United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
S. Zilly, United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on defendant Wells Fargo
Insurance Services USA, Inc.'s (“WFIS”)
Motion for Summary Judgment, docket no. 15. Having reviewed
all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to,
defendant's motion the Court enters the following Order.
utilized the brokerage services of WFIS from April 2012
through June 16, 2016. Declaration of Randy Richardson,
docket no. 20, ¶ 2. During that period, WFIS procured
approximately eleven insurance policies for plaintiffs which
covered multiple residential properties and personal
vehicles, a boat, and a recreational vehicle, including eight
policies with Allied Insurance Company
(“Allied”). Id.; Declaration of Shirley
Gordon, docket no. 17, Ex. 1 at 3 (listing policies). In
December of 2014, an issue arose with the renewal of a policy
on plaintiffs' primary residence in Woodinville,
Washington. Declaration of Stephen G. Skinner, docket no. 16,
Ex. A (Deposition of Randy Richardson at 47:10 - 50:23).
Plaintiffs spoke initially with Nicole McDonald in WFIS's
Service Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who put them in
contact with Taw Jackson, an account representative working
in WFIS's Seattle office. Skinner Decl., Ex. A
(Richardson Dep. at 51:15-53:17). Mr. Jackson ultimately
resolved the renewal issue with Allied and the renewal policy
on the plaintiffs' primary residence was issued.
Id. (Richardson Dep. at 53:11-53:20).
March 13, 2015, Allied sent a Notice of Cancellation for
Non-Payment of Premium (the “Notice”) to
plaintiffs' PO Box in Woodinville, Washington. Gordon
Decl., Ex. 1. The Notice indicated that unless payment was
received on or before March 29, 2015, plaintiffs'
insurance policies with Allied would be cancelled.
Id. Plaintiffs did not make payment, and thereafter
Allied cancelled the eight policies listed in the
Notice. The policy at issue in this lawsuit
covered plaintiffs' vacation home in Manson, Washington
(the “Manson Property”) from November 5, 2014, to
November 5, 2015, and was one of the policies cancelled in
March of 2015. Gordon Decl., Ex. 1 (Notice of Cancellation)
Ex. 2 (Policy for the Manson Property). There is no evidence
that WFIS received a copy of the Notice or was otherwise
informed of the pending cancellation.
the next fifteen months, Mr. Richardson had several
communications with Mr. Jackson regarding the Allied
policies. Richardson Decl., ¶ 7. In December of 2015,
Mr. Richardson received notice from Wells Fargo Bank, the
mortgagee on plaintiffs' vacation home in Lake Havasu,
Arizona, (the “Lake Havasu Property”) that it had
purchased a lender's policy and would be charging
plaintiffs for the premiums. Richardson Decl., ¶ 8;
Skinner Decl., Ex. A (Richardson Dep. at 94:1-96:14). The
mortgagee explained that the policy had been purchased
because the mortgagee received notice that plaintiffs'
homeowner's policy had been cancelled for non-payment.
the policy covering the Lake Havasu Property was among those
cancelled by Allied in March of 2015, Mr. Jackson
“assured” Mr. Richardson that his residential
properties were covered, and without contacting Allied,
submitted evidence of insurance coverage to the mortgagee
reflecting, incorrectly, that the Lake Havasu Property was
insured through November 15, 2016. Richardson Decl., ¶
8; Skinner Decl., Ex. A (Richardson Dep. at 96:19-25);
Declaration of Robert Green, docket no. 19, Ex. A (Deposition
of Taw Jackson at 85:5-86:12; 118:17-119:25). After receiving
and accepting proof of insurance from Mr. Jackson, the
mortgagee refunded the premiums it had charged plaintiffs for
the lender's policy. Skinner Decl., Ex. A (Richardson
Dep. at 96:23-97:18).
January of 2016, believing that he had misplaced his
insurance card for his Mercedes, plaintiff requested a
replacement card from Mr. Jackson. Id. (Richardson
Dep. at 100:19-101:22). Although the policy covering the
Mercedes was among those cancelled in March of 2015, Mr.
Jackson issued an auto insurance card reflecting that the
vehicle was covered through November 5, 2016. Id.
(Richardson Dep. at 104:18-21).
of 2016, plaintiffs discovered a significant water leak at
the Manson Property which flooded both floors, causing
extensive damage. Id. (Richardson Dep. at
112.21-113:4; 114:21-115:3). Based on information Mr.
Richardson received from the local water company and Servpro,
the company who provided mitigation services for the Manson
Property, water had been leaking from the freezer “for
probably four months at least.” Id.
(Richardson Dep. at 113:7-25). Plaintiffs had not visited the
Manson Property during that time period because it was
primarily a summer vacation house. Id. (Richardson
Dep. at 115:13-116:8).
Richardson initially reached out to Mr. Jackson to report the
water damage, but was unable to reach him. Id.
(Richardson Dep. at 117:2-19). Mr. Richardson then contacted
Allied, who informed him that Allied had no record of an
insurance policy covering the property. Id.
(Richardson Dep. at 117:2-118:20). When Mr. Richardson
reached Mr. Jackson after the holiday weekend, he informed
Mr. Jackson of the water damage and his discussion with
Allied. Id. (Richardson Dep. at 118:4-121:5). Mr.
Jackson assured Mr. Richardson that the Manson property was
“insured” and agreed to look into the matter on
Mr. Richardson's behalf. Id. (Richardson Dep. at
119:23-121:5) Over the course of two weeks, Mr. Jackson
learned, apparently for the first time, that plaintiffs'
policies with Allied had been cancelled in March of 2015. On
June 16, 2016, Mr. Jackson informed plaintiffs that there was
no policy providing coverage on the Manson Property.
Id. (Richardson Dep. at 136:17-137:25).
filed the instant lawsuit on July 6, 2016, in King County
Superior Court, seeking to recover the costs incurred as a
result of the uninsured damage to the Manson Property.
Thereafter, WFIS removed the action to the Western District
of Washington. Plaintiffs allege that as a result of
WFIS's conduct, the water damage to the Manson Property
was uninsured. Plaintiffs' complaint asserts four
theories of recovery: (1) breach of contract, (2) negligence;
(3) gross negligence, and (4) negligent misrepresentation.
Complaint, docket no. 1-1, Ex. B, ¶¶ 19-36.
Court should grant summary judgment if no genuine issue of
material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving
party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A fact is material if
it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986). While “all justifiable inferences”
are to be drawn in favor of the non-moving party,
id. at 255, when the record, taken as a whole, could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving
party, summary judgment is warranted. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986) (citations omitted).