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Grohowski v. State Farm Insurance

May 21, 2010

TODD GROHOWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE, DEFENDANT,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant State Farm Insurance ("State Farm"). (Doc. 3.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, this motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in the Complaint are as follows. On August 17, 2005, Plaintiff Todd Grohowski was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating a truck owned by his employer. (Compl. ¶ 4.) The employer's truck was covered by an insurance policy issued by Defendant State Farm. (Compl. ¶ 5.) At the time of the accident, Plaintiff owned a vehicle that was registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but the car had been inoperable for months. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 11, 55.) Because Plaintiff's car was inoperable, he modified the insurance policy he maintained with Allstate Insurance to include only comprehensive coverage; this modification was done on the advice of Plaintiff's insurance agent and/or Allstate Insurance. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff modified his insurance coverage shortly before the motor vehicle accident occurred (Compl. ¶ 8); as such, at the time of the accident, Plaintiff owned a motor vehicle that was registered in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that only had comprehensive coverage.

As a result of the accident, Plaintiff suffered injuries to his neck and back and has treated with several doctors. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-22.) Plaintiff submitted an Application for Benefits with State Farm on September 19, 2005. (Compl. ¶ 24.) State Farm stated that it would not pay first party medical benefits for Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 28.)

On December 29, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County seeking declaratory judgment stating that Plaintiff is entitled to first party coverage from State Farm (Count I), breach of contract (Count II), and bad faith pursuant to 42 PA. STAT. ANN. § 8371 (Count III).*fn1 On January 25, 2010, Defendant removed the case to federal court. (Doc. 1.) On January 26, 2010, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss. This motion has been fully briefed and is currently ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of her claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law ("the Financial Responsibility Law"), "[a]n owner of a currently registered motor vehicle who does not have financial responsibility . . . cannot recover first party benefits." 75 PA. STAT. ANN. § 1714. "Financial responsibility" is defined as:

The ability to respond in damages for liability on account of accidents arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle in the amount of $15,000 because of injury to one person in any one accident, in the amount of $30,000 because of injury to two or more persons in any one accident and in the ...


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