United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
RICHARD W. STORY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 60].
a breach of contract action arising out of a fire loss which
occurred on July 14, 2015, at Plaintiffs' property in
Canton, Georgia. Plaintiffs submitted a personal property
claim due to the fire loss to their insurer, Defendant State
Farm, which provided insurance coverage to the property
pursuant to policy number 11-CZ-D447-3 [Id.,
¶¶ 1-3, admitted].
time of the fire, Plaintiffs were in bankruptcy proceedings
and making payments pursuant to a Chapter 13 reorganization
plan [Id., ¶ 5, admitted]. On July 14, 2015,
Plaintiffs initiated a claim for damages to their real and
personal property as a result of the fire loss [Id.,
¶ 21, admitted]. During the course of the claim,
Plaintiffs submitted five sworn inventories and proofs of
loss to Defendant [Id., ¶ 38, admitted].
Plaintiffs' inventories claimed substantial damage to
personal property items, including damages totaling $32,
844.88 in one guest room (primarily clothing), $13, 195 in
another guest bedroom (primarily clothing), $18, 957 in a
third guest bedroom (primarily clothing), $8, 887, 51 in the
master bedroom, $10, 527 in the great room, $4, 927.97 in the
basement, and $14, 146 in “other” building
expenses, including $10, 000 in landscaping and a new hot
water heater [Id., ¶ 42, admitted]. Two of the
inventories (from September 21 and December 8, 2015) were
submitted while the bankruptcy was pending, and they sought
damages to personal property assets totaling $144, 881.81 or
$91, 815 respectively. These amounts were substantially more
than the $2, 925 of personal property assets disclosed in the
Defendant denied Plaintiffs' personal property claim on
the basis that Plaintiffs concealed and misrepresented
material information in conjunction with their claim.
Plaintiffs then filed this action on July 11, 2017 [Doc. No.
1]. Plaintiffs seek damages for breach of contract and for
bad faith failure to pay their insurance claim pursuant to
O.C.G.A. § 33-4-6. Defendant has now moved for summary
judgment [Doc. No. 60]. The Court will provide additional
facts as necessary below.
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.
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 Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (once
the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56(a), the
nonmoving party “must do more than simply show there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”).
contends that Plaintiffs are judicially estopped from seeking
more than the amount of personal property assets asserted in
their bankruptcy action. Defendant also contends that
Plaintiffs' bad faith claim is procedurally and
substantively deficient. The Court will address these
arguments in turn.
estoppel is an equitable doctrine invoked at a court's
discretion.” Burnes v. Pemco Aeroplex, Inc.,
291 F.3d 1282, 1285 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting New
Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 750 (2001)).
“Under this doctrine, a party is precluded from
asserting a claim in a legal proceeding that is inconsistent
with a claim taken by that party in a previous
proceeding.” Id. (internal quotations
omitted). “The purpose of the doctrine is to protect
the integrity of the judicial process by prohibiting parties
from deliberately changing positions according to the
exigencies of the moment.” Id. (internal
Eleventh Circuit considers two primary factors in the
application of judicial estoppel. “First, it must be
shown that the allegedly inconsistent positions were made
under oath in a prior proceeding. Second, such
inconsistencies must be shown to have been calculated to make
a mockery of the judicial system.” Id.
(quoting Salomon Smith Barney, Inc. v. Harvey, M.D.,
260 F.3d 1302, 1308 (11th Cir. 2001). The Eleventh Circuit
also considers secondary factors, including (1) whether a
party persuaded a court to accept a position based on
inconsistent statements; and (2) whether the party seeking to
assert an inconsistent position ...