State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Sakash et al
ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING 16 Plaintiff's unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment and DECLARING that, regarding incident that was the subjectof Sakash v. Lund, 2014-CP-10-06452, in the Charleston County Court of Co mmon Pleas, the maximum amount Defendants may recover from the State Farm policies issued to the Defendants is the single highest limit of underinsured motorist coverage provided by any one of the policies which has already been paid to the Defendants. AND IT IS SO ORDERED. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 5/22/2017.(sshe, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
George Patrick Sakash and Janice Brown )
Civil Action No. 2:16-2531-RMG
ORDER AND OPINION
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s unopposed motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.
Defendants George and Janice Sakash filed a lawsuit in the Charleston County Court of
Common Pleas against Stephen Lund alleging that George Sakash sustained serious and
permanent injuries on January 13, 2014, when a vehicle owned by Stephen Lund struck him as
he was crossing the street as a pedestrian while within the scope of his employment with CocaCola Company. Mr. Lund’s liability insurer paid its available liability coverage to the Sakashes
in exchange for a covenant not to execute, and the Sakashes then presented an underinsured
motorist claim to their own insurance carrier, State Farm.
At the relevant time, the Sakashes had two insurance policies with State Farm, each
providing $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. State Farm tendered the underinsured
motorist coverage of $100,000 under one of the policies, but declined to make further payment
of underinsured motorist benefits under the second policy based on policy language providing,
“the maximum amount that may be paid from all such [underinsured motor vehicle coverage]
policies combined is the single highest limit provided by any one of the policies.” (Dkt. No. 162.)
On July 13, 2016, State Farm filed the present declaratory judgment action, seeking a
declaration that “that the maximum amount the Defendants may recover from the State Farm
policies issued to the Defendants is the single highest limit of underinsured motorist coverage
provided by any one of the policies which has already been paid to the Defendants and, further,
ask that the Court declare that Plaintiff State Farm is entitled to an offset and/or credit against
any underinsured motorist benefits that may be due for the amounts that were paid, could have
been paid, or that could be paid to or for the Defendant in worker’s compensation benefits.”
(Dkt. No. 1 at 6.) Defendants have not opposed summary judgment for Plaintiff.
Summary judgment is appropriate if a party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact” and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted “only when it is clear that there is
no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those
facts.” Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). “In determining
whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities
in favor of the nonmoving party.” HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat’l Red Cross, 101 F.3d
1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of
demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to
survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his
pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material
facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, “[c]onclusory or speculative
allegations do not suffice, nor does a ‘mere scintilla of evidence’” in support of the non-moving
party’s case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).
The State Farm policy in question provides that if other underinsured motor vehicle
coverage applies, then
you or any resident relative sustains bodily injury or property damage:
(1) while occupying a motor vehicle not owned by you or any resident
(2) while not occupying a motor vehicle; and
Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage provided by this policy and one or
more other vehicle policies issued to you or any resident relative by the
State Farm Companies apply to the same bodily injury or property
then the maximum amount that may be paid from all such policies combined is
the single highest limit provided by any one of the policies. We may choose one
or more policies from which to make payment.
(Dkt. No. 16-2 at 4.) That language prohibits stacking underinsured coverages where the insured
is not occupying a motor vehicle or is occupied a vehicle not owned by the insured or any
resident relative. The provision is valid under South Carolina law. See Putnam v. S.C. Farm
Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 476 S.E.2d 902, 902–03 (S.C. 1996).
It is undisputed that at the time of the underlying accident, George Sakash was a
pedestrian not occupying a motor vehicle. (Dkt. No. 16-4 at 9 (deposition of George Sakash).)
Under the policy language above, the maximum amount that may be paid from all such policies
combined is the single highest limit provided by any one of the policies, which has already been
paid to the Sakashes. Plaintiff therefore is entitled to declaratory judgment as a matter of law.
Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment presents no argument or evidence regarding the
further declaration sought regarding “an offset and/or credit against any underinsured motorist
benefits that may be due for the amounts that were paid, could have been paid, or that could be
paid to or for the Defendant in worker’s compensation benefits.” (Dkt. No. 1 at 6.) The Court
therefore considers that Plaintiff has abandoned that requested relief. See Doe v. Berkeley Cty.
Sch. Dist., No. 2:13-CV-3529-PMD, 2015 WL 7722425, at *3 n.1 (D.S.C. Nov. 30, 2015);
Cousar v. Richland Cty. Sheriff's Dep’t, No. 3:08-CV-392-CMC, 2009 WL 982414, at *6
(D.S.C. Apr. 10, 2009).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s unopposed motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. No. 16) and DECLARES that, regarding incident that was the subject
of Sakash v. Lund, 2014-CP-1006452, in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, the
maximum amount Defendants may recover from the State Farm policies issued to the
Defendants is the single highest limit of underinsured motorist coverage provided by any one of
the policies which has already been paid to the Defendants.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Richard M. Gergel
Richard Mark Gergel
United States District Court Judge
May 22, 2017
Charleston, South Carolina
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