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William Simmons v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company

April 20, 2011

WILLIAM SIMMONS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Pending before the Court is the MOTION TO DISMISS filed by Defendant Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company ("Nationwide"), Doc. No. 3, with brief in support, Doc. No. 4. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition, Doc. No. 76, to which Defendant Nationwide has replied, Doc. No. 8. The motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff‟s complaint. This action arises out of an insurance claim submitted to Nationwide by Plaintiff William Simmons in 2004. Plaintiff alleges that on or about August 20, 2004, an unknown individual broke into Plaintiff‟s business located at 926 Island Avenue, McKees Rocks, PA 15136, and stole a large assortment of Plaintiff‟s tools. See Doc No. 1-2, Complaint, at ¶ 6. At the time, Plaintiff maintained a Business Provider insurance policy with Defendant Nationwide. Id. at ¶ 3. The insurance policy purportedly covered the property and contents of Plaintiff‟s business location, including "property you own that is used in your business." Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff claims that the stolen tools were "business personal property" and, therefore, a covered loss under his policy. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff reported the theft to Defendant seeking coverage for the stolen tools. Id. at ¶ 7. Defendant investigated the claim, and on March 11, 2005, notified Plaintiff that his claim was denied. Id.

Plaintiff commenced this action with the filing of a Praecipe for Writ of Summons on or about August 11, 2006 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania at docket number GD 06-018972. See Doc. No. 1, Notice of Removal. Plaintiff filed his complaint on or about February 16, 2011. Doc. No. 1-2. Plaintiff‟s complaint alleges three counts, a claim for breach of an insurance contract (Count I), a claim for breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), and a statutory bad faith claim under 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371 (Count III).

Defendant moves to dismiss Count II of Plaintiff‟s complaint, "Breach of Good Faith and Fair Dealing", for failing to state a claim for which relief can be granted, specifically contending that no such cause of action exists in Pennsylvania. See Doc. No. 4 at § IV.A. In the alternative, Defendant moves to strike the reference contained in paragraph 34 of Count II to it as a fiduciary. Id. at § IV.B. Defendant also moves to strike Plaintiff‟s demand for compensatory damages in Count III, the statutory bad faith claim, on the basis that 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371 does not provide for compensatory damages. Id. at § IV.C. Plaintiff opposes Defendant‟s motion in each regard. Doc. No. 7.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir.1993). "The tenet that a court must accept as true all of the [factual] allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal citations omitted). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. At the motion to dismiss stage, a court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir.2000).

A complaint should only be dismissed if, accepting as true all of the allegations in the complaint, plaintiff has not pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1960, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327.

B. Rule 12(f) Motion to Strike

"The court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). A decision to grant or deny a motion to strike a pleading is vested in the trial court's discretion. See Snare & Triest v. Friedman, 169 F. 1, 6 (3d Cir.1909); BJC Health System v. Columbia Cas. Co., 478 F.3d 908, 917 (8th Cir.2007). "The purpose of a motion to strike is to clean up the pleadings, streamline litigation, and avoid unnecessary forays into immaterial matters." McInerney v. Moyer Lumber & Hardware, Inc., 244 F.Supp.2d 393, 402 (E.D.Pa.2002).

Motions to strike are decided on the pleadings alone. Hanover Ins. Co. v. Ryan, 619 F.Supp.2d 127, 132 (E.D.Pa.2007). Because a motion to strike is not favored, a court will generally not grant such a motion unless the material to be stricken bears no possible relationship to the controversy and may cause prejudice to one of the parties. See Hanover Ins. Co., 619 F.Supp.2d at 133; Miller v. Group Voyagers, Inc., 912 F.Supp. 164, 168 (E.D.Pa.1996). In deciding the motion, a court should also consider the liberal pleading standards of Rule 8 and the lack of a developed factual record at this early stage of litigation. See Hanover Ins. Co., 619 F.Supp.2d at 133; ...


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