United States District Court, S.D. Florida
MARKIVA BEAUBRUN, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of George Spence Clayton, Jr. deceased and as Assignee of the Estate of Carlos Bernard Brown, deceased, Plaintiff,
GEICO GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
G. COOKE United States District Judge.
action arose from a fatal car accident. Plaintiff Markiva
Beaubrun, personal representative of decedent George Spence
Clayton, Jr.'s estate, brings suit against Defendant
GEICO General Insurance Company (“GEICO”),
insurer of the third party driving the vehicle Clayton was a
passenger in at the time of the accident (the
“Driver”). Beaubrun seeks declaratory relief
enforcing her purported rights under an insurance contract
between the Driver and GEICO, and compensatory damages for
GEICO's alleged bad faith. (ECF No. 1-1). I have
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441.
is GEICO's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 60). For
the reasons that follow, I deny the Motion.
accident happened in Miami-Dade County on August 8, 2015.
(ECF No. 1). At that time, the Driver was insured with GEICO
under a general automobile liability policy providing bodily
injury liability coverage in the amount of $10, 000 per
person and $20, 000 per accident. (ECF No. 59-2). The policy
provided, inter alia, that GEICO “will defend
any suit for damages payable under the terms of this policy.
We may investigate and settle any claim or suit. We have no
duty to investigate or defend any claims which are not
covered under the terms of this policy. Our duty to defend
ends when the limits of liability for bodily injury liability
have been exhausted by payments of judgments or
settlements.” (Id. at 10).
of Clayton's estate began in late November
2015. (ECF No. 59-3). The court appointed
Beaubrun as the estate's personal representative on
November 17, 2015 (ECF No. 59-4). Probate of the Driver's
estate also began around that time. Beaubrun petitioned to be
the estate's personal representative in that action as
well (ECF No. 59-5), but the court instead appointed attorney
David Crane as Administrator Ad Litem. (ECF No. 59-6).
February 19, 2016, Beaubrun filed a Statement of Claim
(“SOC”) in the Driver's estate's probate
action, asserting that Clayton's estate had, as of
February 17, 2016, a secured, non-contingent claim for $1
million in a possible wrongful death action against the
Driver's estate. (ECF No. 59-12). A few days later,
Beaubrun filed a wrongful death action against the
Driver's estate in Broward County, Florida seeking
unspecified damages. (ECF No. 59-13). After learning that she
had inadvertently filed that action in the wrong county (ECF
No. 59-16), Beaubrun filed a second wrongful death action in
Miami-Dade County, Florida (the “Wrongful Death
Action”). GEICO was aware of the Wrongful Death
Action but did not provide the Driver's estate with a
defense. (ECF Nos. 1-1 ¶ 9, 48-1 ¶ 9, 81 at 3).
and the Driver's estate eventually entered into a
“Stipulation and Agreement for Settlement of Claim and
Covenant Not to Sue” (the “Agreement”).
(ECF No. 59-28 at 2-4). In it, the Driver's estate agreed
to entry of a $4 million judgment against it, and Beaubrun
agreed not to execute the judgment against the Driver's
estate. (Id.). The Agreement further assigned
Beaubrun any and all causes of actions or rights of the
Driver's estate against GEICO.
the Agreement in place, Beaubrun filed an Amended Statement
of Claim (“ASOC”) in the Driver's
estate's probate action, asserting that Clayton's
estate had, as of February 17, 2016, a secured,
non-contingent wrongful death claim against the Driver's
estate for $4 million. (ECF No. 59-31). Beaubrun also filed a
Motion for Entry of Final Consent Judgment in the Wrongful
Death Action. (ECF No. 59-32). The court held a hearing on
the Motion on June 8, 2016 (ECF No. 59 ¶ 30), and
entered judgment against the Driver's estate for $4
million that same day. (ECF No. 59-26).
August 16, 2016, Beaubrun filed a two-count Complaint against
GEICO in state court (ECF No. 1-1) which GEICO removed (ECF No.
1). Count I seeks a declaration under Fla. Stat. §
86.011 that the Agreement was reasonable, executed in good
faith, and imposed on GEICO a duty to defend and indemnify
the Driver's estate in the Wrongful Death Action. Count
II seeks damages for GEICO's alleged bad faith in
refusing to defend the Driver's estate in that action.
Count II is abated pending adjudication of Count I. (ECF No.
judgment “shall be granted if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642
(11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)) (internal
quotations omitted); Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of
Florida, Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1358 (11th Cir. 1999).
Thus, the entry of summary judgment is appropriate
“against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
moving party bears the initial burden to show the district
court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no
genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at
trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929
F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). “Only when that burden
has been met does the burden shift to the non-moving party to
demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact
that precludes summary judgment.” Id.
“requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the
pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the
‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Thus, the nonmoving party
“may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of
his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
factual dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party.” Damon, 196 F.3d at 1358. “A mere
‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing
party's position will not suffice; there must be enough
of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that
party.” Abbes v. Embraer Servs., Inc., 195 F.
App'x 898, 899-900 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Walker
v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990)).
deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, “the
evidence, and all inferences drawn from the facts, must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party.” Bush v. Houston County Commission, 414
F. App'x 264, 266 (11th Cir. 2011).
seeking recovery under a Coblentz agreement
“must bring an action against the insurer and prove
coverage, wrongful refusal to defend, and that the settlement
was reasonable and made in good faith.” Quintana v.
Barad, 528 So.2d 1300, 1301 n.1. (Fla. Ct. App. 1988).
GEICO argues Beaubrun fails to meet her burden because: (1)
the ASOC underlying the Final Consent Judgment was invalid;
(2) the settlement is “patently” unreasonable;
and (3) the settlement “is tainted with bad faith,
fraud, collusion, and lack of any effort to minimize
liability” (ECF No. 60 at 11, 16). I address each
argument in turn.
Validity of the ASOC
argues that “a time-barred probate claim that exceeds a
decedent's insurance policy limits cannot be recovered in
a subsequent action against an insurer.” (ECF No. 60 at
8). Such a claim, GEICO asserts, is invalid, and
“[b]ecause there can be no exposure to an estate for
the amount of an invalid claim, any agreement reached on such
alleged exposure, like the Coblentz agreement in
this case, must also fail.” (Id. at 19).
Driver's estate first published its Notice to Creditors
on February 2, 2016. (ECF No. 59-10). Under Fla. Stat. §
733.702(1), creditors had three months from that date to file
claims against the estate, or until May 2, 2016. The original
SOC, filed during the claims period, valued the Driver's
estate's potential liability at $1 million. (ECF No.
59-12). That figure increased to $4 million when Beaubrun
filed the ASOC on May 19, 2016, more than two weeks after the
claims period ended. (ECF No. 59-31). GEICO asserts the ASOC
was invalid ...