United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pending and ready for resolution in this declaratory judgment
action are cross motions for summary judgment filed by
Plaintiff Progressive Advanced Insurance Company
(“Progressive” or “Plaintiff”) (ECF
No. 25) and Defendant Jason Corekin (“Mr.
Corekin” or “Defendant”). (ECF No. 26). The
issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing
being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following
reasons, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be
granted, and Defendant's cross motion for summary
judgment will be denied.
claims that the insurance he had with Plaintiff included
$300, 000 in uninsured motorist coverage. Plaintiff contends
that he waived full coverage and opted for the lower amount
of $100, 000. The genesis of this dispute began on May
24, 2009, when Defendant created an online account and
completed his electronic application for an insurance policy
with Plaintiff. As part of the application process, Defendant
completed a page entitled “Notice Concerning the
Waiver of Increased Limits of Uninsured Motorist Coverage in
Maryland.” (ECF No. 25-3 (emphasis in the
original)). The page contained a word-for-word reproduction
of a Maryland Insurance Administration's
(“MIA”) model form that authorizes individuals to
waive the default amount of uninsured motorist
(“UM” or “UIM”) coverage.
(See ECF Nos. 25-3; 25-8). On the page, Defendant
clicked a box which stated he was “affirmatively
waiv[ing] [the default UM coverage] and instead elect[ing] to
purchase lower uninsured motorists limits.” (ECF No.
25-4, at 2:02). He then typed his name in the signature space
of the page. (Id. at 2:12).
25, 2009, Plaintiff accepted the application and sent
Defendant information about the new policy including the
discount he received for using the online system. (ECF No. 2
¶ 17; ECF No. 2-1; ECF No. 3 ¶ 17). From May 2009
until 2014, Defendant paid each of his policy premiums
electronically. (ECF No. 25-5, at 4). Defendant also
communicated electronically with Plaintiff, conducted online
transactions with Plaintiff, and received electronic copies
of documents from Plaintiff. (Id. at 5). The
Declarations Page consistently stated that Uninsured Motorist
Coverage was $100, 000 each person. (ECF No. 25-7).
November 11, 2014, Defendant was in an automobile accident.
After the accident, Defendant submitted a claim to Plaintiff
for uninsured motorist coverage, and Plaintiff dispersed
$100, 000 to Defendant for the accident. On April 5, 2016,
Defendant's counsel wrote to Plaintiff alleging that
Defendant was entitled to an additional $200, 000 because
Defendant never effectively waived his right to the default
UM coverage. (ECF No. 2-3).
5, 2016, Plaintiff commenced this action seeking a
declaration that Plaintiff had fulfilled its obligation under
the insurance policy and that Defendant waived his right to
the default UM coverage. (ECF No. 2). Defendant answered and
counterclaimed seeking a declaration that he had not waived
his right to the default UM coverage. (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff
filed a motion for summary judgment, and Defendant responded
and filed a cross motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 25;
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there
exists no genuine dispute 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); Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986);
Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th
Cir. 2008). To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the
moving party generally bears the burden of showing that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248-50. A dispute about a material
fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. at 248. In undertaking this
inquiry, a court must view the facts and the reasonable
inferences drawn therefrom “in the light most favorable
to the party opposing the motion, ” Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc.,
369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also EEOC v. Navy Fed.
Credit Union, 424 F.3d 397, 405 (4th Cir.
2005), but a “party cannot create a genuine dispute of
material fact through mere speculation or compilation of
inferences.” Shin v. Shalala, 166 F.Supp.2d
373, 375 (D.Md. 2001) (citation omitted).
cross-motions for summary judgment are before a court, the
court examines each motion separately, employing the familiar
standard under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure.” Desmond v. PNGI Charles Town Gaming,
LLC, 630 F.3d 351, 354 (4th Cir. 2011). The
court must deny both motions if it finds there is a genuine
dispute of material fact, “[b]ut if there is no genuine
issue and one or the other party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law, the court will render judgment.” 10A
Charles A. Wright, et al., Federal Practice & Procedure
§ 2720 (3d ed. 1998).
diversity actions, a district court applies the substantive
law and choice of law rules of the state in which the court
sits. Padco Advisors, Inc. v. Omdahl, 179 F.Supp.2d
600, 605 (D.Md. 2002) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v.
Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938)). In contract claims,
Maryland applies the doctrine of lex loci
contractus, meaning that the law of the place where the
contract was made applies. Allstate Ins. Co. v.
Hart, 327 Md. 526, 529 (1992). “The locus
contractus is the place where the last act is performed
which makes an agreement a binding contract.” Grain
Dealers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Van Buskirk, 241 Md. 58, 65-66
(1965). In an insurance contract, the delivery of the policy
and the payment of the premiums constitute the “last
act.” Id. at 66 (citing Sun Ins. Office v.
Mallick, 160 Md. 71, 81 (1931)). Defendant, a Maryland
resident, received the policy in Maryland. Therefore,
Maryland substantive law applies to this dispute. Maryland
law does not, however, govern procedural rules in this court,
even when jurisdiction is based on diversity, and it does not
apply when there is conflicting federal law.
an action for declaratory judgment, the burden of proof is
not put on the plaintiff merely because he has filed the
action, rather the Court must examine the underlying issues
to determine the burden of proof.” Reasor v. City
of Norfolk, Va., 606 F.Supp. 788, 793 (E.D. Va. 1984);
(citing Royal Indemnity Co. v. Wingate, 353 F.Supp.
1002, 1004 (D.Md.), aff'd. 487 F.2d 1398 (4th Cir.1973);
Medtronic Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC, 134
S.Ct. 843, 849-50 (2014) (holding that a declaratory judgment
action did not shift the burden of proof for patent
infringement related actions). Here, the parties' dispute
involves a possible breach of an insurance contract.
insurance coverage dispute, the insured has the initial
burden “of proving all elements of a prima facie case
including the existence of a policy, payment of applicable
premiums, compliance with policy conditions, the loss as
within policy coverage, and the insurer's refusal to make
payment when required to do so by the terms of the
policy.” 17A Couch on Ins. § 254:11
(3rd ed. 2017). Thereafter, the insurer must prove
the applicability of an exclusion or limitation, or other
affirmative defenses. Couch, § 254:12; see Hartford
Acc. and Indem. Co. v. Sherwood Brands, Inc., 111
Md.App. 94 (1996), vacated on other grounds, 347 Md.
32 (1997). Furthermore, “UM/UIM liability limits
contained in the declarations page generally cap the
insurer's total liability per claim.” 12 Couch,
§ 171:13. In a contract action for recovery of uninsured
motorist coverage, the insured would have “to prove the
amount of  contract damages, i.e., establish the
amount of her underinsured motorist coverage . . .”
Allstate Ins. Co. v. Kponve, 225 Md.App. 370, 388
parties transacted all aspects of this insurance relationship
electronically, beginning in 2009. Plaintiff asserts that the
resulting contract is valid, including the UM waiver.
Defendant, on the other hand, somewhat curiously, contends
that he did not agree to transact business electronically,
making his UM waiver invalid. Carried to its logical
conclusion, however, that argument would undermine the
validity of the entire contract, not simply the UM waiver,
and he would be unable to prove that he had a policy with
Progressive at all.
parties have framed their differences based exclusively on a
provision in Maryland law, “Maryland Uniform Electronic
Transactions Act” (“MUETA”), Md.Code Ann.,
Com. Law § 21-101 et seq. One section of that Act,
Section 21-104(b)(3), provides: “Except for a separate
and optional agreement the primary purpose of which is to
authorize a transaction to be conducted by electronic means,
a provision to conduct a transaction electronically may not
be contained in a standard form contract unless that
provision is conspicuously displayed and separately consented
on that section, Defendant contends that his
“signature” on the UM waiver form was invalid.
Plaintiff, of course, disagrees. Before addressing that
precise issue, it is helpful to recount the history of
Maryland's enactment of the statute, and the parallel
federal statute, “Electronic Signatures in Global and
National Commerce Act” (“E-SIGN”), 15
U.S.C. § 7001 et seq., which is not mentioned by the
parties. As will be seen, Defendant's arguments are
unavailing and the court will declare that Progressive has no
further obligation to Mr. Corekin concerning UM benefits.
latter part of the 20th century, as electronic transactions
became more and more prevalent and allowed for agreements to
be reached across vast geographic expanses, policy makers and
commercial actors recognized that the law needed to be
updated to accommodate the new technology. Moreover, to
encourage further e-commerce, the law needed to be uniform.
In light of this new reality, the National Conference of
Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) approved a
project to create a proposal for a uniform model act. Anthony
M. Balloon, From Wax Seals to Hypertext: Electronic
Signatures, Contract Formation, and A New Model for Consumer
Protection in Internet Transactions, 50 Emory L.J. 905,
908-909 (2001); Robert A. Wittie & Jane K. Winn,
Electronic Records and Signatures Under the Federal
E-SIGN Legislation and the UETA, 56 Bus. Law. 293,
1999, NCCUSL approved the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act
(“UETA”). Patricia Brumfield Fry,
Introduction to the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act:
Principles, Policies and Provisions, 37 Idaho L. Rev.
237, 248 (2001). UETA is designed “to facilitate
electronic transactions consistent with other applicable
law.” UETA § 6(1) (Nat'l Conference of
Comm'rs on Unif. State Law 1999). UETA is
technology-neutral. It does not require, prefer, or
discourage one type of technology but rather allows for
parties to choose the technology they desire. UETA is also
minimalist. UETA “applies only to transactions between