United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S RENEWED FEDERAL RULE
BARBARA JACOBS ROTHSTEIN, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Annelise Farnes (“Plaintiff”) instituted this
action against Defendant Metropolitan Group Property and
Casualty Insurance Company (“MetLife”), alleging
that MetLife wrongfully denied payment under her insurance
policy. Plaintiff brings claims for breach of contract, bad
faith, and violation of Washington's Consumer Protection
and Insurance Fair Conduct Acts. Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 3. MetLife
moves this Court for summary judgment on Plaintiff's
claims. Dkt. No. 15. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dkt. No.
24. Having reviewed the motion, the opposition thereto, the
record of the case, and the relevant legal authorities, the
Court will grant the motion. The reasoning for the
Court's decision follows.
purchased a homeowner's insurance policy from MetLife
with a policy term of October 9, 2016 to October 9, 2017.
Dkt. No. 16, Ex. 1 at 2. The policy insured against losses to
Plaintiff's dwelling as well as personal property. In
addition, the policy provided for alternative living expenses
should such an arrangement become necessary due to an insured
loss. Relevant here, the policy also contained a twelve-month
suit limitation clause, which contractually limits the time
within which Plaintiff can bring a lawsuit against MetLife
seeking coverage. Specifically, the policy provides that
“any suit or action seeking coverage must be brought
within twelve months of the loss.” Id. at Ex.
home was burglarized on October 10, 2016, one day after the
insurance policy went into effect. Plaintiff reported the
break-in to the police and subsequently completed a Theft
Inventory List in conjunction with the police report she
filed with the Puyallup Police Department. Dkt. No. 16, Ex.
4. Plaintiff also reported the break-in to MetLife and the
company opened a claim. Id. at Ex. 10. It paid for
Plaintiff to stay in a hotel that night and she continued to
stay at the hotel until February 22, 2017 when Plaintiff was
finally able to return to her house. Id. at ¶
5. As of March 7, 2017, MetLife had paid Plaintiff a total of
$142, 936.69 for losses she suffered due to the break-in
($24, 222.05 (dwelling coverage), $80, 236.41 (personal
property), and $38, 478.23 (loss of use)). Id.
MetLife paid the full amount claimed by Plaintiff as of March
7, 2017 and did not deduct for depreciation. Id. at
Exs. 5-6, 8, and 10. MetLife “considered the claim
closed by mid-March, 2017.” Id. at Exs. 5 and
on December 1, 2017, MetLife received an email from Choice
Carpentry, which enclosed a $45, 531.56 estimate for a
kitchen remodel at Plaintiff's house. Id. at Ex.
9. The estimate included replacement of all kitchen cabinets,
nine interior oak doors, a screen door, quartz countertops,
kitchen backsplash, carpentry hardware, and other
miscellaneous items. Id. MetLife did not believe
that the foregoing work was related to the break-in and thus
requested an opportunity to reinspect Plaintiff's home.
During this inspection, Plaintiff pointed out various items
that she felt still needed to be repaired from the break-in
and MetLife issued a supplemental check in the amount of $3,
133.97 on January 1, 2018. Id. at Ex. 10 at 2.
January 3, 2018, MetLife received another estimate from
Choice Carpentry in the amount of $9, 826.96, which related
to replacing the tile flooring in the kitchen and the vinyl
flooring in the bathroom with engineered wood flooring.
Id. On February 21, 2018, MetLife informed Plaintiff
it would not make additional payments for the work outlined
in the Choice Carpentry estimates because there was no
evidence that the damage caused by the October 2016 break-in
necessitated the work outlined in the estimates. Id.
at 1-3. MetLife also pointed out that it had already paid for
repairs to Plaintiff's kitchen following the break-in and
it was not required to pay twice for the same repairs.
Id. at 3. Lastly, MetLife informed Plaintiff that
its policy does not require it to pay for
“upgrades” such as those contemplated by the
Choice Carpentry estimates. Id. For instance,
MetLife pointed out, at the time of the break-in
Plaintiff's kitchen cabinets were made of plywood with a
wood-grain plastic veneer, but the Choice Carpentry estimate
called for solid oak cabinets. Likewise, at the time of the
break-in, Plaintiff's countertops were laminate-surfaced
wood, but the estimate was for quartz countertops.
invited Plaintiff to submit a Sworn Statement in Proof of
Loss (“Proof of Loss”) or utilize the appraisal
process outlined in the policy if Plaintiff disputed
MetLife's denial. Id. Thereafter, on March 18,
2018, Plaintiff emailed MetLife requesting that it extend the
twelvemonth suit-limitation period that had expired on
October 10, 2017. Plaintiff also requested that MetLife
extend the deadline to file the Proof of Loss by another
sixty days. Dkt. No. 16, Ex. 11. MetLife declined to do
April 19, 2018, Plaintiff submitted a Proof of Loss form; the
only losses listed on the form related to alleged personal
property damages, not damage to her dwelling. Dkt. No. 16,
Ex. 12. Plaintiff claims that the total cost to repair or
replace the items on her Proof of Loss form is $165, 905.23.
Id. MetLife alleges that it had already paid for
most of the items listed on the Proof of Loss form as part of
the $142, 936.69 payments it made by March 7, 2017. It also
claims that there are duplicate items on the form. On May 25,
2018, MetLife informed Plaintiff that it rejected her Proof
of Loss claims and would deny further payment for claims
based on the October 10, 2016 break-in due to the one-year
suit limitation clause in its policy. Id.
Thereafter, Plaintiff instituted this action.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate when 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).
Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which
the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the
determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is
insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in
favor of the nonmovant. See Crawford-El v. Britton,
523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Northwest Motorcycle Ass'n
v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th
Cir. 1994). Simply put, a summary judgment motion asks
whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to
require submission to a jury. Bradley v. Rohlfing,
2015 WL 6502450, *2 (E.D. Cal. October 27, 2015).
instituted this lawsuit against MetLife on November 29, 2018
with a sparse, three-page complaint that contained three
counts: (1) breach of contract, (2) bad faith, and (3)
violation of Washington's Consumer Protection Act. Dkt.
No. 1, Ex. 2. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on
December 20, 2018. Id. at Ex. 3. The amended
complaint is equally sparse but adds a fourth count:
violation of Washington's Insurance Fair Conduct Act.
MetLife claims that it is entitled to summary judgment on all
four of these counts; Plaintiff disagrees. The Court will
address each in turn.
The Breach of Contract Claim is Barred by the Policy's
Twelve-Month Suit Limitation Clause
stated above, the insurance policy at issue in this lawsuit
contains a twelve-month suit limitation clause, which
provides that: “any suit or action seeking coverage
must be brought within twelve months of the loss.” Dkt.
No. 16, Ex. 2. The parties agree that the date of the loss as
it applies to the twelve-month suit limitation clause is the
date of the break-in: October 10, 2016. Thus, Plaintiff was
contractually required to bring her lawsuit no later than
October 10, 2017. Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on
November 29, 2018, over a year after the twelve-month suit
limitation clause expired. Therefore, MetLife argues,
Plaintiff's lawsuit is time-barred.
counters that her breach of contract claim is not time-barred
because the twelvemonth suit limitation clause only applies
to coverage disputes. According to Plaintiff, here, there is
no dispute that the insurance policy covers the
losses caused by the break-in; the only dispute is whether
Plaintiff is entitled to a supplemental payment for
the itemized losses she included in the April 19, 2018 Proof
of Loss form. Stated differently, Plaintiff contends that the
twelvemonth suit limitation clause is not applicable to her