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Kay-Woods v. Minnesota Life Ins. Co.

April 8, 2009

DAWN M. KAY-WOODS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MINNESOTA LIFE INS. CO., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

A. Introduction & Procedural Background

This Court's prior Orders herein (on motions to dismiss and cross-motions for summary judgment) delineate the facts of the case, which need not be repeated in detail. The overview is as follows.

The Court enjoys subject matter jurisdiction under the federal diversity statute. Dawn Kay-Woods ("Dawn") challenges Minnesota Life Insurance Company ("MLIC")'s refusal to pay accidental death benefits after her husband Brian died in a single-vehicle accident. The benefits in question were sought under an insurance policy that provided "payoff coverage" on the Woods' home mortgage loan. The amount of that loan was $61,887.00 when Brian died. Dawn's August 2008 amended complaint alleges that MLIC's actions constitute breach of contract and vexatious/unreasonable refusal to settle under Illinois law.

The case is scheduled for settlement conference April 14, 2009, final pretrial conference April 24, 2009 and bench trial April 27, 2009.

On November 18, 2008, the Court denied the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment (Doc. 50, "the November Order"). In the November Order, the undersigned Judge found that, despite the voluminous record before him and the fact "this case is capable of being resolved via summary judgment," the Court lacked certain information needed to grant summary judgment in favor of either party (Doc. 50, p. 10).

On February 5, 2009, MLIC filed a renewed motion for summary judgment (Doc. 57), to which Dawn responded March 6, 2009 (Doc. 59) and filed supplemental exhibits (Docs. 63, 64, 68) and MLIC replied March 31, 2009 (Doc. 69). The motion has been fully briefed. For the reasons described below, the Court grants MLIC's renewed motion for summary judgment.

B. Analysis

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, discovery and disclosure materials on file and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Estate of Suskovich v. Anthem Health Plans of Virginia, Inc., 553 F.3d 559, 563 (7th Cir. 2009), citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Accord Breneisen v. Motorola, Inc., 512 F.3d 972 (7th Cir. 2008); Levy v. Minnesota Life Ins. Co., 517 F.3d 519 (7th Cir. 2008).

In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Dawn). Lloyd v. Swifty Transp., Inc., 552 F.3d 594, 600 (7th Cir. 2009); TAS Distributing Co., Inc. v. Cummins Engine Co., Inc., 491 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2007); Reynolds v. Jamison, 488 F.3d 756, 764 (7th Cir. 2007).

The non-movant cannot rest on her pleadings, though. Rather, the non-movant must provide evidence on which the jury or court could find in her favor. Maclin v. SBC Ameritech, 520 F.3d 781, 786 (7th Cir. 2008). As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals explained earlier this year:

[T]he non-moving party must submit evidence that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Ptasznik v. St. Joseph Hosp., 464 F.3d 691, 694 (7th Cir. 2006). The existence of merely a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party.

Giant Screen Sports v. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 553 F.3d 527, 531-32 (7th Cir. 2009).

This Court applies the substantive law of Illinois, the state in which this diversity case was filed, to Dawn's claim. Id., citing Global Relief Found., Inc. v. New York Times Co., 390 F.3d 973, 981 (7th Cir. 2004). Under Illinois law, the interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law properly decided via summary judgment. BASF AG v. Great American Assurance Co., 522 F.3d 813, 818-19 (7th Cir. 2008), citing Crum & Forster Managers Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 620 N.E.2d 1073, 1077 (Ill. 1993). A court's primary objective in construing the ...


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