to grant summary judgment at this time, the Court’s denial is
made without prejudice to ORCC’s ability to refile its motion in the future—after the Rule 26(f)
conference and after discoverable information has been exchanged between the parties. Given the
detailed information and calculations already provided by ORCC, Beal’s discovery efforts should
be focused on swiftly determining whether she can confirm or further contest ORCC’s detailed
For all of the reasons set forth above, IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s motion for summary
judgment (Doc. 8) is DENIED without prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 26th day of August, 2014.
/s/P. K. Holmes, III
P.K. HOLMES, III
CHIEF U. S. 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?