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Gebrekidan v. USAA Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 15, 2014

SEWRAWIT H. GEBREKIDAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
USAA INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the court is Defendant USAA Casualty Insurance Company's ("USAA") motion for summary judgment. (Mot. (Dkt. # 35).) This is an insurance coverage and contract discrimination case. Pro se Plaintiffs Sewrawit Gebrekidan and Kevin Johnson allege that USAA discriminated against them during the claims process for a 2012 car accident and refused to pay them a settlement in bad faith. ( See Am. Compl. (Dkt. # 25).) However, none of Plaintiffs' theories or allegations demonstrate that USAA is guilty of wrongdoing and that Plaintiffs are entitled to relief. The court has considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and the governing law. Considering itself fully advised, and neither party having requested oral argument, the court GRANTS USAA's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

On September 14, 2012, Ms. Gebrekidan was in a two-car accident. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15.) The other driver involved in the accident was Defendant Kenneth B. Anderson. Id. Plaintiffs claim that Ms. Gebrekidan and the other occupants in her vehicle were injured and that Ms. Gebrekidan's car was damaged as a result of the accident. ( Id. ¶¶ 15, 20, 52.) The vehicle driven by Mr. Anderson was owned by Defendant Karen Sharp, who insured it under an auto policy issued by USAA. ( Id . ¶¶ 17, 27, 33, 54.) After the accident, believing Mr. Anderson to be the at-fault driver, Plaintiffs filed an insurance claim with USAA. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27, 33.) Plaintiffs were subsequently contacted by Lisa Alford, a USAA claims agent, who informed them that USAA would not cover any damages related to the accident because it had determined that Ms. Gebrekidan was at fault. ( See Alford Dec. (Dkt. # 37) ¶ 5, Ex. 2.)

Plaintiffs dispute USAA's finding that Ms. Gebrekidan was the at-fault driver and instituted this lawsuit seeking recovery against a number of defendants, including USAA. (Compl. (Dkt. # 13).) After the court dismissed Plaintiffs' initial claims against USAA and other defendants ( see generally 7/15/2013 Order), Plaintiffs amended their complaint. ( See Am. Compl.) In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege that, during the claims process, they were "treated with lies, cover-ups and misrepresentations" by USAA. (Am. Compl. ¶ 40.) Plaintiffs contend that the mistreatment they received was due to racial discrimination by the employees of USAA in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ( Id. ¶¶ 1, 37, 42.) Plaintiffs also assert that they are "third-party beneficiaries with [sic] defendant USAA" and that it denied their insurance claim in bad faith. ( Id. ¶¶ 16, 34-36, 37, 53.)

Plaintiffs seek monetary damages, seek to enjoin USAA "from continuing the practice of discrimination against Black American [sic] and those with African national origins, " and ask that USAA "be monitored for a period of not less than 5 years in their development of sensitivity and racial harmony training." ( Id. at 10-11.)

USAA now moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims. ( See Mot.) Plaintiffs have not responded to this motion. ( See Dkt.; Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(d).)

III. ANALYSIS

A. Standards for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, demonstrates "that 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Galen v. Cnty. of L.A., 477 F.3d 652, 658 (9th Cir. 2007). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that reasonable persons could disagree about whether the facts claimed by the moving party are true. Aydin Corp. v. Loral Corp., 718 F.2d 897, 902 (9th Cir. 1983).

The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he or she is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the moving party meets its burden, then the non-moving party "must make a showing sufficient to establish a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the existence of the essential elements of his case that he must prove at trial." Galen, 477 F.3d at 658. The court is "required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the [non-moving] party." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The ultimate question on a summary judgment motion is whether the evidence "presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

1. Pro Se Plaintiffs' Failure to Respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Plaintiffs failed to file a response to USAA's motion for summary judgment. Local Rule CR 7(b)(2) states in part that "[i]f a party fails to file papers in opposition to a motion, such failure may be considered by the court as an admission that the motion has merit." Local Rules W.D. Wash. CR 7(b)(2). Nevertheless, summarily granting judgment to USAA would be improper given the Ninth Circuit's view "that a non-moving party's failure to comply with local rules does not excuse the moving party's affirmative duty under Rule 56 to demonstrate its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law." See Martinez v. Stanford, 323 F.3d 1178, 1182 ...


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