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Littleton v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.

October 29, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge



Before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant State Farm Fire & Casualty Company ("State Farm"). State Farm argues that Plaintiff's claims that it employed unfair trade practices, negligently misrepresented the value of his home and property, and intentionally caused him emotional distress should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

On this motion to dismiss, the court sets forth the facts stated in Plaintiff's complaint and accepts them as true. Plaintiff Andrew Littleton purchased his home, located on five acres of property, in 1997. He contacted State Farm agent Robert Perritt for an estimate of the type of insurance policy his home and land would require, and the amount for which they should be insured. Perritt "sold [Plaintiff] the policy with all options," informing Plaintiff "that the amount of insurance was absolutely necessary to insure his home and possessions," in spite of Plaintiff's articulated concerns about the amount of the premium. (Doc. 5-2 ¶ 6.) Plaintiff relied on Perritt's advice, purchased the policy, and paid premiums every year. The policy provided $221,500 in dwelling coverage with an increase option of $44,300; $166,125 in personal property coverage, and coverage for Plaintiff's loss of use of the property.

Plaintiff lived on his property, owning numerous animals and large pieces of equipment like four-wheelers, until the early morning of December 21, 2005. On that date, Plaintiff's house burned to the ground. The next day, an adjuster for State Farm inspected the remains. She instructed Plaintiff to make a list of his property and notify his mortgage company. In January 2006, she told him to dig through the rubble for anything salvageable; these things, if found, would become the property of State Farm. She also told him to recreate his receipts in support of his property loss claim.

Plaintiff sorted through the rubble and saved certain items for State Farm. He received cuts from the rubble, which led to a bacterial infection. The infection was treated with penicillin for twenty-eight days.

After the fire, Plaintiff located a three-bedroom home comparable to the one that had just burned. It would have allowed him to maintain his animals and equipment for rent of $3,800 per month. State Farm did not approve this property and "insisted that he live in a two-bedroom apartment" -- an insufficient space to shelter his animals and property. Without a sufficiently large living space, Plaintiff was unable to care for his animals, some of which died. In March 2006, State Farm paid Plaintiff $18,400 in additional living expenses. Plaintiff alleges that State Farm has failed to pay adequate additional living expenses required by Plaintiff's policy.

The results of Plaintiff's searching and restoring led to a list of his destroyed property and over 2,000 pages of records. He submitted the information to the adjuster. State Farm paid $34,731.77 for personal property loss on October 10, 2006. In or around May 2007, State Farm paid the balance of the limit of his personal property loss coverage, nearly $136,000.

On January 13, 2006, the State Farm adjuster advised Plaintiff that the replacement value of his home was $138,473. Plaintiff initially believed that he could rebuild his home with that amount. Plaintiff then consulted with a State Farm-approved builder, who told Plaintiff that $138,473 was insufficient. On June 13, 2007, State Farm revised its estimate of the replacement value of Plaintiff's home to $175,000. This amount is still not enough.

Based on the above facts, Plaintiff charges five counts of liability against State Farm in his complaint, originally filed in state court. (Doc. 5-2.) Defendant removed the suit to this court on August 16, 2007. (Doc. 1.) Defendant filed a motion to dismiss three of those counts on August 23, 2007. (Doc. 5.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard -- 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, - U.S. -, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but a plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief as prescribed by Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 1965; accord, e.g., Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350(3d Cir. 2005). A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus, - U.S. -, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). The court is not, however, "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (quotations and citations omitted). If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that ...

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