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.
On September 14, 2017, The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the directed verdict for the defendant obtained by attorneys Frank Patterson and Hillary Patterson in the case of My Roofer, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (16CA1478; Weld County District Court, 2015CV30425). In an unpublished opinion, the court of appeals ruled that decking damaged by the separate, nonfortuitous loss of ‘wear, tear, and deterioration’ was not covered by the OL (Ordinance and Law) endorsement of the State Farm policy. The court also ruled the pre-existing damaged decking did not constitute ‘undamaged’ property under the terms of the policy for purposes of coverage under the OL endorsement. Finally, the court ruled that My Roofer failed to preserve the issue of whether the Loss Settlement section of the policy required coverage for the decking under a theory that decking is an inseparable component of a roof assembly or a roof system. The court declined to rule on the unpreserved issue as the new legal theory was not unequivocally correct. Oral arguments were presented on September 6, 2017.
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.
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.
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.