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Fraze v. Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

March 10, 2017

KATHERINE FRAZE PLAINTIFF
v.
METROPOLITAN PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, JR., CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendant, Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company, for summary judgment [DN 55] and on a motion to strike [DN 71]. Defendant has requested oral arguments on both of the motions. The Court finds oral arguments unnecessary. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action concerns an insurance claim resulting from a fire at a farmhouse on Billtown Road which is owned by Jean Decker. The Plaintiff, Kathy Fraze, served as Ms. Decker's caregiver since the death of Ms. Decker's son on December 6, 2012. On December 14, 2012, Plaintiff applied for renter's insurance from Defendant, Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company to cover personal property located in the farmhouse. According to the Plaintiff, some of the contents in the farmhouse had been gifted to her by Ms. Decker after the death of Ms. Decker's son.

         Plaintiff went to Norwood Insurance Services LLC in New Albany, Indiana, to obtain the insurance. She had previously purchased automobile insurance from that agency. She discussed her insurance needs with agent Michael Sanders. Plaintiff testified that she lived both at her 130-acre camp in Indiana and in the Billtown Road farmhouse prior to the fire. Plaintiff further testified that during this time, she was preparing the farmhouse for Jean Decker to move in with her. Plaintiff represents that she advised Sanders of this information. Sanders received this information from Plaintiff and entered it into the Homeowner application. Plaintiff indicated that she reviewed the application with Sanders and signed the application at Sanders' request. Additionally, Plaintiff indicates that Sanders discussed with her the contents that she wanted insured, and he suggested that the personal property be insured for $52, 000. A review of the application reveals that Sanders failed to complete the General Information for renters requested at the bottom of page four of six of the application.

         On July 22, 2013, the Jeffersontown Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at the Billtown property. Arson investigators from the Louisville Metro Arson Investigation Unit determined that a lamp and/or an electrical extension cord plugged into a socket in the main bedroom likely caused the fire. On July 24, 2013, Plaintiff contacted Metropolitan and reported the fire at the Billtown property. The following day, Metropolitan adjuster Ricky Pearson met with Plaintiff at the house for an initial inspection. He informed Plaintiff that she needed to prepare an inventory of all her personal property lost in the fire. On August 12, 2013, Plaintiff met with Pearson at the Billtown property. Pearson avers that he inspected the property attempting to locate the items Plaintiff claimed as lost in the fire and listed on her inventory. Pearson states he found none. Metropolitan states that during both inspections, on July 25, 2013 and August 12, 2013, Pearson photographed the exterior and interior of the Billtown house.

         On November 11, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a Sworn Statement in Proof of Loss to Metropolitan, attached to a letter from her attorney. In her Sworn Proof of Loss, Plaintiff represented that she was a residential renter of the Billtown property, claimed a total loss of her personal property in the fire, and placed the total value of her loss at $37, 500. Plaintiff identified numerous pieces of furniture, electronics, camera equipment, and jewelry located in the home, including antique items. Plaintiff participated in two Examinations Under Oath, January 17, 2014, and June 5, 2014.

         Despite Plaintiff's claim and demand, the Defendant has failed to pay the claim. On July 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant for breach of the insurance contract and for bad faith. Defendant answered and filed a counterclaim seeking a judgment declaring the rights of the respective parties as to the insurance coverage available to Plaintiff under the policy in question. The Defendant has now filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration that the Renter's Insurance Policy is null and void and that Metropolitan owes no insurance coverage to Plaintiff for her claimed loss herein.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non- moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. DISCUSSION

         There is no dispute that the renter's insurance policy was in force at the time of the fire loss. However, Metropolitan contends that the renter's insurance policy is void as a matter of law because Fraze made material misrepresentations during the application for renter's insurance regarding her residency status ...


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