Patrice Fujisaki Sauter v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company
On August 1, 2018, attorneys Frank Patterson and Hillary Patterson obtained a directed verdict for the defendant in the case of Patrice Fujisaki Sauter. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (Denver County District Court, 2017CV33275).
Plaintiff Patrice Fujisaki Sauter is the daughter of the deceased homeowner and State Farm insured, Rose Fujisaki. Plaintiff alleged a hail and wind storm caused damage to Rose Fujisaki’s home and lightweight concrete tile roof. State Farm determined the concrete tile roof was not damaged in the hail/wind event, but had sustained unrelated damage from improper installation and footfall. State Farm issued payment to Rose Fujisaki for other damage to the property caused by hail/wind. Plaintiff lived in the home, but did not own the home, was not the named insured on the State Farm policy, and was not the personal representative of the Estate of Rose Fujisaki. Plaintiff brought a first-party claim in her own right alleging breach of contract, common law bad faith, and unreasonable delay and denial pursuant to C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115 and 10-3-1116.
Plaintiff’s claims of breach of contract and common law bad faith were dismissed on summary judgment because Plaintiff was not the homeowner or policyholder, and therefore had no standing to pursue those claims. The Court denied summary judgment on the claim of unreasonable delay/denial, ruling a fact question remained as to whether Plaintiff had authority to assert the claim on behalf of the Estate of Rose Fujisaki. Plaintiff never moved to amend the pleadings and presented no other timely evidence of her standing to assert claims on behalf of the Estate of Rose Fujisaki.
At trial, The Honorable Judge Martin F. Egelhoff ruled on State Farm’s oral motion for directed verdict after Plaintiff rested her case-in-chief. Judge Egelhoff held that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Plaintiff had not presented any evidence that she had legal authority to pursue a claim of unreasonable delay/denial under C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115 and 10-3-1116 on behalf of the Estate of Rose Fujisaki. Therefore, Plaintiff lacked standing and her remaining claim was dismissed pursuant to C.R.C.P. 50.
Frank Patterson argued the Fisher vs State Farm case in the Supreme Court in October. He receives periodic calls from insurers asking about the status. The Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling, and there is no deadline to issue its ruling, but it is likely to do so by May or June.
Frank Patterson was honored with selection to the “TOP 100” in Colorado Super Lawyers 2018 following a blue ribbon review process. Frank has been listed annually in Super Lawyers for many years and has long been recognized in the legal community as one of the best trial lawyers around. Trial success followed from his earliest years in practice. It is believed he was the youngest attorney ever selected to the American Board of Trial Advocates when he was selected in the early 90’s. Congratulations Frank!
Frank Patterson was honored again by 5280 Magazine as a Top Lawyer in personal injury defense. Congratulations again, Frank!
Frank and Hillary Patterson teamed up with Frank’s wife, Robin, and Joe Buchholz to win the 2017 CDLA golf tournament. Pictured here are the happy Pattersons with the traveling trophy. Not bad for a team with a novice (Hillary) and a new hip (Robin). They hope to defend the title this year at the CDLA conference in Telluride.
Frank Patterson and Karl Chambers won a summary judgment motion in a declaratory relief action entitled Viking Insurance Co v. Mark Achter; Monica Achter; Little Willie J. Ortiz, II; Darrell J. Ortiz in Pueblo County, case number 2017 CV 030215. The case involved an excluded driver who was involved in the accident. Because the Complaint in the underlying bodily injury suit identified the excluded driver as the operator of the vehicle at the time of the accident, the declaratory relief action could be pursued without awaiting the conclusion of the underlying suit. The trial court agreed the exclusion was consistent with Colorado law and Viking was not obligated to defend or indemnify for the accident.
In the case of Robert Stephenson v. Lindsey Heaston (2016CV031355), Hillary Patterson obtained an Order of Dismissal for Continued Violation of Discovery Obligations. This is an important victory not only because it dismissed all claims against the defendant, but also because it reflects the firm’s goals and commitment to clients to vigorously defend their interests while avoiding unnecessary and excessive litigation fees and costs.
The revised Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure aim to promote more complete disclosure and to curtail discovery costs. While dismissal is a drastic sanction, the circumstances of this litigation and the discovery violations warranted dismissal. In the Order of Dismissal, Adams County District Court Judge Moss astutely quoted the following excerpt from a timely and relevant article in the Colorado Lawyer:
“‘[T]he elephant in the living room of civil litigation is that even ‘proportionate’ litigation costs in the average case are so high [as] to be out of reach for all but the wealthiest of individuals and corporations…. Judges have some responsibility for this situation, because many of us are so resistant to enforcing the existing rules with the bite of sanctions.’ Wang & Hoffman, A Year after Significant Civil Justice Reforms in Colorado, Colorado Lawyer (Jan. 2017).
Order of Dismiss. For Cont’d Violation of Discov. Obligations. Aug. 8, 2017.
We are pleased to announce that Todd Dieterich has been named a Non-Equity Partner. Todd has been with the firm for over five years and has met with success as a trial lawyer and developing solid relationships in the community. Congratulations, Todd!
Hillary Patterson obtained summary judgment for a client that paid work loss PIP benefits to its insured following a motor vehicle accident that occurred in Michigan (State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Timika Thomas, 16CV30578). The insured subsequently recovered duplicate Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but refused to reimburse the insurer pursuant to Michigan law. This case involved the application of Colorado’s choice of law principles, Michigan insurance law, and Michigan law governing breach of contract.
Todd Dieterich tried and won the case of Aaron Phillips v. Kyle Smoker, et. al. in a 5 day trial in Denver County District Court. This case stemmed from a multi-vehicle accident on the ramp exiting I-25 North onto I-70 East. As both parties rounded that turn approaching I-70 East, they encountered a pickup truck who had spun out and was sitting parallel to oncoming vehicles blocking traffic. Both parties were behind a third vehicle who braked to avoid the stopped vehicle. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant was tailgating that vehicle, had insufficient time to stop, and swerved into his lane, striking him and causing him to lose traction and strike the parallel vehicle, strike the cement median and ultimately come to rest in the I-25 South on-ramp where he was struck by an oncoming eighteen wheeler. Defendant alleges that he did change lanes to avoid the vehicle in front of him, but he did so in a safe and prudent manner, and it was the Plaintiff’s excessive speed that caused him to strike the Defendant and the resulting collisions. Plaintiff made claims for neck, back, and shoulder injuries. These injuries allegedly required rhizotomy and facet injections for an indefinite period of time resulting in $1,953,00 in future treatment. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.
On July 13, 2016, attorneys Frank Patterson and Hillary Patterson obtained a directed verdict for the defendant in the case of My Roofer, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (Weld County District Court, 2015CV30425).
Plaintiff was a roofing company. State Farm’s insureds suffered roof damages as a result of a hail/wind event. State Farm determined decking was not damaged in the event, and damage to decking was excluded as wear, tear, and deterioration. The insureds and the roofer argued State Farm should cover replacement cost of decking under OL coverage (Ordinance or Law) because code required replacement before new shingles were applied. State Farm contended excluded damages for wear, tear, and deterioration are not restored under OL coverage.
The roofer replaced the decking and took an assignment from the owners for a breach of contract claim. The roofer brought a first-party claim in its own right alleging unreasonable delay and denial pursuant to C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115 and 10-3-1116.
The Honorable Judge Todd L. Taylor ruled on State Farm’s oral motion for directed verdict after Plaintiff rested its case-in-chief that. Judge Taylor held that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Plaintiff had not met its evidentiary burden on the breach of contract claim. The evidence was overwhelmingly clear beyond doubt that the damage to decking was caused by wear, tear, or deterioration, and that the State Farm policy did not provide coverage for the loss. All of Plaintiff’s claims were dismissed pursuant to C.R.C.P. 50.
Prior to trial, attorney Hillary Patterson successfully argued a pre-trial motion regarding Plaintiff’s spoliation of evidence, and the Court issued an order for adverse inference instruction.