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Willard Hurley v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and

May 7, 2012

WILLARD HURLEY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY AND STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Karen E. Schreier Chief Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, Willard Hurley, alleges a bad faith claim against defendants, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. (collectively State Farm). State Farm moves for two preliminary rulings. Docket 26. Hurley moves to compel discovery. Docket 29. Hurley also moves to continue State Farm's motion for preliminary rulings. Docket 32.

BACKGROUND

The pertinent facts to this order are as follows: During the relevant time period, Hurley maintained auto coverage and umbrella coverage policies with State Farm. Hurley had underinsurance coverage with a limit of $250,000 per person, $500,000 per accident, and umbrella coverage with a limit of $5,000,000.

On October 21, 2007, Hurley was injured in an automobile accident as a result of another driver's actions. The other driver had personal liability insurance limits of $100,000, which was an insufficient amount to compensate Hurley. Hurley notified State Farm of this offer of policy limits and State Farm was offered the opportunity to substitute its own draft. State Farm declined and did not object to the settlement. On June 26, 2009, Hurley accepted the limits of the other driver's policy and entered into a release with the driver.

Hurley then filed a claim with State Farm, which denied his claim. Hurley brought suit against State Farm to recover under the underinsured motorist (UIM) provisions of his policy. After about one year of litigation, State Farm made an unconditional payment of $340,000 to Hurley and later paid an additional $200,000 to resolve the case. Hurley claims that he incurred $180,000 in attorney's fees and suffered mental and emotional distress in pursuing his UIM case.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion for Preliminary Rulings and Motion to Continue State Farm moves for two preliminary rulings: (1) an order prohibiting Hurley "from offering post-filing conduct, which includes exhibits, eliciting any testimony, or making any comment or argument during trial regarding the settlement reached between Plaintiffs and Defendants in the underlying contract action[;]" and (2) "an Order prohibiting Plaintiff from arguing, pursuing, or advocating for the recovery of attorneys' [sic] fees in this bad faith action." Docket 26 at 1-2. Hurley moves to continue the resolution of this motion until his motion to compel has been decided.

The local rules require the moving party to identify "the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure on the basis of which the motion is made." D.S.D. Civ. LR 7.1B. State Farm has not identified under which federal rule the motion for preliminary rulings is made. The court has not found a federal rule to support State Farm's motion for preliminary rulings at this stage of litigation.

Without a basis in the federal rules, the court is unable to review the facts under the proper standard of review. The court would essentially be issuing an advisory opinion if it were to rule on State Farm's motion. But "[u]nder Article III of the United States Constitution, courts are prohibited from issuing advisory opinions." Pub. Water Supply Dist. v. City of Kearney, 401 F.3d 930, 932 (8th Cir. 2005).

The court could construe State Farm's request number one as a motion in limine. But discovery has not been completed and a trial is not scheduled in this case. If, after completing discovery, State Farm believes that a ruling on request number one is necessary, it can move in limine for such an order closer to the time of trial.

Request number two appears to be a summary judgment motion or a motion for judgment on the pleadings. State Farm's motion is not properly made as a summary judgment motion because State Farm did not include undisputed statements of fact with its motion as is required by the district's local rules. If State Farm intended this to be a motion for judgment on the pleadings, it should have cited the relevant standard and set forth its argument based on that standard. State Farm may refile this motion in accordance with the federal and local rules at a later time. Thus, State Farm's motion for preliminary rulings is denied without prejudice. Hurley's motion to continue is denied.

II. Motion to Compel

Hurley moves to compel discovery from State Farm on his second set of interrogatories and request for production of documents. State Farm answered some of Hurley's interrogatories and requests. The parties met and ...


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