United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER comes before the Court on Farmers Insurance Company of
Arizona's (“Defendant's”) Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 3), filed June 16, 2017.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have
consented to me serving as the presiding judge and entering
final judgment. Docs. 6, 7, 8. Having considered the
pleadings and briefs of counsel and otherwise being fully
advised, the Court finds that Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings is well-taken in part and will be
granted in part. More particularly, Defendant is entitled to
judgment on the pleadings as a matter of law, but the Court
will deny its request for sanctions.
December 14, 2015, Defendant Farmers Insurance Company of
Arizona (“Defendant”) issued Policy No.
19414-35-31 (“the Policy”) to Plaintiff and her
husband, William Crockett, insuring two of their vehicles.
See Doc. 1-2, Ex. A. Both Plaintiff and Mr. Crockett
were named insureds on the Policy. See id. The
vehicles insured on the Policy were a 2004 Lincoln Aviator
(“the Lincoln”) and a 2008 Dodge Caliber
(“the Dodge”). See Id. The Policy
provided comprehensive liability coverage for both vehicles,
UM/UIM bodily injury and UM/UIM property damage
coverage for the Lincoln, and only UM/UIM property damage
coverage for the Dodge. See Id. Mr. Crockett
rejected UM/UIM bodily injury coverage on the Dodge. See
Id. at 13-14, 17-18.
of the Policy, Defendant presented Mr. Crockett with its
“Auto Insurance Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
Bodily Injury and Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
Property Damage Selection of Limits” form
(“Selection Form”) on December 14, 2015, the same
day the Policy was delivered to Plaintiff and Mr. Crockett.
See Doc. 1-2, Ex. B, at 17-18. Mr. Crockett
confirmed his UM/UIM selections by initialing them on the
Selection Form. See id. at 18. Specifically, he
initialed each of the following selections: (1) $25, 000 per
person/$50, 000 per occurrence in UM/UIM bodily injury
coverage on the Lincoln; (2) $10, 000 per occurrence in
UM/UIM property damage coverage on the Lincoln; (3) a
rejection of UM/UIM bodily injury coverage in its entirety on
the Dodge; and (4) $10, 000 per occurrence in UM/UIM property
damage coverage on the Dodge. Id. The Selection Form
also enumerated the premium costs applicable to each
available level of coverage for each vehicle. Id. at
19. By signing the selection form, Mr. Crockett acknowledged
that he “had Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Bodily
Injury [and] . . . Property Damage Coverage explained to
[him]” and that he had “reviewed each of the
available coverage limits and the premiums associated with
each coverage option.” Id. Additionally, he
acknowledged that the selected coverage limits would apply
unless he contacted his agent to change his selections.
now alleges that Mr. Crockett's waiver of UIM coverage
was executed without her authority. Doc. 1-2 at 2, ¶ 5.
In her Complaint, she references the attached Affidavit of
William Richard Crockett III (Mr. Crockett) in which he
states that he had no authority from his wife to waive or
reduce UM/UIM benefits. See id. Additionally, Mr.
Crockett states in his affidavit that Defendant's agent
did not explain to him the significance of his rejections of
UM/UIM coverage. Id. at 16, ¶ 3.
the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay
trial - a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Judgment on the
pleadings will be granted if the moving party clearly
establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be
resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Park Univ. Enters., Inc. v. Am. Cas. Co. of Reading,
PA, 442 F.3d 1239, 1244 (10th Cir. 2006), rev'd
on other grounds by Magnus, Inc. v. Diamond State Ins.
Co., 545 Fed.Appx. 750, 753 (10th Cir. 2013). A motion
for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(c) is considered under the same standard
of review applicable to a motion made under Rule 12(b)(6).
Morris v. City of Colo. Springs, 666 F.3d 654, 660
(10th Cir. 2012). Accordingly, a court reviewing a motion for
judgment on the pleadings must accept “all facts
pleaded by the non-moving party as true and grant all
reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the
same.” Park Univ. Enters., 442 F.3d at 1244.
Although a court must assume the truth of the properly
alleged, or “well-pleaded, ” facts in the
complaint, it has no obligation to accept conclusory
allegations as true. Cory v. Allstate Ins., 583 F.3d
1240, 1244 (10th Cir. 2009). Claims dismissed pursuant to a
Rule 12(c) motion are dismissed with prejudice. See Pena
v. Greffett, 110 F.Supp.3d 1103 (D.N.M. 2015).
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Plaintiff maintains that Defendant's Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings should be converted to one for summary
judgment, given that Defendant “refers to facts outside
of the pleadings.” Doc. 10 at 1. Pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d), when “matters outside
the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court,
the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under
Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Alternatively, the court
has broad discretion to refuse to accept materials outside
the pleadings and to resolve the motion without considering
them. Lowe v. Town of Fairland, Okla., 143 F.3d
1378, 1381 (10th Cir. 1998). On the other hand, documents
referenced in a dispositive motion are considered “part
of the pleadings” if the plaintiff referred to them in
her complaint and they are “central to her
claim.” Venture Assoc. Corp v. Zenith Data Sys.
Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993); Tal v.
Hogan, 453 F.3d 1244, 1264 n.24 (10th Cir. 2006)
(“Exhibits attached to a complaint are properly treated
as part of the pleadings for purposes of ruling on a motion
each of the documents referenced in Defendant's motion
was both attached to Plaintiff's Complaint and is central
to her claims. Compare Doc. 3 with Doc.
1-2. Accordingly, the Court need not convert the
subject motion to one for summary judgment or disregard
Defendant's references to these documents. Instead, the
Court will consider the substance of Defendant's motion
as well as the referenced documents under the Rule 12(c)
makes the following contentions: (1) its Selection Form met
the requirements under New Mexico law for the rejection of
UM/UIM coverage; (2) a wife is bound under New Mexico law by
her husband's waiver of UM/UIM coverage; (3) Plaintiff
has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;
(4) Plaintiff's Complaint is “inapposite with
public policy”; and (5) Plaintiff's claims are
legally frivolous and warrant sanctions under either the New
Mexico Declaratory Judgment Act or under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 11. See Doc. 3. Plaintiff,
in contrast, maintains that judgment on the pleadings is
improper, because she has raised issues of fact as to whether
Mr. Crockett had the authority to reject UM/UIM coverage
benefits on Plaintiff's behalf and whether Defendant
failed to properly inform Mr. Crockett as to his rejection of
UM/UIM coverage. See Doc. 10.
New Mexico law, a rejection of UM/UIM coverage equal to
liability limits in an automobile insurance policy must be
made in writing and incorporated into the insurance policy in
a manner that affords the insured a fair opportunity to
reconsider his decision to reject the coverage. Jordan v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 245 P.2d 1214, 1217 (N.M. 2010). In
other words, when an insured selects UM/UIM coverage of less
than his liability limits, as Mr. Crockett did here, that
selection must be made on a written form and incorporated
into the policy in order to be valid. See id.
Further, the insurer must enumerate for the insured the
premium charges that correspond to each available level of
UM/UIM coverage so that the insured can make an informed
decision regarding the rejection of the full amount of
coverage to which he is entitled. Soseeah v. Sentry
Ins., 808 F.3d 800, 804 (10th Cir. 2015);
Jordan, 245 P.3d at 1217. If the insurer does not
obtain a valid rejection of UM/UIM benefits, the policy will
be reformed to provide UM/UIM coverage equal to her liability
limits. See Jordan, 245 P.2d at 1217.
Plaintiff attached the Selection Form used by Defendant and
signed by Mr. Crockett as an exhibit to her Complaint.
See Doc. 1-2 at 18-19. In its motion, Defendant
maintains that this Selection Form complied with the
requirements under New Mexico law. Plaintiff does not suggest
otherwise. Yet, despite the use of this otherwise-compliant
Selection Form, she insists that Mr. Crockett lacked the
authority to reject UM/UIM coverage on ...