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Grange Mutual Casualty Co. v. Woodard

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

June 25, 2015

GRANGE MUTUAL CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
BORIS WOODARD and SUSAN WOODARD, Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [15], Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [29], and Defendants' Motion to Supplement the Record [36]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.

Background

This case arises out of an automobile accident involving Thomas Dempsey, Anna Woodard, and Defendant Boris Woodard, in which Anna Woodard sustained fatal injuries. (Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [15-1] ¶¶ 1-2.) Defendants Boris and Susan Woodard ("Defendants") are Anna Woodard's parents. Plaintiff Grange Mutual Casualty Company ("Plaintiff") insures Thomas Dempsey. (Id. ¶ 6.)

Defendants, through their attorney, sent an offer to Plaintiff to settle Defendants' claims for injuries and wrongful death. (Id. ¶ 12.) While the parties dispute the terms for acceptance of the offer, the following is undisputed. The offer listed eleven provisions under a heading stating: "The following items must be noted and fully and strictly complied with in order to accept this offer." (Settlement Offer, Dkt. [1-2] at 3.) The first provision required acceptance within thirty days of the offer. (Id.) The second provision stated: "Your acceptance of this offer must be made in writing to me at the above address shown in my letterhead." (Id.) The fourth and fifth provisions stated:

If payment is not tendered in cash pursuant to OCGA 9-11-67.1(f)(1), payment in the amount of $50, 000 must be made payable to [Defendants] within ten (10) days after your written acceptance of this offer to settle. Timely payment is an essential element of acceptance.

(Id. at 4.)

Within thirty days, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendants stating that Plaintiff accepted Defendants' demand. (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [29] ¶ 20.) Within ten days of Plaintiff's written acceptance, Plaintiff e-mailed Defendants to inform them that the checks were being issued that day. (Id. ¶ 38.) After the ten-day window had passed, Defendants informed Plaintiff that the settlement checks had not arrived, and so Plaintiff had failed to accept the offer. (Id. ¶ 42.) Plaintiff responded, stating that there was an error in processing the checks, and an incorrect address was printed on the envelope. (Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [15-1] ¶ 24.) Plaintiff issued new checks and sent them to Defendants. (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [29-2] ¶ 48.) Defendants refused to accept the checks upon their arrival. (Id.)

Plaintiff now brings this action seeking enforcement of the alleged agreement between Plaintiff and Defendants. Defendants move for summary judgment, asserting that there was no agreement between the parties. Plaintiff also moves for summary judgment, alleging that Plaintiff accepted Defendants' settlement offer, forming an enforceable settlement agreement.

Discussion

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment 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). "The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the... court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotations omitted)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id . An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249-50.

In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But, the court is bound only to draw those inferences that are reasonable. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also ...


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