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Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Leif's Auto Collision Centers LLC

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

March 2, 2018

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE CO., Plaintiff,
v.
LEIF'S AUTO COLLISION CENTERS, LLC, and LEIF HANSEN, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          Honorable Paul Papak United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Government Employees Insurance Co. brings this action against Defendants Leif s Auto Collision Centers, LLC, and Leif Hansen, asserting claims for intentional interference with contractual relations, defamation, and declaratory relief. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have attempted to intimidate, delay, and obstruct Plaintiffs insurance adjusters from evaluating damaged vehicles on Defendants' premises.

         Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint, and Defendants have filed a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings or Partial Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, I recommend granting Defendants' motion and Plaintiff s motion.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Defendants' Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings or Partial Summary Judgment

         Defendants move for partial judgment on the pleadings or for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs claim seeking a declaratory judgment that Plaintiff "need no longer conduct commercial activity with Defendants, notwithstanding Oregon law to the contrary." Compl. ¶ 54; Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 92. The "Oregon law to the contrary" is the anti-steering statute, Or. Rev. Stat. § 746.280, which prohibits insurers from requiring "that a particular person make the repairs to the insured's motor vehicle as a condition for recovery by the insured under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy." Plaintiff contends that because of Defendants' alleged harassment of its adjusters, "a complete cessation of commercial activity with Defendants is reasonably necessaiy to protect the life, safety, and/or health of [Plaintiffs] adjusters." Compl. ¶ 51; Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 89.

         A. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have intentionally created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation to prevent adjusters from adequately performing their work. Compl. ¶ 15; Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 26. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hansen and employees of Defendant Leif s (1) told Plaintiffs adjusters that "they know how to find people, " with the intent to intimidate the adjusters, Compl.¶ 15, Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 26; (2) threatened to sue Plaintiffs adjusters personally or have them arrested, typically when adjusters were attempting to negotiate estimates or suggested a disagreement with Defendants about an estimate, especially if this occurred when a customer of Plaintiff s was present, Compl. ¶ 16, Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 27; (3) cany knives and talk about guns in the presence of Plaintiff s adjusters at Defendants' facility, and at least one of Defendants' employees talked about "killing people" with the intent to frighten Plaintiffs adjuster, Compl. ¶ 17; Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 28; and (4) one of Defendants' employees drove a vehicle toward an adjuster for Plaintiff, stopping at the last moment with the intent to harm or frighten the adjuster, Compl. ¶ 18, Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 29. Plaintiff alleges that because of Defendants' attempts to intimidate its adjusters, one adjuster has refused to return to Defendants' premises, and several other adjusters "have experienced significant stress and emotional harm." Compl. ¶ 19, Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 30. Plaintiff alleges that in response to Defendants' conduct towards its adjusters, Plaintiff has "removed its adjusters from [Defendants' premises] and contracted with independent outside adjusters, " causing Plaintiff to incur additional expenses for repairs performed by Defendants. Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 31 (not in the original complaint).

         Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants have permanently barred several of Plaintiff s adjusters from performing adjusting services, without any reasonable basis. Compl. ¶ 29, Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 41. Defendants allegedly routinely and unreasonably refuse to negotiate estimates on the cost of repairs, and have thrown out adjusters when they attempt to negotiate. Compl. ¶ 31, Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 43. In the proposed first amended complaint, Plaintiff adds an assertion that Defendants' conduct violates not only the Oregon statute on workplace safety, Or. Rev. Stat. § 654.010, but also the analogous federal statute on workplace safety, 29 U.S.C.§ 654. See Proposed First Am. Compl. ¶ 88.

         B. Legal Standards

         1. Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) '"is properly granted when, taking all the allegations in the non-moving party's pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."' United States v. Teng Jiao Zhou, 815 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fajardo v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 179 F.3d 698, 699 (9th Cir. 1999)). Like a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion for judgment on the pleadings challenges the legal sufficiency of the opposing party's pleadings. Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989).

         2. Motions for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate "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 factual dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party and may ...


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