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Atiyeh v. National Fire Insurance Co. of Hartford

September 27, 2010

ARIF ATIYEH, TRADING AS WOW OUTLET, PLAINTIFF
v.
NATIONAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF HARTFORD; AND CNA,*FN1 DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Knoll Gardner, United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(c), which motion was filed November 5, 2009.*fn2 For the following reasons, I grant National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(c). Specifically, I grant National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford's ("National Fire") motion for judgment on the pleadings regarding plaintiff's bad faith claim because I conclude that plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not plead sufficient facts to establish the claim, and I dismiss the Amended Complaint.

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff Arif Atiyeh, trading as WOW Outlet, is a Pennsylvania citizen. Defendant National Fire is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois. The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2) because the events giving rise to plaintiff's claims allegedly occurred in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Arif Atiyeh and former co-plaintiff George Atiyeh initiated this action on September 4, 2007 by filing a Praecipe for Writ of Summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a two-count Complaint against National Fire on October 18, 2007 alleging breach of contract and bad faith, and seeking damages in excess of $700,000.

On November 13, 2007, defendant National Fire removed the case to federal court by filing a Notice of Removal of Action Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

On November 21, 2007, National Fire filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion set forth three main contentions:

(1) plaintiff Arif Atiyeh breached the suit-limitation clause of the insurance policy; (2) plaintiff Arif Atiyeh had no individual cause of action under the Unfair Insurance Practices Act and did not sufficiently state a claim for bad faith pursuant to 41 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371; and (3) plaintiff George Atiyeh did not have standing to bring suit because he was not a "named insured" on the insurance policy. Plaintiffs responded to National Fire's motion to dismiss on January 25, 2008.

By Order dated September 30, 2008, I granted National Fire's motion, dismissing the breach of contract claim, dismissing the bad faith claim without prejudice for plaintiff Arif Atiyeh to file an amended complaint on or before October 31, 2008, and dismissing plaintiff George Atiyeh as a party to this action for lack of standing.

On October 31, 2008, plaintiff Arif Atiyeh filed a one-count Amended Complaint alleging a bad faith claim. Specifically, plaintiff*fn3 alleges that he obtained a commercial insurance policy from National Fire insuring his real estate business. Plaintiff avers that he paid all premiums under the policy, performed all provisions of the policy, and suffered a covered loss within the meaning of the contract. Plaintiff sues defendant for acting in bad faith in the handling of plaintiff's insurance claim and seeks damages in excess of $700,000.

On November 20, 2008, National Fire filed an Answer to plaintiff's Amended Complaint, with affirmative defenses and two counterclaims. Plaintiff filed a reply to defendant's counterclaims on March 25, 2009.*fn4

On November 5, 2009, National Fire filed this motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In its motion, defendant contends that the Amended Complaint does not sufficiently state a claim for bad faith pursuant to 41 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371.

On November 25, 2009, plaintiff filed an Answer to National Fire's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiff's response avers that the claim for bad faith satisfies the notice-pleading standard under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On March 16, 2010, with leave of court, defendant filed a reply brief to plaintiff's response.

Hence this Opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), judgment on the pleadings will be granted only if "the movant clearly establishes there are no material issues of fact, and he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sikirica v. Nationwide Insurance Company, 416 F.3d 214, 220 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Society Hill Civic Association v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980)). The court "must view the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id.

A party may move for judgment on the pleadings "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The pleadings are closed after an answer is filed, along with a reply to any additional claims asserted in the answer. Austin Powder Company v. ...


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