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Erwin v. Lyndon Southern Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

April 4, 2018

DAVID ERWIN PLAINTIFF
v.
LYNDON SOUTHERN INSURANCE COMPANY and SANTANDER CONSUMER USA DEFENDANTS

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION INSTRUCTIONS

         The following proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection, and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         DISPOSITION

         INTRODUCTION.

         Defendant Lyndon Southern Insurance Company (“Lyndon Southern”) has filed the pending motion for summary judgment. See Docket Entry 9.[1]Plaintiff David Erwin (“Erwin”) has filed a document that has been construed as an objection to the stipulation for dismissal with prejudice he entered into with defendant Santander Consumer USA (“Santander”). See Docket Entry 27. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that Lyndon Southern's motion for summary judgment be granted. The undersigned also recommends that Erwin's objection to the stipulation be overruled. This case should be dismissed without prejudice, and judgment should be entered for Lyndon Southern and Santander.

         PLEADINGS.

         Erwin began this case by filing a pro se complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332 and joining Lyndon Southern and Santander. Erwin alleged in the complaint that he purchased an automobile on March 23, 2017, an automobile that he later identified as a Kia Optima. The following day, the automobile was stolen.[2] When it was eventually located, it was on fire. He filed a claim for insurance proceeds with Lyndon Southern, but the claim was denied. Santander's involvement in the events giving rise to his complaint was not clear. The complaint did not contain a prayer for relief; instead, that portion of his complaint was left blank.

         Erwin thereafter filed a motion for preliminary injunction. The undersigned recommended that it be denied. He objected to the recommended disposition, and his objections are noteworthy for the following representations: “I did file for punitive damages and time involved and my $18, 500 in paperwork, and I ask for the full amount of $75, 000.00, plus my car.” See Docket Entry 17 at CM/ECF 1. United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr., adopted the recommended disposition and denied the motion for preliminary injunction.

         Lyndon Southern and Santander subsequently filed separate motions to dismiss and joined their motions with several exhibits. See Docket Entry 9, 11. In the motions, they maintained that Erwin's complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). They so maintained because the amount in controversy did not exceed $75, 000.00. They also maintained that the complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because it failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Lyndon Southern so maintained because the stolen Kia Optima was not an automobile covered by an insurance policy with Lyndon Southern on the date of the loss and, even if it were, coverage for the automobile was excluded because the keys were left in the automobile at the time of the theft.

         The undersigned briefly reviewed the motions to dismiss and could not determine at that time whether the exhibits would be considered in resolving the motions. Out of an abundance of caution, the undersigned elected to treat the motions as ones for summary judgment. The parties were accorded an opportunity to file all materials in support of, and in opposition to, the motions.

         Erwin and Santander then filed a joint stipulation for dismissal with prejudice. The stipulation provided the following:

IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED AND AGREED by and between Plaintiff David Erwin and Defendant Santander Consumer USA Inc. that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Santander Consumer USA Inc. may be, and hereby are, dismissed on their merits with prejudice and without the award of costs, fees, or any other amount to any party. Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Lyndon Southern Insurance remain pending.

         See Docket Entry 21. On the basis of the stipulation, United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr., deemed Santander's motion to be moot.

         Shortly thereafter, Erwin filed a one page document that the Clerk of the Court construed as an objection to the joint stipulation for dismissal with prejudice. In the document, Erwin represented the following: “I David Erwin contest Document #21 [i.e., the joint stipulation for dismissal with prejudice], reason being [that Santander's] lawyer did not hold up to [their] agreement. We did not settle as they said they would do the things, and they did not do it.” See Docket Entry 27.

         Santander filed a response to Erwin's submission. In the response, Santander represented the following:

Plaintiff and [Santander] agreed to mutually beneficial settlement terms pursuant to a mutually executed confidential settlement agreement (“Settlement Agreement”). Following completion of certain obligations under the Settlement Agreement, Plaintiff and [Santander] agreed to, and filed, the mutually executed Joint Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice on February 8, 2018 (“Stipulation”) (Doc. 21).
As a result of the Stipulation, Plaintiff's claims against [Santander] were fully and finally dismissed. On February 13, 2019, the Court noted the finality of the Stipulation, holding in a subsequent Docket Order that [Santander's] Motion to Dismiss was “moot in light of the parties' joint stipulation of dismissal.” (Doc. 24).
Therefore, Plaintiff's “Objection” to Joint Stipulation for Dismissal with Prejudice, filed nearly a month after the Stipulation, is untimely, without merit, and without any legal force or effect.

See Docket Entry 28 at CM/ECF 1-2.

         Because Erwin's submission was not a model of clarity, he was asked to clarify it. Because the submission was also bereft of facts, he was also asked to provide some factual support for it. He was cautioned that his obligation to clarify his submission and provide facts to support it did not relieve him of his obligation to file all materials pertinent to Lyndon Southern's motion for summary judgment.

         Erwin then filed a one page document that the Clerk of the Court construed as a notice to the court. In the document, Erwin represented the following:

I, David Erwin, would like to ask the court to help with enforcing the settlement with Santander Consumer USA in Dallas, Texas. Fulbright and Nicholson out of Dallas, TX, was the lawyer, but I talked with a lawyer out of St. Louis, MO. We agreed on a settlement. They were to give me $3500.00 and restore my credit and let me trade in this car that is on the paper ...

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