Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

SMITH v. NATIONWIDE MUT. FIRE INS. CO.

February 20, 1996

RICHARD C. SMITH and MICHELLE SMITH, his wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY and NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY and NATIONWIDE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY and NATIONWIDE INSURANCE COMPANIES, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCLAUGHLIN

 McLAUGHLIN, J.

 Presently pending before this Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint in the above-captioned matter. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted only insofar as Plaintiffs' Count II is premised directly or indirectly on alleged violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Insurance Practices Act, PA. STAT. ANN. tit. 40, §§ 1171.1 et seq. (1992) and the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, 31 PA. CODE §§ 146.1 et seq.. In all other respects Defendants' motion will be denied.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiffs Richard C. Smith and Michelle Smith filed a four count complaint against Defendants Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company, and Nationwide Insurance Companies as a result of an insurance contract dispute. Plaintiffs allege that they are party to a homeowner's insurance policy with Defendants, the terms of which Plaintiffs claim to have complied with fully. On or about August 8, 1994, a fire damaged a structure at their premises in Shermansville, Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs aver that they promptly notified Defendants of the loss and thereafter delivered extensive claim documentation and fully cooperated with Defendants as required by the policy.

 Nevertheless, Defendants allegedly refused without legal justification or cause to negotiate promptly and fairly and/or to pay any money for the damages to Plaintiffs' structure. It is averred that Defendants breached their implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by withholding benefits based upon the false accusation or implication that the Plaintiffs had committed arson. (Complaint, P 15.) It is further alleged that Defendants acted "unreasonably and in bad faith and/or without a reasonable basis and without knowledge of, or in reckless disregard of, the facts without conducting a reasonable and prompt investigation and withholding the Plaintiffs' benefits under the policy." Id.

 The Complaint sets forth four counts. Count I asserts a cause of action for breach of contract and demands judgment in excess of $ 10,000.00. Count II alleges specific violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, PA. STAT. ANN. tit. 73, §§ 201 et seq. (1993), the Unfair Insurance Practices Act, PA. STAT. ANN. tit. 40, §§ 1171.1 et seq. (1992), and the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, 31 PA. CODE §§ 146.1 et seq., and demands judgment in excess of $ 50,000.00. Count III asserts a claim for bad faith and seeks damages in excess of $ 50,000.00. Count IV asserts a cause of action for fraud and deceit and demands judgment in excess of $ 50,000.00. Jurisdiction over these claims is premised upon 28 U.S.C. § 1332. *fn1"

 Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss Counts I, II, and III of the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. *fn2" Additionally, Defendants move for dismissal of the entire complaint on the ground that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

 II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

 On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs. Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). Accordingly, this Court must consider "whether relief could be granted ... 'under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'" Gasoline Sales, Inc. v. Aero Oil Co., 39 F.3d 70, 71 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, 510 U.S. 249, 114 S. Ct. 798, 803, 127 L. Ed. 2d 99 (1994)). If no cause of action can be identified, dismissal is proper.

 III. DISCUSSION

 1. Breach of Contract Claim

 Plaintiffs' first count sounds in breach of contract. Defendants move for dismissal of this claim on the ground that it is premature. Specifically, Defendants state that "the underlying claim has not been denied by Defendants, nor have Plaintiffs averred an [sic] denial of the underlying claim." (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, P 9.) The Court notes, however, that Plaintiffs have alleged that "all conditions precedent to [their] right to recover under said policy of insurance have occurred." (Complaint P 12.) Under Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, notice pleading is acceptable, requiring only that the complaint set forth (1) the grounds upon which jurisdiction depends, (2) "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). In pleading the performance or occurrence of conditions precedent, Rule 9(c) permits the general averment that all conditions precedent have occurred. Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(c). Plaintiff's complaint comports with the requirements of Rules 8(a) and 9(c). There is no additional requirement that Plaintiffs specifically aver the Defendants' denial of their claim.

 Assuming that the underlying insurance claim is indeed still pending because the parties have not yet agreed upon the amount of loss, this is an issue of fact not properly resolved on a motion to dismiss. At present, we must accept as true all of Plaintiffs' allegations, including the allegation that all conditions precedent to their recovery under the insurance contract have occurred. Defendants will have the opportunity to prove, through supporting evidentiary materials, the present pendency of Plaintiffs' insurance claim. However, that issue is more appropriately addressed by way of a motion for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.