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10/28/94 STEPHEN W. BLACKBURN v. STATE FARM

October 28, 1994

STEPHEN W. BLACKBURN
v.
STATE FARM AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY



Appeal from Colbert Circuit Court. (CV-93-175). N. Pride Tompkins, TRIAL JUDGE.

Rehearing Denied January 13, 1995. Released for Publication April 22, 1995.

Ingram, Hornsby, C.j., and Maddox, Shores, and Steagall, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ingram

INGRAM, JUSTICE.

Stephen Blackburn was involved in a minor accident when the van he was driving collided with another vehicle driven by Michael Edward Jones. Both Blackburn and Jones were insured by State Farm Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"). Following the accident, Blackburn sued State Farm, alleging that it had acted in bad faith in failing to pay his claim arising from the accident. Blackburn later amended his complaint, alleging that State Farm had also acted in bad faith in refusing to investigate the accident and in failing to hire an independent adjuster for the claim. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of State Farm. Blackburn appeals.

On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is initially on the movant to make a prima facie showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact (i.e., that there is no dispute as to any material fact) and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56, Ala.R.Civ.P.; McClendon v. Mountain Top Indoor Flea Market, Inc., 601 So.2d 957 (Ala. 1992); Elgin v. Alfa Corp., 598 So.2d 807 (Ala. 1992). "The burden does not shift to the opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact until the moving party has made a prima facie showing that there is no such issue of material fact." McClendon, at 958; Elgin, at 810-11.

Rule 56 must be read in conjunction with the "substantial evidence rule," § 12-21-12, Ala. Code 1975, for actions filed after June 11, 1987. See Bass v. SouthTrust Bank of Baldwin County, 538 So.2d 794, 797-98 (Ala. 1989). In order to defeat a defendant's properly supported motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff must present substantial evidence, i.e., "evidence of such weight and quality that fair-minded persons in the exercise of impartial judgment can reasonably infer the existence of the fact sought to be proved." West v. Founders Life Assurance Co. of Florida, 547 So.2d 870, 871 (Ala. 1989). On review of a summary judgment, this Court reviews the record in a light most favorable to the nonmovant and must resolve all reasonable doubts against the movant. Wilma Corp. v. Fleming Foods of Alabama, Inc., 613 So.2d 359 (Ala. 1993).

Blackburn carried both liability and collision automobile insurance with State Farm. His collision coverage was subject to a $1,000 deductible. After the accident, he notified State Farm of the damage to his van. State Farm estimated the repair cost to be $1,052. Blackburn informed State Farm that he could have his van repaired for less than the State Farm estimate; he then had the van repaired for approximately $730. State Farm took no further action in regard to the repair of the vehicle.

Approximately a month after Blackburn had the van repaired, a State Farm representative wrote Blackburn concerning the accident. The representative stated that State Farm had investigated Blackburn's accident and had determined that Blackburn had been negligent in the accident. The representative stated that the investigation had included the following:

"1. Statement from [Blackburn] concerning the facts of the accident.

"2. Statement from Mr. Jones concerning the facts of the accident.

"3. Secured copy of the Police Report.

"4. Personally interviewed the investigating officer concerning his investigation and report.

"5. Referred file to our Mississippi office and they secured a detailed statement of Mrs. Linda Rippee [a passenger in Blackburn's van during ...


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