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Spine Specialists of Michigan, P.C. v. Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 16, 2017

SPINE SPECIALISTS OF MICHIGAN, P.C., Stella Najor and Aracelis Najjar Plaintiff,
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation, and CITIZENS INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT CITIZENS INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 32]

          LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On July 14, 2015, Plaintiff Spine Specialists of Michigan, P.C. (“Plaintiff” or “Spine Specialists”) filed this lawsuit in a Michigan state court against Defendant Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Company (“Allstate”). (ECF No. 1-1 at Pg ID 17.) An amended complaint was filed on August 31, 2015, naming Citizens Insurance Company of America (“Citizens”) as a Defendant. (Id. at Pg ID 22.) Citizens was served on October 30, 2015, and removed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction on November 23, 2015. (ECF No. 1 at Pg ID 3.) Presently before the Court are Citizens' (1) motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on November 28, 2016 (ECF No. 32) and (2) motion to dismiss for failure to comply with discovery, or in the alternative, to compel the deposition of Dr. Louis Radden (ECF No. 33). The motions have been fully briefed. For the following reasons, the Court grants Citizens' motion for summary judgment and denies as moot Citizens' motion to dismiss.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is appropriate “if the movant shows that 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). The central inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the movant meets this burden, the “nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably find for that party; a “scintilla of evidence” is insufficient. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

         “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed” must designate specifically the materials in the record supporting the assertion, “including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Rule 56 provides that “[a]n affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify to the matters stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). “In order to survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must be able to show sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his favor on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy.” Lewis v. Philip Morris, Inc., 355 F.3d 515, 533 (6th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations and brackets omitted).

         Notably, the trial court is not required to construct a party's argument from the record or search out facts from the record supporting those arguments. See, e.g., Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479-80 (6th Cir. 1989) (“the trial court no longer has a duty to search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact”) (citing Frito-Lay, Inc. v. Willoughby, 863 F.2d 1029, 1034 (D.C. Cir. 1988)); see also InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1091 (1990) (“A district court is not required to speculate on which portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it obligated to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim.”). The parties are required to designate with specificity the portions of the record such that the court can “readily identify the facts upon which the...party relies[.]” InterRoyal Corp., 889 F.2d at 111.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On March 18, 2014, Stella Najor (“Stella”) and Aracelis Najjar (“Aracelis”) were injured in a motor vehicle accident. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 4.) At the time of the accident, Najor had a policy of no-fault insurance with Allstate and Najjar with Citizens.[1] (ECF No. 32-3-4.) On May 27, 2014, Najor and Najjar visited Dr. Louis Radden, a doctor employed with Plaintiff Spine Specialists, for injuries related to the motor vehicle accident. (ECF No. 32-6.)

         On July 30, 2014, Citizens received a telephone call from a representative of Allstate advising them of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in a vehicle owned by Martin Najjar.[2] (ECF No. 32-7 at Pg ID 454.) On August 13, 2014, an adjuster from Citizens spoke with Mr. Najjar to arrange for a meeting to obtain an in-person statement about the accident from Stella and Aracelis. Mr. Najjar stated he would reach out at a later time with a date for a meeting, but failed to do so. The Citizens adjuster reached out again on September 3, 2014; September 23, 2014; and October 9, 2014. (ECF No. 32 at Pg ID 210.) During the first follow-up call on September 3rd, Mr. Najjar stated he would call back with a date for Citizens to obtain an in-person statement. (Id.; see also ECF No. 32-8 at Pg ID 472.) On September 23rd, the Citizens adjuster followed up again and was told by Mr. Najjar that he was at work but would call back the next day. (ECF No. 32-8 at Pg ID 471-72.) On October 9th, the Citizens adjuster again attempted to determine a date for an in-person statement and left a voicemail, but never received a phone call in return. (ECF No. 32-8 at Pg ID 471.)

         After the failed attempts to obtain an in-person statement, Citizens issued a reservation of rights letter on November 7, 2014. (ECF No. 32-10 at Pg ID 498.) This letter highlighted the importance of the in-person statement in determining whether coverage will be provided under the policy:

At this time, we have a lack of sufficient proof and information for any injuries/conditions possibly related to the motor vehicle accident listed above. We have also had no success in arranging a statement with the involved parties and without cooperation our investigation cannot move forward to make any determinations. All benefits will remain pending until we have completed our investigation.
We need to arrange a time for an in person statement with Jacob Way with Citizens Insurance Company has made attempts to arrange prior to this correspondence.

(Id.) Citizens did not receive any contact from Mr. Najjar, Stella, or Aracelis after sending that letter. (ECF ...


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