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Brian D. Pfister and Michelle M. Pfister v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company

July 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge




Presently before the Court is the Motion of Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") to Dismiss Count III of Plaintiffs Brian and Michelle Pfisters‟ Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 15. The parties‟ dispute centers on State Farm‟s handling of a claim by Plaintiffs under their homeowners‟ insurance policy for water damage to their home. In April 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania stating causes of action for breach of contract, declaratory judgment, and statutory bad faith. Doc. No. 1 Ex. 2 On June 16, 2011, State Farm removed the case to this Court based on the parties‟ diverse citizenship. Doc. No. 1. On June 23, 2011, State Farm filed a Motion to Dismiss the declaratory judgment and bad faith claims in Plaintiffs‟ Complaint. Doc. No. 5. State Farm‟s Motion to Dismiss was mooted when Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on July 6, 2011. Doc. No. 9. On July 13, the parties entered a Stipulation dismissing the declaratory judgment claim contained in Plaintiffs‟ Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 12. The same day, State Farm moved to dismiss Count III, the statutory bad faith claim, in Plaintiffs‟ Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

II.Factual Background

When reviewing a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all factual allegations in the Complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the Plaintiff. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The facts of this case are as follows:

Plaintiffs are husband and wife, Brian D. and Michelle M. Pfister, who reside in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Doc. No. 9 ¶ 1. Since their house was built, Plaintiffs have maintained a homeowners‟ insurance policy through Defendant. Id. ¶ 8. In 2010, Plaintiffs filed a property loss claim with Defendant for damage to their home that occurred on or about April 25, 2010. Id. ¶ 10. In their loss claim, Plaintiffs allege that they suffered physical and structural damage to their master bedroom floor, kitchen ceiling, kitchen cabinets and countertops, kitchen floor, and second floor carpet due to a blocked shower drain in the master bathroom. Id. ¶ 11.

On or about June 29, 2010, Defendant accepted the claim and issued payment to the Plaintiffs in the amount of $16,169.48. Id. ¶ 22. Despite numerous requests from Plaintiffs, however, Defendant has declined to issue additional payment on Plaintiffs‟ claim. Id. ¶ 24.

III.Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), civil complaints must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.544, 570 (2007)).*fn1

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a claim for relief now ""requires more than labels and conclusions‟" or ""a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.‟" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1948 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While Rule 8 was "a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era," it does not "unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently explained that a District Court must take three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Third, "whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." This means that our inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.

Malleus v. George, No. 10-03539, 2011 WL 2044166, at *2 (3d Cir. May 26, 2011) (quoting Iqbal,129 S. Ct. at 1947, 1950). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a Complaint, they must be ...

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