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Giacobbe v. QBE Specialty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 8, 2018

LORRAINE GIACOBBE and JOANNE WAKEFIELD, Plaintiffs,
v.
QBE SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          RICHARD J. GUSS ANDREW W. MILLER DIFRANCESCO BATEMAN COLEY YOSPIN KUNZMAN DAVIS & LEHRER ON BEHALF OF PLAINTIFFS

          CHRISTIAN ANDREW CAVALLO RONALD D. PUHALA DAVIS J. KIM GOLDBERG SEGALLA, LLP ON BEHALF OF DEFENDANT

          CHRISTOPHER RYAN WEISS GOLDBERG SEGALLA, LLP ON BEHALF OF DEFENDANT

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This is a breach of contract action involving payment under a homeowner's insurance policy following damage to Plaintiffs Lorraine Giacobbe and Joanne Wakefield's property after Superstorm Sandy. Before the Court is Defendant QBE Specialty Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion.

         I.

         Plaintiffs are the owners of property located at 25 Pilot Road in Toms River, New Jersey. Defendant issued Plaintiffs a homeowner's insurance policy, which provided coverage for wind damage (“the Policy”). Following damage to the property from Superstorm Sandy, Defendant's adjusting company determined that the insured loss was $3, 893.98.

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint with this Court on October 15, 2014. Plaintiffs' Complaint brings four counts against Defendant: breach of contract (Count I), breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), bad faith (Count III), and violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (Count IV). By way of a Partial Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice, filed with the Court on October 23, 2017, Count II, Count III, and Count IV were dismissed with prejudice, leaving only Count I - the breach of contract claim.

         II.

         This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiffs are citizens of New Jersey. Defendant is an Australian corporation with its principal place of business in New York. Accordingly, there is diverse citizenship between the parties. As it appears the parties agree that at the time of the filing of the Complaint the amount in controversy exceeded $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, this Court has diversity jurisdiction.[1]

         III.

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that “'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits if any, ' . . . demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact” and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56).

         An issue is “genuine” if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is “material” if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. “In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence ‘is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'” Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”); see Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001) (“Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ‘the burden on the moving party may be discharged by “showing” - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof.” (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325)).

         Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. A “party opposing summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the . . . pleading[s].'” Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). For “the non-moving party[] to prevail, [that party] must ‘make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'” Cooper v. Sniezek, 418 Fed.Appx. 56, 58 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257.

         IV.

         “To state a claim for breach of contract under New Jersey law, the plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating ‘(1) a contract; (2) a breach of that contract; (3) damages flowing therefrom; and (4) that the [plaintiff] performed [his] own contractual duties.'” Faistl v. Energy Plus Holdings, LLC, No. 12-2879, 2012 WL 3835815, at *7 (D.N.J. Sept. 4, 2012); accord Sheet ...


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