United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
in this breach of contract case is Defendant Safeco Insurance
Company's motion for summary judgment or, in the
alternative, to limit facts and issues not in dispute. ECF
No. 69. Also pending is Plaintiff Charles Nguti's motion
for leave to file surreply. ECF No. 79. For the reasons
stated below, Defendant's motion is granted in part and
denied in part. Plaintiff's motion is denied.
January 26, 2012, a fire broke out at the home of Plaintiff
Charles Nguti (“Nguti”) in Hyattsville, Maryland
which destroyed or damaged most of Nguti's personal
belongings. ECF No. 2 at 2. Nguti notified his insurance
carrier, Defendant Safeco Insurance Company
(“Safeco”), of the fire the same day.
Id. The fire left Nguti homeless until February 1,
2012, when Safeco, through CRS, a third party agency,
provided temporary housing for Nguti and his family.
investigated the fire for several months, ultimately
disclaiming coverage for the damage on July 29, 2012.
According to Nguti, Safeco's disclaimer was without
notice or “justifiable reason.” Id. at
4. This denial of coverage led to Nguti's mortgage lender
arranging for force-placed insurance. Id. at
Nguti then filed a complaint with the Maryland Insurance
Administration (“MIA”) to dispute Safeco's
cancellation. Id. Following an MIA investigation,
Safeco reinstated the same insurance policy and noted that
Nguti suffered “no lapse in coverage.” ECF No.
69-16 at 2; see ECF No. 2 at 5.
August 3, 2012, a CRS agent notified Nguti that his temporary
housing would come to an end on September 2, 2012. ECF No. 2
at 3. Then, on September 25, 2012, Safeco formally denied
coverage of Nguti's insurance claims related to the fire.
December 18, 2014, Nguti filed a four-count complaint against
Safeco in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County,
Maryland. ECF No. 2. Following timely removal, Safeco filed a
partial motion to dismiss on Counts One and Four. ECF No. 13.
The Court granted the motion in part. ECF Nos. 28 & 29.
It denied the motion as to Count Four and granted it as to
Count Two. Id. Thus, Counts One, Three, and Four
Count One, Nguti claims that Safeco breached its insurance
contract in failing to reimburse Nguti for the personal
property lost or damaged as a result of the fire, and for
which Nguti seeks damages of $120, 000. ECF No. 2 at 3. Count
Three also claims a breach of contract in Safeco's
failure to reimburse Nguti for $32, 400 of living expenses
arising from Safeco's termination of temporary housing.
Id. at 4. Count Four alleges wrongful termination of
the pertinent insurance policy. On this count, Nguti seeks a
refund for the premiums paid for the force-placed insurance
policy that Nguti claims he purchased when Safeco cancelled
his homeowner's insurance, or any other relief that the
Court deems proper. Id. at 5.
December 20, 2016, Safeco filed a motion for summary judgment
or, in the alternative, a motion to limit facts and issues
not in dispute. ECF No. 69. Principally, Safeco seeks summary
judgment for a failure of proof on damages, or alternatively,
a Court Order limiting the triable issues as to damages and
the nature and cause of the fire. Id. For the
following reasons, the Court grants Safeco's motion on
summary judgment as to Nguti's claimed actual damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
may enter summary judgment only if there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th
Cir. 2008). Summary judgment is inappropriate if any material
fact at issue might “reasonably be resolved in favor of
either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); JKC Holding Co. LLC
v. Washington Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465
(4th Cir. 2001). “Furthermore, a court should not grant
summary judgment ‘unless the entire record shows a
right to judgment with such clarity as to leave no room for
controversy and establishes affirmatively that the adverse
party cannot prevail under any circumstances.'”
Campbell v. Hewitt, Coleman & Assocs., Inc., 21
F.3d 52, 55 (4th Cir. 1994) (quoting Phoenix Sav. &
Loan, Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co., 381 F.2d
245, 249 (4th Cir. 1967)).
“the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of
summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon
motion, against a party who fails 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. Although “given some latitude . . . even a
pro se party may not avoid summary judgment by relying on
bald assertions and speculative arguments.”
Mansfield v. Kerry, No. DKC 15-3693, 2016 WL
7383873, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 21, 2016) (citing Smith v.
Vilsack, 832 F.Supp.2d 573, 580 (D. Md. 2011).
party opposing a properly supported motion for summary
judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or
denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens
Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003)
(quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “A mere scintilla
of proof . . . will not suffice to prevent summary
judgment.” Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 314
(4th Cir. 2003). “If the evidence is merely colorable,
or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50
(citations omitted). At the same time, the court must
construe the facts presented in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Emmett, 532 F.3d at 297.
also asks the Court to enter an order limiting the facts and
issues not in dispute. Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure permits a party to move for partial summary
judgment by identifying “each claim or defense-or the
part of each claim or defense-on which summary
judgment is sought.” (emphasis added). A motion for
partial summary judgment is recognized as a useful pretrial
tool; the Advisory Committee Notes to the 1946 amendment to
Rule 56 state: “The partial summary judgment is merely
a pretrial adjudication that certain issues shall be deemed
established for the trial of the case. This adjudication . .
. serves the purpose of speeding up litigation by”
narrowing the issues for trial to those over which there is a
genuine dispute of material fact. Rotorex Co. v.