United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
JOHN HIESTER CHRYLSER JEEP, LLC and HIESTER AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, INC., Plaintiffs,
GREENWICH INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on defendant's motion for
judgment on the pleadings (DE 8) which the court converted to
a motion for summary judgment by its order issued October 18,
2017, (DE 20). In this posture, the issues raised are ripe
for review. For the reasons that follow, the court grants
defendant's motion for summary judgment.
OF THE CASE
filed this case on February 17, 2017, in the Superior Court
of Harnett County, asserting declaration of coverage of
claims under two employment practices liability insurance
policies issued to plaintiffs by defendant on November 29,
2014 (“Harris policy”) and February 8, 2015
(“Davis policy”) and asserting breach of contract
claims due to defendant's denial of plaintiffs'
request for coverage. (See Compl. (DE 1)
¶¶ 11-14, DE 21-6, DE 21-8).
removed this matter on March 23, 2017, filed a timely answer
on March 30, 2017, including as attachments thereto: 1) the
Harris and Davis policies; 2) Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) charges filed by Harris and
Davis; 3) complaints filed by Harris and Davis; and 4) notice
received by defendant from plaintiff regarding Harris and
Davis's EEOC charges.
March 30, 2017, defendant filed the instant motion for
judgment on the pleadings wherein defendant argues that
plaintiffs failed to provide timely notice of plaintiffs'
claims to defendant. On October 18, 2017, the court converted
defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings to one
for summary judgment and provided notice to the parties. The
court additionally directed plaintiffs to show cause within
21 days of issuance of the court's order why summary
judgment should not be granted to defendant based on
documentation submitted by defendant in conjunction with
defendant's answer, the authenticity of which is
November 7, 2017, plaintiffs filed their response with
reliance upon the following exhibits: 1) June 22, 2016 letter
from defendant to plaintiff John Hiester Chrysler Dodge Jeep,
LLC concerning a certain EEOC charge filed by Brandy M.
Boylan; 2) June 27, 2016 letters from defendant to plaintiffs
denying claim coverage for Harris and Davis's EEOC
charges; 3) letters from the EEOC terminating claims for
Harris and Davis; 4) the Harris and Davis policies; and 5)
policies issued by defendant for both plaintiffs for
2016-2017. On November 27, 2017, defendant filed its reply.
Standard of Review Summary judgment is appropriate where
“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 party
seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party
must then “come forward with specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (internal quotation
omitted). Only disputes between the parties over facts that
might affect the outcome of the case properly preclude the
entry of summary judgment. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (holding that a
factual dispute is “material” only if it might
affect the outcome of the suit and “genuine” only
if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to
return a verdict for the non-moving party).
the summary judgment stage the [court's] function is not
[itself] to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. at 249. In determining whether
there is a genuine issue for trial, “evidence of the
non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences
are to be drawn in [non-movant's] favor.”
Id. at 255; see United States v. Diebold,
Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (“On summary
judgment the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts
contained in [affidavits, attached exhibits, and depositions]
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion.”).
“permissible inferences must still be within the range
of reasonable probability, . . . and it is the duty of the
court to withdraw the case from the [factfinder] when the
necessary inference is so tenuous that it rests merely upon
speculation and conjecture.” Lovelace v.
Sherwin- Williams Co., 681 F.2d 230, 241 (4th
Cir. 1982) (quotations omitted). Thus, judgment as a matter
of law is warranted where “the verdict in favor of the
non-moving party would necessarily be based on speculation
and conjecture.” Myrick v. Prime Ins. Syndicate,
Inc., 395 F.3d 485, 489 (4th Cir. 2005). By contrast,
when “the evidence as a whole is susceptible of more
than one reasonable inference, a [triable] issue is created,
” and judgment as a matter of law should be denied.
Id. at 489-90.