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Plucker v. United Fire & Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

September 28, 2015

DEBBIE PLUCKER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Debbie Plucker, brought this action against defendant, United Fire & Casualty Co., for breach of contract and bad faith stemming from United Fire's delayed payment of Plucker's medical bills following a vehicular accident. Plucker moves for partial summary judgment on her breach of contract claim and misrepresentation. United Fire moves for summary judgment on Plucker's breach of contract and bad faith claims. For the following reasons, the court denies Plucker's motion for partial summary judgment and denies United Fire's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts are as follows: Debbie Plucker had an automobile insurance policy with United Fire & Casualty Co. The policy covered Plucker's 2011 Chevrolet Silverado pickup and provided up to $5, 000 in medical coverage. The policy went into effect March 30, 2011, and was set to expire on September 30, 2011.

On May 24, 2011, Plucker was driving her vehicle north on Interstate 29 near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A semi-tractor trailer was driving south across the median. As the semi-tractor trailer approached, its tire and rim came off the trailer's axel, crossed the median, bounced off another semi-tractor trailer, and hit the front of Plucker's vehicle. Plucker sustained bodily injury as a result of the accident.

Plucker notified United Fire about the collision. A United Fire representative reviewed Plucker's claim and determined that medical payment and collision coverage applied. As a result of the collision, Plucker sought medical treatment from Dr. Rob Lanpher. Plucker treated exclusively with Dr. Lanpher for her injuries through 2011 and into 2012.

Under the terms of the insurance policy, Plucker had to authorize United Fire to obtain her medical records. The policy states:

We have no duty to provide coverage under this policy unless there has been full compliance with the following duties:
...
B. A person seeking coverage must:
1. Cooperate with the investigation, settlement or defense of any claim or suit.
...
4. Authorize us to obtain:
a. Medical reports; and
b. Other pertinent records.
5. Submit a proof of loss when required by us.

Docket 56-1 at 4.

After the accident, United Fire mailed Plucker an "Authorization for Release of Medical Information" and a "Medical Provider List." Accompanying both documents was a letter from United Fire that stated in part, "In order to handle your medical claim, we will need the Medical Authorization and Treatment Provider List forms completed and returned to us. The Medical Authorization will allow us to obtain the bills and records associated with this loss." Docket 56-2 at 56.

The parties agree the medical release would have allowed United Fire to access Plucker's medical records related to the accident. The form as originally written, however, also would have allowed United Fire to obtain "[a]ny and all medical records, including reports involving alcohol, drug abuse, or psychiatric treatment or recovery (if applicable) from 5/24/11 to Present." Docket 56-2 at 58. The release was valid for "12 months from the date of signing" and contained the following provisions:

I acknowledge that information to be released may include material that is protected by state and/or federal law applicable to mental health, alcohol/drug abuse, HIV/AIDS or all of these. My signature authorizes release of all such information as specified above.
I acknowledge that information used or disclosed pursuant to this authorization may be subject to re-disclosure by United Fire and Casualty ...

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