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Marcantel v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co.

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

December 1, 2017

CURT A. MARCANTEL, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY, a Texas corporation, COALITION TITLE AGENCY, INC., a Utah corporation, MICHAEL AND SONJA SALTMAN FAMILY TRUST, an entity MICHAEL A. SALTMAN, an individual, and SONJA SALTMAN, an individual, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          DUSTIN B. PEAD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         The parties consented to this court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF No. 20). The case is before the court on Defendant Stewart Title Guaranty Company's (“Stewart Title”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 59). The Motion is fully briefed, including Plaintiff Curt A. Marcantel's (“Marcantel”) evidentiary objection. (See ECF Nos. 60, 63-65). The court did not hear oral argument.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A “court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A party asserting that a fact . . . is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record.” Id. 56(c)(1)(A). “A dispute is genuine when a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party on the issue.” Macon v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 743 F.3d 708, 712 (10th Cir. 2014). In conducting its review, the court must view the evidence and draw reasonable inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.

         FACTS

         Marcantel bought an Owner's Policy of Title Insurance from Stewart Title in connection with the March 12, 2015, purchase of a parcel of real estate in Park City, Utah. (ECF No. 59 at 3). On September 10, 2015, Marcantel received an offer to purchase the property for $1, 900, 000. (ECF No. 65, Ex. 1). Based on the subsequent discovery of a sewer easement, the same prospective purchaser reduced his offer to $1, 250, 000 on September 21, 2015. (Id. at Ex. 2). On October 2015, the prospective purchaser increased his offer to $1, 400, 000. (Id. at Ex. 3).

         On March 9, 2016, Marcantel's counsel sent a letter to Stewart Title demanding it immediately pay $745, 000 to Marcantel. (ECF No. 59, Ex. 3). The letter indicated the demand expired on March 18, 2016. (Id.) On March 24, 2016, Stewart Title responded by letter acknowledging Marcantel's claim and providing contact information for the assigned claims counsel. (ECF No. 59, Ex. 4). On March 29, 2016, Marcantel filed the instant lawsuit. (ECF No. 2). On April 26, 2016, Stewart Title sent Marcantel a letter accepting the tender of claim and indicating it would obtain an appraisal to determine the loss or damage Marcantel suffered as a result of the sewer easement. (ECF No. 59, Ex. 5).

         On June 14, 2016, Stewart Title provided Marcantel with a copy of an appraisal it obtained to determine the amount of Marcantel's loss, and a check for $68, 000 conditioned on Marcantel signing a release of claims, subrogation, and recoupment agreement. (ECF No. 60 at 6). The appraisal is dated May 31, 2016, and estimates the value of the Park City property as of March 12, 2015, with and without the sewer easement. (ECF No. 60, Ex. 6). Marcantel refused the offer. (ECF No. 60 at 6).

         ANALYSIS

         I. The parties agree that the title insurance policy governs the terms of the parties' relationship

         Stewart Title contends the title insurance policy it issued is a binding contract that governs the parties' dispute. (ECF No. 59 at 3, 7-9). Marcantel agrees. (See ECF No. 60 at 2-3). Accordingly, the court finds the title insurance policy is a binding contract defining the rights and responsibilities of Marcantel and Stewart Title.

         II. The thirty-day time limit did not begin to run when Stewart Title accepted Marcantel's notice of claim according to the unambiguous language of the parties' agreement

         According to the plain language of the policy, the thirty-day period Marcantel cites did not begin when Stewart Title accepted Marcantel's notice of claim. Stewart Title contends that the policy does not require it to pay claims within thirty days of receiving or accepting them because such a requirement conflicts with its various options under the policy, including litigation to clear title encumbrances. (ECF No . 59 at 9-11). Marcantel argues the policy requires Stewart Title to pay within thirty days of accepting a claim because the policy uses mandatory language “shall.” (ECF No. 60 at 10). The policy states: “When liability and the extent of loss or damage have been definitely fixed in accordance with these Conditions, the payment ...


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