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Sousie v. Allstate Indemnity Co.

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

April 18, 2018

ALEXANDER N. and AMY M. SOUSIE, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLSTATE INDEMNITY COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Allstate Indemnity Company's (“Allstate”) motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 61) and Plaintiffs Alexander and Amy Sousie's (“Sousies”) motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. 63). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and hereby denies the motions for the reasons stated herein.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 4, 2017, the Sousies served the Washington Insurance Commissioner with a complaint against Allstate. Dkt. 1-1. The Sousies assert a cause of action for breach of their insurance agreement and a violation of Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act. Id.

         On February 16, 2018, Allstate filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 61. On February 22, 2018, the Sousies filed a motion for partial summary judgment. Dkt. 63. On March 12, 2018, the parties responded. Dkts. 77, 80. On March 16, 2018, the parties replied. Dkts. 82, 83.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Sousies previously lived in Maine with their five children. Dkt. 64, ¶ 1. Mr. Sousie owned a business with his father, Berry Sousie, that primarily sold and installed truck canopies. Id. The business was called The Cap Place. Id. In 2009, Berry Sousie suffered a stroke leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to assist his son in operation of the business. Id. ¶ 2.

         The economic downturn of 2008 combined with Berry Sousie's stroke resulted in serious financial strain on the Sousies. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. In April 2011, the Sousies filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Id. ¶ 5. As part of that proceeding, the Sousie were required to complete certain forms regarding their assets. Relevant to the instant matter, the Sousies completed a form disclosing their personal property. Dkt. 64-1. They declared that they possessed personal property worth a total of $3, 000 with no single item worth more than $400. Id. Also relevant to the instant matter, Mrs. Sousie declares that nothing on any of the bankruptcy forms purported to require them to disclose any “tools” in their possession.[1] Dkt. 64, ¶¶ 9-11. Eventually, the bankruptcy court discharged the Sousies' debts and terminated the proceeding.

         In 2013, the Sousies moved to Washington to live with Mrs. Sousie's parents. Prior to the move, Berry Sousie gave the Sousies many tools, some of which were used in the business and some of which Berry Sousie acquired for personal use. Id. ¶ 13. The Sousies rented a storage unit to store most of their personal property. Id. ¶ 14.

         In September 2013, the Sousies purchased an insurance policy from Allstate. The policy covered all personal property owned or used by the Sousies. Dkt. 14-1. The policy excludes losses “in which any insured person has concealed or misrepresented any material fact or circumstance that exists at the time of the loss or occurrence.” Id. at 26. The Sousies paid the yearly premiums for coverage through the year 2016. Dkt. 64, ¶ 16.

         On January 7, 2016, an employee of the storage unit discovered that someone had broken into the Sousies' unit. Id. ¶ 21. The Sousies immediately went to the unit and cooperated with police investigating the incident. Id. ¶ 23. The police generated a report that lists the Sousies' alleged stolen items and values as follows: (1) large rollaway tool box with various automotive and body shop tools - $25, 000, (2) Honda generator - $2, 500, (3) fishing equipment - $600, (4) computer equipment - $1, 500, and (5) propane stove - $200. Dkt. 64-3.

         The Sousies notified their Allstate agent of the theft on the same day. Allstate's claims adjuster provided the Sousies with a spreadsheet to list the items that were stolen, the age of each item, the original purchase price, and the current cost to replace each item. Dkt. 64, ¶ 27. The Sousies listed 167 items ranging in price from unknown to $3, 099.99 and in age from unknown to twelve years old. Dkt. 64-4. The total estimated replacement cost was $27, 297.90. Id.

         Mrs. Sousie claims that in April or May 2017 Allstate employee Peter Poulos contacted them regarding their claim. Mr. Poulos sent the Sousies a document titled “Sworn Statement in Proof of Loss.” Dkt. 64, ¶ 33. Mrs. Sousie asserts that she did not understand the form and called Mr. Poulos seeking guidance on how to complete the form. Id. ¶ 34. She declares that Mr. Poulos directed her to insert certain numbers in blank spaces and, if she did so, he would take the form to his supervisors to approve and pay the claim. Id. ¶ 35. On the form, Mrs. Sousies indicated that the Actual Cash Value of the stolen property was $26, 565, the total amount of damages based on the replacement cost value was $45, 660, and the amount claimed was $45, 660. Dkt. 64-5. The Sousies subsequently learned that these numbers were produced in a report that determined the replacement cost value, depreciation value, and actual cash value of the items based on the age and condition of the items. See Dkt. 39-1[2].

         On June 23, 2016, Rick Wathen sent the Sousies a letter. He stated that he represented Allstate and requested that the Sousies sit for examinations under oath. Dkt. 64-6. Mr. Wathen also requested that the Sousies produce documents relating to the claim. Id. Mr. Wathen subsequently conducted both examinations under oath. See, e.g., Dkt. 62-3 (transcript of Mr. Sousie's examination).

         On September 26, 2016, Mr. Wathen sent the Sousies a letter denying their claim. Dkt. 64-8. Allstate denied the claim based on misrepresentation and concealment and lack of ownership. I ...


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