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Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Larry G. Squires

March 2, 2011

ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFF,
v.
LARRY G. SQUIRES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I.Introduction

Pending before the court are three motions: 1) a motion for judgment on the pleadings (the "Motion") (ECF No. 9), filed by Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co. ("Allstate" or "plaintiff"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) with respect to uninsured motorist ("UM") claims filed by Larry G. Squires ("Squires" or "defendant") with Allstate; 2) a motion to dismiss Squires' counterclaim for breach of contract (ECF No. 12); and 3) a motion to dismiss Squires' bad faith counterclaim under 42 PA. CONS. STAT. 8371, or in the alternative to sever and stay. (ECF No. 10.) Because the Motion is dispositive, the court will not address the motions to dismiss. Allstate's Motion will be granted because, as a matter of law, Squires is not entitled to UM benefits under the policy of insurance (No. 0 77 127441) issued by Allstate (the "Policy).

II.Procedural and Factual Background

On November 2, 2011, Allstate filed a two-count complaint for declaratory judgment (the "Complaint") (ECF No. 1) requesting the court to declare that Squires is not entitled to UM benefits under the Policy on the basis, among others, that the underlying motor vehicle accident ("Underlying Accident") was not a result of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle. On December 14, 2010, Squires filed an answer to the Complaint and two counterclaims: 1) breach of uninsured motorist contract; and 2) bad faith under 42 PA. CONS. STAT. 8371. (ECF No. 5.) On January 3, 2011, Allstate filed the Motion and two motions to dismiss. On January 28, 2011, Squires filed responses to each motion. (ECF Nos. 18--20.) On February 9, 2011, a hearing was held on the motions.

Allstate's declaratory action arises from Squires' claim for UM benefits resulting from injuries sustained in the Underlying Accident. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9.) At the time of the Underlying Accident, Squires was insured under the Policy, which provided UM benefits subject to certain exclusions. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 7-9.) The Underlying Accident occurred on State Highway 51 in Center Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania while Squires was driving alone in his pick-up truck. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Squires was injured after he lost control of his vehicle when he swerved to avoid a box on the road. (Id. ¶ 12.) Squires did not see the box fall onto the roadway from another motor vehicle and acknowledged he does not know how it came to be there, what it was being used for, or who made or owned the box. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)

The Policy provides, in relevant part:

UNINSURED MOTORISTS INSURANCE COVERAGE SS: If a limit of liability is shown on your declarations page for Uninsured Motorists Insurance -- Coverage SS, we will pay damages to an insured person for bodily injury which an insured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured auto. Bodily injury must be caused by accident and arise out of ownership, maintenance, or use of an uninsured auto.

(Id. ¶ 15; Ex. A at 11; ECF Nos. 1-2 at 14, 33) (emphasis in the original and related to Policy No. 0 77 127441 07/01, renewed for the period of July 1, 2008 to January 1, 2009).

III.Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 governs a motion for judgment on the pleadings and provides in relevant part: (c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. After the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.

FED. R. CIV. P. 12(c).

The standard for deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same utilized to decide a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).*fn1 DiCarlo v. St. Mary Hosp., 530 F.3d 255, 262-63 (3d Cir. 2008). The court must accept as true all well-pled allegations of fact in the pleadings and draw every reasonable inference in favor of the party against whom judgment is sought. Id.; Churchill v. Star Enters., 3 F. Supp.2d 625, 627 (E.D. Pa. 1998) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 12(c)). In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a district court generally may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings. An exception to the general rule, however, allows a court to consider documents integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Mele v. Fed. Reserve Bank of N.Y., 359 F.3d 251, 256 n.5 (3d Cir. 2004). The court will consider matters of public record and authentic documents, attached to the complaint or motion. Churchill, 3 F. Supp. 2d at 627. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recognized that "the Rule 12(c) motion is little more than a relic of the common law and code era," 5A Federal Practice at 537, and it "only has utility when all the material allegations of fact are admitted in the pleadings and only questions of law remain." Id. at 510. Granting a Rule 12(c) motion results in a determination on the merits at an early stage in the litigation, and thus this court requires "the movant [to] clearly establish [ ] that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Inst. for Sci. Info., Inc. v. Gordon & Breach, Sci. Publishers, Inc., 931 F.2d 1002, 1005 (3d Cir.1991) (quoting Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir.1988)).

Courts disfavor motions for judgment on the pleadings and apply a restrictive standard when ruling on such motions. WRIGHT & MILLER, ...


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