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Skiffington v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

Appeals Court of Massachusetts

March 8, 2018

ANN SKIFFINGTON
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY.

          Heard November 9, 2017.

         Motor Vehicle, Insurance. Insurance, Motor vehicle insurance, Construction of policy, Coverage, Settlement of claim, Amount of recovery for loss.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on January 25, 2016. A motion to dismiss was heard by Constance M. Sweeney, J.

          Matthew T. LaMothe for the plaintiff.

          Daniel P. Tighe for the defendant.

          Present: Meade, Shin, & Ditkoff, JJ.

          SHIN, J.

         Following a motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff, a third-party claimant, received reimbursement from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual) for the loss of her vehicle. She then sought additional payment for (1) costs arising from loss of use of her vehicle, even though she was unable to produce any documentation to Liberty Mutual that she had paid for substitute transportation, and (2) her title and registration fees and the residual value of her inspection sticker. When Liberty Mutual denied liability for these claims, the plaintiff brought this putative class action, seeking declaratory relief under G. L. c. 231A and damages for unfair claim settlement practices under G. L. c. 93A, § 9, and G. L. c. 176D, § 3(9). On Liberty Mutual's motion, a Superior Court judge dismissed the complaint in its entirety under Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), 365 Mass. 754 (1974), and the plaintiff appeals. As we conclude that the plaintiff has failed to allege compensable damages, we affirm, modifying the judgment to declare the rights of the parties.

         Background.

         We accept the allegations of the amended complaint as true for purposes of this appeal. See Goodwin v. Lee Pub. Schs., 475 Mass. 280, 284 (2016). In October of 2015, the plaintiff's 2005 Nissan Altima was struck by a driver whose vehicle was insured by Liberty Mutual under a standard Massachusetts automobile policy.[1] The plaintiff's vehicle was declared to be a total loss. After determining that its insured was responsible for the accident, Liberty Mutual reimbursed the plaintiff for the loss of her vehicle.

         The plaintiff then sent Liberty Mutual a demand letter under G. L. c. 93A, claiming that she was also entitled to payment for loss of use, title and registration fees, and the residual value of her inspection sticker. Liberty Mutual sent a letter in response detailing its rationale for denying the claims. Liberty Mutual also requested, on at least two occasions, that the plaintiff provide "documentary or other proof indicating that she actually incurred" costs relating to loss of use -- such as receipts showing she rented a replacement vehicle or took public transportation. It is uncontested that the plaintiff never provided any such substantiation.

         Discussion.

         We review de novo the judge's allowance of Liberty Mutual's motion to dismiss under Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Goodwin, 475 Mass. at 284. In conducting our review, we "accept[] as true the facts alleged in the plaintiff['s] complaint and exhibits attached thereto, and favorable inferences that reasonably can be drawn from them." Ibid. ...


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