Akers v. Liberty Mut. Group, Civil Action No. 08–1525 (RMU).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation744 F.Supp.2d 92
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 08–1525 (RMU).
PartiesMartha AKERS, Plaintiff,v.LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, Defendant.
Decision Date28 September 2010

744 F.Supp.2d 92

Martha AKERS, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP, Defendant.

Civil Action No. 08–1525 (RMU).

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Sept. 28, 2010.


[744 F.Supp.2d 93]

Martha A. Akers, Washington, DC, pro se.Jeffrey Thomas Brown, Sr., Decaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & DeBlasis, L.L.P., Bowie, MD, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION
Denying Without Prejudice the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; Denying the Defendant's Motion to Strike the Plaintiff's Affidavit; Denying the Defendant's Motion to Strike the Plaintiff's Amended Affidavit; Denying the Defendant's Motion to Strike the Plaintiff's Second Amended Affidavit; Granting the Defendant's Motion to Strike the Plaintiff's Sur–Reply
RICARDO M. URBINA, District Judge.
I. INTRODUCTION

The pro se plaintiff had a homeowner's insurance policy with the defendant, Liberty Mutual Group. After the plaintiff's insured property was damaged in a fire, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim which was subsequently denied. The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendant alleging breach of contract and demanding specific performance. The matter is now before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Because the defendant relies on hearsay and unauthenticated exhibits, the court denies the motion without prejudice.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff owns a house on East Beach Drive N.W., Washington D.C. (“the property”). Compl. ¶ 4 The property was insured by the defendant pursuant to a homeowner's insurance policy in effect from November 24, 2006 to November 24, 2007 (“the policy”). See generally Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”), Ex. 2; Pl.'s Aff. in Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J.

[744 F.Supp.2d 94]

(“Pl.'s Aff.”), Ex. 3. 1 The policy provided that in the event of a loss, the plaintiff, as the insured party, was required to (1) provide the defendant with prompt notice of the loss, (2) protect the property from further damage, (3) prepare an inventory of damaged personal property and (4) make the property and pertinent records available to the defendant upon request. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 2 (“Homeowners 3 Special Form”) at 18; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 3 at 24–25. The policy also excluded coverage for any “intentional loss,” which it defined as “any loss arising out of any act committed ... by or at the direction of an ‘insured’; and with the intent to cause a loss.” Homeowners 3 Special Form at 18.2 Finally, the policy became void if the insured “[i]ntentionally concealed or misrepresented any material fact or circumstance; [e]ngaged in fraudulent conduct; or [m]ade false statements.” Id. at 34.

On or about July 5, 2007, the property sustained fire damage. Compl. ¶ 5. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff submitted a claim for loss. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 3 (“Gould Aff.”) ¶ 3. The defendant denied the claim on September 19, 2007 on the grounds that the plaintiff had “failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the policy.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at 3. More specifically, the defendant asserted that the plaintiff failed to comply with policy's provisions regarding the insured's duties after loss and engaged “in concealment, fraud, material misrepresentation, false statements, and non-cooperation” thereby rendering the policy void. Id. at 1, 3.

The plaintiff commenced this action against the defendant on July 3, 2008 alleging breach of contract and demanding specific performance. See generally Compl. The defendant has moved for summary judgment. See generally Def.'s Mot.

III. ANALYSIS
A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C.Cir.1995). To determine which facts are “material,” a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests.

[744 F.Supp.2d 95]

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A “genuine issue” is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in support of its position. Id. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party “fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id.

The nonmoving party may defeat summary judgment through factual representations made in a sworn affidavit if he “support[s] his allegations ... with facts in the record,” Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C.Cir.1999) (quoting Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C.Cir.1993)), or provides “direct testimonial evidence,” Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 338 (D.C.Cir.2006). Indeed, for the court to accept anything less “would defeat the central purpose of the summary judgment device, which is to weed out those cases insufficiently meritorious to warrant the expense of a jury trial.” Greene, 164 F.3d at 675.

B. The Defendant Has Failed to Support Its Motion With Admissible Evidence

The defendant submitted thirty-seven exhibits in support of its motion for summary judgment. See generally Def.'s Mot., Exs. 1–37. Chief among these exhibits is an affidavit by Maureen Gould, an investigator in Liberty Mutual's Special Investigative Unit. See generally Gould Aff.

The plaintiff argues that Liberty Mutual's motion for summary judgment should be denied because it relies extensively on Gould's affidavit. See Pl.'s 2d Am. Aff. ¶ 1. The plaintiff contends that Gould's affidavit “is defective [p]ursuant to [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 56(e)(1)” because there are “no affidavits, sworn or certified copies of original recorded sessions or facts [r]eferred to ... [or incorporated] by reference[ ].” Id. ¶ 3.

The defendant counters that Gould's affidavit does not violate Rule 56(e)(1) because Gould “never indicated in her affidavit that she was relying upon either an affidavit from or recording of [the] persons [listed by the plaintiff].” Def.'s Reply at 4. The defendant maintains that Gould's affidavit “is based on her direct personal knowledge of what those persons reported to her, which thereafter comprised information considered by the defendant in the scope of its investigation of the alleged accidental fire loss, again about which Ms....

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