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Darlene Ryan v. Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company

August 19, 2011

DARLENE RYAN,
PLAINTIFF
v.
UNION MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In 2006, Defendant Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company ("Union Mutual"), a Vermont insurance company, issued a combination homeowners and automobile insurance policy to Plaintiff Darlene Ryan, then a Vermont resident. After a motor vehicle accident in the fall of 2006, Plaintiff filed an underinsured motorist claim with Union Mutual. When Union Mutual offered to settle Plaintiff's underinsured motorist claim for less than the policy limits, Plaintiff, now a resident of Pennsylvania, filed an action for breach of contract and bad faith in this forum. Before the Court is Union Mutual's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), asserting lack of personal jurisdiction, and Rule 12(b)(3), asserting improper venue, or seeking transfer to the United States District Court, District of Vermont. For the reasons below, the Court finds that Union Mutual is not subject to the jurisdiction of this Court and transfers this case to the United States District Court, District of Vermont.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff purchased an insurance policy from Union Mutual with effective dates from April 30, 2006 to April 30, 2007. The policy was issued in Vermont; at that time Plaintiff was a Vermont resident.

On September 20, 2006, while temporarily living and working in Pennsylvania, Plaintiff was a passenger in an automobile owned and driven by Edith Hopson, and was involved in an accident with another vehicle, driven by Dorothy Cummings. Plaintiff sustained injuries. It was determined that the accident was caused by Cummings's negligent driving. The accident occurred in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and Plaintiff sought medical treatment in Pennsylvania. About a month later, Plaintiff notified Union Mutual that she would be pursing an underinsured motorist claim under her automobile insurance policy.

Plaintiff alleges that she suffered severe back injuries from the accident, which required surgeries in 2008, 2009 and 2010. She still experiences pain. She has difficulty engaging in household tasks, and is unable to engage in her former employment. As a result, she has incurred financial losses.

In December 2007, Plaintiff forwarded a copy of her medical records and lost wages to Union Mutual, along with a written offer and release from AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance Company, Cumming's insurer, which tendered Cummings's policy limits ($50,000). Hopson's insurer, Allstate Insurance Company, later tendered $15,000 to Plaintiff, which was Hopson's underinsured motorist policy limit. Plaintiff's counsel sent two demands to Union Mutual, asking them to pay Plaintiff her underinsured motorist policy limits ($500,000). The demands detailed the costs of medical treatment and lost wages to date ($155,000 in January 2010, and over $200,000 by August 2010). On August 25, 2010, Union Mutual offered Plaintiff $135,000, which Plaintiff rejected. *fn1

Plaintiff then sued Union Mutual for breach of contract and bad faith, alleging that Union Mutual failed to properly investigate Plaintiff's underinsured motorist claim, and unreasonably rejected Plaintiff's demand for the policy limits.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a court is required to accept a plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff. *fn2 Once a defendant raises a jurisdictional defense, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that jurisdiction is proper by affidavits or other competent evidence. *fn3 Plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction, *fn4 and meets this burden by stating the bases for personal jurisdiction with reasonable particularity. *fn5 "Factual disputes created by the affidavits, documents, and depositions submitted for the court's consideration are resolved in favor of the non-moving party." *fn6

Federal courts sitting in diversity may exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the extent provided by the law of the state in which the federal court sits. *fn7

Therefore, we will apply Pennsylvania law. Pennsylvania's Long-Arm Statute allows personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the constitutional limits of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. *fn8 Under this standard, nonresident defendants are required to have minimum contacts with Pennsylvania so as not to offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. *fn9 There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. *fn10

On a motion to dismiss or transfer for improper venue, the court will consider where the defendants reside, in which judicial district a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, and whether the court has personal jurisdiction ...


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