United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
KENNETH D. BELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on the parties' cross
Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. Nos. 34, 37). The Court
has carefully reviewed the motions and considered the
parties' briefs and exhibits. As discussed below, the
Court will DENY both parties' motions
for summary judgment because there are numerous genuine
issues of material facts disputed among the parties on their
various claims. The trial of this action will accordingly
remain set for November 18, 2019.
judgment may only be granted “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 factual dispute is considered genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
“A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law.” Vannoy v.
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 827 F.3d 296, 300 (4th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Libertarian Party of Va. v.
Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013)).
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact
through citations to the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions or affidavits in the record.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986); Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). “The
burden on the moving party may be discharged by
‘showing'. . . an absence of evidence to support
the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 325. Once this initial burden is met, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party. The nonmoving party
“must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial, ” Id. at 322 n.3. The
nonmoving party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials
of allegations in his pleadings to defeat a motion for
summary judgment. Id. at 324.
ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must view the
evidence and any inferences from the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Tolan v.
Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 657 (2014); see also
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “Summary judgment
cannot be granted merely because the court believes that the
movant will prevail if the action is tried on the
merits.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the
Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting
10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller et al.,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 2728 (3d ed.1998)).
“The court therefore cannot weigh the evidence or make
credibility determinations.” Id. at 569
(citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French (In
re French), 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007)).
end, the question posed by a summary judgment motion is
whether the evidence as applied to the governing legal rules
“is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Id. at 252.
parties to an action file cross motions for summary judgment
that often indicates that the parties agree on the material
facts and believe that the resolution of a controlling
question of law will decide the case for one side or the
other. Not so in this case, where the parties' cross
summary judgment motions more closely resemble ships passing
in the night on a sea of disputed facts and legal theories.
action arises out of a car accident in Hickory, North
Carolina on May 20, 2016 between Plaintiff Joey Sigmon
(“Sigmon”) and Ally Hennington, who is one of
Defendants' (collectively “State Farm”)
insureds. Sigmon was injured in the collision, suffering a
broken right shoulder, which has led to two surgical
procedures. Sigmon's vehicle was declared a total loss.
contends, in an allegation supported by the police report of
the accident, that he had the right of way and Defendant
pulled out in front of him. Soon after the accident, Sigmon
filed a claim with State Farm. On or about May 31, 2016,
State Farm accepted “100% liability” and/or told
Sigmon that it was taking “full responsibility”
for the accident, although the details and scope of State
Farm's acceptance of liability is disputed. Sigmon
asserts that in reliance on this acceptance of liability, he
did not engage counsel, investigate the accident or take any
other action to pursue his claims against State Farm's
2016, State Farm paid Sigmon for the property damage to his
vehicle and reimbursed him for rental car expenses. Also,
State Farm sought medical information from Sigmon, and the
parties began discussions concerning how much Sigmon would be
paid for his bodily injuries, but they did not reach an
agreement on the amount. From the time when State Farm
accepted “responsibility” for the accident on
behalf of its insured in late May 2016 until late June 2017,
State Farm did not indicate that its acceptance of
responsibility was in any manner contingent, uncertain or
subject to further investigation or potential modification.
However, at some point the agents and/or adjusters
responsible for handling the claim at State Farm changed, and
on or about June 26, 2017 State Farm changed its position,
denying liability and responsibility for Sigmon's claim
on the grounds that Sigmon was allegedly contributorily
negligent and bore partial responsibility for the accident.
State Farm's denial of responsibility, Sigmon filed
personal injury claims against Hennington in the Superior
Court of Catawba County, in a case captioned, Joey W.
Sigmon and Mary Sigmon v. Ally R. Hennington and Mark H.
Hennington, No. 17 CVS 2838, and filed this action,
which was removed to this Court on December 21, 2017. The
parties have each moved for summary judgment on all of
Sigmon's remaining claims - breach of contract, negligent
misrepresentation and fraud in the inducement.
parties' most fundamental disagreement is over the scope,
nature and effect of State Farm's acceptance of
responsibility for its insured's liability for
Sigmon's injuries and damages as a result of the car
accident. Sigmon characterizes State Farm's conduct as a
binding acceptance of responsibility on which he relied and
which the company is estopped from disavowing (particularly
over a year later). State Farm in turn asks the Court to find
that its acceptance of responsibility was no more than a part
of incomplete negotiations towards a settlement, and it is
free to change its position so long as Sigmon cannot prove
that he has been “harmed” by the change. Within
this overall ...