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Alfano v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

September 17, 2009

LOUISE ALFANO AND SANDRA PRZYBYLSKI, PLAINTIFFS
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY AND STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANIES, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint. The matter has been fully briefed and argument has been heard. The matter is thus ripe for disposition.

Background

The factual background of this case is not in dispute. Plaintiffs Louise Alfano and Sandra Przybylski had a homeowner's insurance policy through Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm" or "defendant") for their home in Exeter, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 4-2, Complaint ¶ 4). On December 17, 2000, while the plaintiffs were not at home, an explosion occurred at the house that incinerated and destroyed the entire residence and personal property of the plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 5). They made a claim for benefits to State Farm and received their policy limits of $456,281.90. (Id. ¶ 6). They assert that this amount was insufficient to cover their entire loss, thus they filed a lawsuit against PP&L in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania asserting that PP&L was liable for the destruction of their home. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 7-8). In the state court action, plaintiffs seek $357,835.96 for the destruction of the home; $38,000 for destruction to the exterior of the property and $294,247.16 for destruction of their personal property, in addition to compensatory damages and punitive damages. (Id. at ¶ 9-10).

Defendant State Farm had a subrogation claim for $456,281.90 in the Luzerne County action for the benefits it had paid to the plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶ 11). State Farm settled the subrogation claim with PP&L for $250,000.00, or approximately 50% of what it was worth, without the knowledge or consent of the plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 11-12). State Farm thus assigned the $456,281.90 subrogation claim to PP&L. Plaintiffs assert that the assignment of the subrogation claim "was undertaken for the sole benefit and interest of State Farm and against the interests" of the plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiffs claim that this assignment puts PP&L, the entity they sued in county court, in a superior position to them. (Id. at ¶ 17). They assert that the assignment of the subrogation claim from State Farm to PP&L was done in bad faith and is void as a matter of law. (Id. at ¶ 14, 19).

Plaintiffs filed the instant complaint asserting a bad faith cause of action against the defendants. They aver that they have been damaged in the amount of $456,281.90, the total amount of the subrogation claim. (Id. at ¶ 22). They seek compensatory damages, punitive damages and statutory damages pursuant to 42 PENN. CON. STAT. ANN. § 8357. (Id. at ¶ 24).

Plaintiffs filed the complaint in the Luzerne County Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. The defendants removed the case to this court and filed the instant motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiffs are citizens of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 4-2, Complaint ¶ ¶ 1-2) and the defendants are citizens of Illinois. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal, ¶ 13). Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Standard of Review

When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of allegations in the complaint is tested. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," or put another way, "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35 (citation omitted).

The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997). However, the court does not have to accept conclusions of law or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse, 132 F.3d at 906).

Discussion

Defendants argue that the complaint should be dismissed because it does not set forth a proper claim for insurance bad ...


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