United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by
Defendant Peoples Insurance Agency, LLC
(“Peoples”) (Filing No. 43). Soon after a fire
destroyed the house and personal property, Plaintiff Estate
of David Stone (“the Estate”) learned that the
previous insurance policy had not been renewed and a new
insurance policy had not been procured. As a result, no
insurance coverage was available to pay for the loss
resulting from the fire. The Estate filed this action for
declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking damages under a
claim for breach of duty against Peoples, Branch Banking and
Trust Company, and Westfield Insurance Company. Peoples filed a
motion for summary judgment, asserting that it owed no duty
to the Estate, and thus, no claim for breach of duty against
it can exist. For the reasons stated below, Peoples'
Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
following material facts are not necessarily objectively
true; but, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56,
the facts are presented in the light most favorable to the
Estate as the non- moving party. See Zerante v.
DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
December 9, 2012, David L. Stone and Carolyn R. Stone were
issued Westfield Insurance Company “Farm Policy”
No. FAB 1 920 308 (“the Policy”) covering the
Stones' residence located at 4513 Stoneview Drive,
Charlestown, Indiana (the “Stone Residence”)
(Filing No. 50 at 2). The Policy had an effective date of
December 9, 2012, providing insurance through December 9,
2013. The Policy was underwritten and procured by Wells Fargo
Insurance Services USA, Inc. Id. Soon after the
Policy's effective date of December 9, 2012, Wells Fargo
sold the Policy to Peoples. Id.
Stone (“Cynthia”) was David Stone's
daughter-in-law and power of attorney, and she lived at the
Stone Residence. Cynthia also handled the homeowner's
insurance for the Stone Residence, opening statements and
making quarterly payments online through David and Carolyn
Stone's checking account (Filing No. 50 at 3).
than a year before the Policy took effect, Carolyn Stone
passed away on October 29, 2011. Two months before the Policy
was to expire, David Stone passed away on October 9, 2013.
Cynthia was appointed the personal representative of David
Stone's Estate on October 22, 2013. Id.
October 17, 2013, Westfield Insurance Company issued and
mailed to the Stone Residence a “Notice of Intent Not
to Renew” the Policy, which referenced the date of
notice of October 17, 2013, the Policy number, the Policy
expiration date of December 9, 2013, the insurance agent as
Peoples, and the insurer as Westfield Insurance Company. The
non-renewal notice explained in bold, capital letters:
“PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE ABOVE CAPTIONED INSURANCE
POLICY WILL NOT BE RENEWED. YOUR INSURANCE WILL EXPIRE ON THE
DATE AND HOUR SPECIFIED ABOVE.” (Filing No. 44-7 at 2.)
It also explained that “[w]e are non-renewing your
policy because the insurance company marked above will no
longer be writing property and casualty insurance business
with your agency. We recommend you contact your agent to
obtain a replacement policy with another company.”
Id. The policyholders, David and Carolyn Stone, were
not alive at the time of this notice, so Cynthia received and
read the non-renewal notice sometime later in October 2013
and understood that the Policy was set to expire on December
9, 2013 (Filing No. 50 at 3).
December 6, 2013, a voicemail message was left on the Stone
Residence's answering machine by Tina Long (“Ms.
Long”), a client account manager at Peoples. Ms.
Long's message referenced the impending lapse in coverage
and requested information about placing new insurance
that same day, Cynthia returned the call to Ms. Long but got
her answering machine (Filing No. 50 at 4). The
answering machine greeting informed callers, “Please
remember that this voice message system cannot be used to
bind or alter insurance coverage.” (Filing No. 44-6 at
4.) Cynthia left a return voicemail message on Ms. Long's
answering machine stating, “coverage should remain the
same as before, covering the same items and same dollar
amounts.” (Filing No. 50 at 4.) Cynthia believed that,
based on this voicemail message exchange, Peoples was
procuring insurance for the Stone Residence. Id. at
4-5. Cynthia acknowledged that after leaving the voicemail
message on December 6, 2013, she did not communicate with Ms.
Long until December 18, 2013, after a fire destroyed the
Stone Residence. Id. at 4.
December 18, 2013, the Stone Residence was destroyed by fire.
That same day Cynthia called Peoples and spoke with Ms. Long,
who informed Cynthia that the Policy had lapsed on December
9, 2013, and that coverage was not in place. Id. Ms.
Long sent a letter to “David & Carolyn R.
Stone” on December 20, 2013, noting that the Policy had
not been renewed as of December 9, 2013, consistent with the
non-renewal notice sent by Westfield Insurance Company
(Filing No. 50-3 at 2). As a result, Westfield Insurance
Company and Peoples would not provide coverage for the loss
from the fire.
December 10, 2014, the Estate filed this action in state
court, seeking declaratory relief and damages based on a
breach of an unspecified duty. The case was removed to this
Court and on October 14, 2015, Peoples filed its Motion for
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is
appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v.
Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir.
2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court
reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at
584 (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are
supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a
summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan
Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who
bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest
on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by
specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue
of material fact that requires trial.”