269 F.3d 474 (4th Cir. 2001), 00-2495, Hartz v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co.

Docket Nº:00-2495
Citation:269 F.3d 474
Party Name:LAURI JO HARTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY; LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY; LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:October 29, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 474

269 F.3d 474 (4th Cir. 2001)

LAURI JO HARTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY; LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY; LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 00-2495

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 29, 2001

        Argued: September 25, 2001

        Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Peter J. Messitte, District Judge.

        (CA-00-453-PJM)

        COUNSEL ARGUED: C. William Michaels, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Michael McGowan, MCGOWAN & SMATHERS, L.L.P., Laurel, Maryland, for Appellees.

        Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, and WILKINS and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges.

         Affirmed by published opinion. Chief Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wilkins and Judge Traxler joined.

        OPINION

        WILKINSON, Chief Judge:

        The district court granted summary judgment for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. The court held that Lauri Jo Hartz's complaint was styled in tort not contract, and Maryland law provides no firstparty action in tort against an insurer for bad faith failure to settle a claim. We affirm.

        I.

        Plaintiff Lauri Jo Hartz and her husband, Benjamin Hartz, had a homeowner's insurance policy for their residence in Rockville, Maryland. The policy was issued by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. On January 12, 1997, a fire broke out in the Hartz home which resulted in substantial smoke damage. There were no personal injuries resulting from the fire.

        Hartz promptly filed a claim with Liberty Mutual. Hartz found it difficult to be in her home after the fire because the smoke aggravated her asthma. Hartz informed Liberty Mutual of her medical condition and Liberty Mutual knew the claim needed to be expedited.

        Within days of Hartz's initial claim, Liberty Mutual sent out a crew to clean the smoke-damaged carpet and furniture. However, neither that crew nor a subsequent

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crew was able to successfully repair the damage. Hartz's asthma began to worsen and she was unable to stay in her home, even though other family members were able to do so. Eventually, it became necessary to hire appraisers and get estimates for the remaining clean-up and replacement costs.

        Hartz selected an appraiser, but Liberty Mutual rejected her appraiser. Liberty Mutual asserted that the appraiser was not impartial as required by the policy. However, Hartz argued that the policy only required that the appraiser be competent. After lengthy delays, Liberty Mutual finally agreed to Hartz's appraiser. Yet the delays continued and Hartz decided to hire counsel and file a complaint with the Maryland Insurance Administration...

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