United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ANTHONY W. HOPKINS, Plaintiff,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion for
partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 28). Having thoroughly
considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record,
the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby DENIES
the motion for the reasons explained herein.
Teeter (Teeter) caused a car crash on January 7, 2011,
injuring Plaintiff Anthony Hopkins. (Dkt. No. 28 at 2.) At
the time, Teeter held a third-party automobile insurance
policy from Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Company. (Id.) On July 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed
suit against Teeter in superior court to recover damages for
his crash-related injuries. (Id.) Teeter eventually
signed a settlement agreement in which he assigned Plaintiff
“all rights, privileges, claims and causes of action
that he may have against his insurer or affiliated companies,
and their agents.” (Id.) Although the
agreement did not specifically enumerate the right to bring
an Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA) claim, it provided that
the assignment “includes but is not limited to” a
specific list of Teeter's privileges, claims, and causes
of action. (Id.)
Teeter settled the case and assigned his rights to Plaintiff,
Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence, breach of contract,
breach of duty of good faith, breach of fiduciary duty, the
unreasonable denial of liability benefits under IFCA, and
breach of the Consumer Protection Act. (Dkt. No. 10 at
10-13.) Defendant now moves for partial summary judgment on
the IFCA claim, arguing that Plaintiff lacks standing because
(1) Teeter did not expressly assign Plaintiff the right to
bring an IFCA claim, (2) IFCA claims cannot arise out of
third-party insurance coverage, and (3) Defendant fulfilled
all of its obligations to Teeter. (Dkt. No. 28 at 1-8.)
Court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party
“shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and that the [moving party] is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In
making such a determination, the Court views the facts and
justifiable inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a
motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported,
the opposing party “must come forward with
‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.'” Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of a
case, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if there
is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 248-49. Conclusory, non-specific statements in affidavits
are not sufficient, and “missing facts” will not
be “presumed.” Lujan v. Nat'l
Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888-89 (1990).
Ultimately, summary judgment is appropriate against a party
who “fails 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 Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
Contracts and Settlements
courts apply the law of the governing state when adjudicating
controversies that arise out of state law. See Daniel
v. Ford Motor Co., 806 F.3d 1217, 1223 (9th
Cir. 2015). In Washington, settlement agreements are
interpreted the same way as other contracts. McGuire
v. Bates, 234 P.3d 205, 206-07 (Wash. 2010).
“The entire contract must be construed together in
order to give force and effect to each clause, ” and be
enforced “as written if the language is clear and
unambiguous.” Wash. Pub.
Util. Dists. Utils. Sys.
v. Dist. No. 1 of Clallam
Cnty., 771 P.2d 701, 705 (Wash. 1989). If, on the other
hand, “a policy provision on its face is fairly
susceptible to two different but reasonable interpretations,
the policy is ambiguous and the court must attempt to discern
and enforce the contract as the parties intended.”
Transcon. Ins. Co. v.
Wash. Pub. Utils. Dists.
Util. Sys., 760 P.2d 337, 340 (Wash. 1988).
courts attempt to determine the parties' intent by
examining their objective manifestations as expressed in the
agreement. Hearst Commc'ns, Inc. v.
Seattle Times Co., 115 P.3d 262, 264-66 (Wash.
2005). Generally, the parties' subjective intent is
irrelevant if the court can “impute an intention
corresponding to the reasonable meaning of the actual words
used.” Id. at 262. “Unilateral or
subjective purposes and intentions about the meanings of what
is written do not constitute evidence of the parties'
intentions.” Lynott v. Nat'l Union
Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., 871 P.2d 146,
149 (Wash. 1994).
Insurance Fair Conduct Act
creates a private right of action against an insurer that
either (1) unreasonably denies a claim for coverage or
payment of benefits, or (2) violates one of several
enumerated regulations set forth by the Washington State
Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Wash. Rev. Code §
48.30.015(1), (5);Merrill v. Crown
Life Ins. Co., 22 F.Supp.3d 1137 (E.D. Wash. 2014). IFCA
expressly confers this right of action only to a
“first-party claimant.” Wash. Rev. Code §
48.30.015. Under the statute, a “first-party
claimant” is defined as “an individual,
corporation, association, partnership, or other legal entity
asserting a right to payment as a covered person under an
insurance policy or insurance contract arising out of the
occurrence of the contingency or loss covered by such a
policy or contract.” Wash. Rev. Code §
48.30.015(4). Interpreting the statute, this Court has ...