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Barnes v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

2021 COA 89. No. 20CA0720.  Declaratory Judgment—Civil Procedure—CRCP 12(b)(5), (f), and (g).

July 1, 2021

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (State Farm) issued Barnes automobile liability insurance policies for a Honda and a Geo. Barnes signed an uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM) coverage rejection form for the Geo policy. Both policies were in effect when Barnes sustained serious injuries in a car accident caused by another driver. Her damages exceeded the amount she received from the at-fault driver, and she sought the $100,000 limit of UM coverage under the Honda policy and $70,000 of UM coverage under the Geo policy. State Farm paid Barnes $100,000 under the Honda policy because she had rejected UM coverage on the Geo policy.

Barnes filed suit seeking a declaration that the UM rejection form was invalid or unenforceable. State Farm filed a CRCP 12(f) motion to strike certain paragraphs of the complaint or to require Barnes to state facts to support the statements in those paragraphs. The district court denied the motion. State Farm then filed a Rule 12(b)(5) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, which the court granted.

On appeal, Barnes argued that the district court erred by allowing State Farm to file the Rule 12(b)(5) motion after it had already filed a separate Rule 12(f) motion to strike because Rule 12(g) requires the motions to be joined. However, even if a party made an earlier Rule 12 motion, section (g) does not preclude it from making a subsequent motion for judgment on the pleadings asserting the defense of failure to state a claim. State Farm was therefore not precluded from its Rule 12(b)(5) motion by virtue of the earlier motion to strike. Further, though Rule 12(c) permits a motion for judgment on the pleadings only after the pleadings are closed and State Farm filed its Rule 12(b)(5) motion before it filed its answer, State Farm filed its answer before Barnes responded to its motion. This effectively cured any procedural defect caused by the timing of the motion relative to the answer. Therefore, any technical error by the district court in considering State Farm’s successive motion to dismiss was harmless.

Barnes also argued that the district court erred by dismissing her complaint, claiming that State Farm engaged in fraudulent behavior because it had an affirmative duty to disclose that policies would not be stacked if UM coverage was rejected on one of her vehicles. Here, the UM rejection form accurately stated the law regarding how UM coverage applies, and the stacking information that Barnes claimed should have been disclosed is unrelated to the subject covered by the UM rejection form. Accordingly, Barnes failed to state a plausible claim for relief, and the district court properly dismissed her complaint.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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