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Schwartz v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 6, 2017

BERNADETTE SCHWARTZ, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign insurance company, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment by Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (Dkt. No. 10). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 21, 2013, Plaintiff Bernadette Schwartz was in a car accident. (Dkt. No. 11 at 17.) Schwartz was a passenger in a car driven by David Parker. (Id.) The collision was caused by another driver, Bernardino Lopez Rodriguez. (Id.) Rodriguez had no motorist insurance. (Id. at 18.) Schwartz was covered by Parker's insurance policy from Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. (Id.; Dkt. No. 1-2 at 4; Dkt. No. 12 at 6-22.)

         Parker's personal injury protection (PIP) policy had a limit of $10, 000.00 per person. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 4; Dkt. No. 12 at 49.) From January-August 2014, State Farm paid Schwartz's medical providers directly under the PIP policy. (Dkt. No. 12 at 50.) At times, the payments from State Farm did not fully cover a provider's bill. (See id.) On April 14, 2014, Schwartz sent State Farm an IFCA[1] letter regarding the PIP coverage. (Id. at 35.) The letter stated:

It has come to our attention that State Farm has partially denied most of Ms. Schwartz's treatments with Starr Chiropractic, P.S. In reviewing the PIP file, State Farm referenced the basis for partial payment of most of Ms. Schwartz's bills as being “re-priced in accordance with a Three Rivers Network owned contract.” Please prove that such a contract exists. State Farm's PIP coverage is not exhausted. Ms. Schwartz expects that PIP coverage will cover these charges.

(Id.) By August 2014, the payments from State Farm to providers had reached the PIP policy limit of $10, 000.00. (See Id. at 50.)

         Parker's uninsured motorist (UM) policy had a limit of $100, 000.00 per person. (Dkt. No. 12 at 7.) On May 18, 2015, Schwartz sent a letter to State Farm stating that she was entitled to recover $33, 776.45 under the UM policy. (Id. at 52, 55.) On July 16, 2015, State Farm determined that Schwartz was entitled to recover $9, 000.00 under the UM policy. (Dkt. No. 11 at 18.) As of September 2015, State Farm had not made any payment to Schwartz. (Id.)

         On October 2, 2015, Schwartz brought suit against State Farm in King County District Court. (Id. at 5.) Schwartz asserted that she was entitled to full coverage under Parker's UM policy and that State Farm breached the insurance contract by “not making any payment of uninsured motorist benefits to” Schwartz. (Id. at 7.)

         King County District Court Judge Peter Nault ruled in Schwartz's favor. (Id. at 10-12.) Judge Nault determined that Schwartz was entitled to recover $65, 872.30 in damages, with certain offsets. (Id. at 12, 19.) On April 14, 2016, Judge Nault entered judgment against State Farm in the net amount of $51, 029.44 with 12% annual interest. (Dkt. No. 16-1 at 6-7.)

         On April 15, State Farm issued a check in the amount of $46, 872.03 to “Law Office [of] Sam Elder & Bernardino Lopez-Rodriguez.” (Id. at 9.) State Farm also issued a check in the amount of $4, 157.41 to “Law Office of Sam Elder.” (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 6.) These two checks added up to $51, 029.44.

         On April 25, Schwartz's counsel informed State Farm that it had failed to pay interest of $16.78 per day. (Dkt. No. 16-1 at 11.) On May 3, State Farm sent a proposed satisfaction of judgment based on its payments made. (Id. at 13-18.) Schwartz's counsel responded that he could not sign the full satisfaction of judgment until the interest was paid. (Id. at 23.)

         On May 5, Schwartz's counsel informed State Farm that one check was incorrectly made out to Rodriguez. (Id. at 25.) On May 16, State Farm issued a new check in the amount of $46, 872.03, correctly made out to “Sam Elder & Bernadette Louise Schwartz.” (Id. at 35.)

         On May 20, Schwartz's counsel again informed State Farm that he would not sign a full satisfaction of judgment until interest was paid. (Id. at 37.) On May 21, State Farm issued a check for $167.00 to cover the interest. (Id. at 39.) On June 1, Schwartz ...


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