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Barry Cummings and Harry Cummings, Jr., Administrator of Estate of v. Allstate Insurance Company

September 30, 2011

BARRY CUMMINGS AND HARRY CUMMINGS, JR., ADMINISTRATOR OF ESTATE OF MARY LOUISE CUMMINGS, DECEASED PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant, Allstate Insurance Company's ("Allstate") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff, Barry Cummings, and Harry Cummings, Jr., as administrator of the Estate of Mary Louise Cummings' (the "Decedent") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Second Amended Complaint. For the foregoing reasons, Allstate's Motion to Dismiss will be denied.

I. FACTS

Plaintiffs are the sons of the Decedent. Plaintiff, Barry Cummings, and the Decedent resided together at 112 Sunnyside Road, West Grove, PA 19390 (the "Property"). (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) The Property was insured through a Deluxe Homeowner's Policy (the "Policy") with Allstate providing limits of up to $138,000 in "Dwelling Protection" and $100,000 per "occurrence" for Family Liability Protection. (Resp., Ex., F 3.)

Plaintiffs allege that, on or about May 31, 2009, they suffered a loss covered under the Policy. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that "water escaped from a heating or plumbing system and/or collapse of the floor of the residence." (Id.) Plaintiffs further allege that prompt notice of the loss was given to Allstate, and that they otherwise complied with all terms and conditions of the Policy. (Id. ¶ 6.) However, according to Plaintiffs, Allstate denied their claim without any legal justification or cause and it continues to withhold benefits due under the Policy. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiffs allege that, on or about September 19, 2010, the Decedent tripped and fell on a portion of the damaged floor and sustained injuries to her left leg, which required surgery to correct. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs further allege that the Decedent underwent corrective surgery on September 20, 2010, but that, two days later, she suffered a cardiac arrest and died. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11.) Critically, Plaintiffs allege that Allstate's wrongful denial of their claim was the direct cause of the Decedent's injuries and death, because it had inspected the Property and knew that the collapsed floor represented a serious danger. (Id. ¶ 9.) Although unclear from the Second Amended Complaint, it appears that Plaintiffs also allege that Allstate inspected the loss, thereby acquiring knowledge that denial of their claim could have potentially fatal results. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 19.)

Plaintiff commenced this action against Allstate on May 13, 2010 by filing a Statement of Claim in the Philadelphia County Municipal Court. (Not. of Rem. ¶ 1.) A default judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff on July 19, 2010 for failure to appear. Allstate appealed the default judgment on August 17, 2010. On August 19, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. After the Decedent passed away, Plaintiff's brother, Harry William Cummings, Jr. ("Harry Cummings, Jr."), applied for and was granted letters of administration by the Chester County Register of Wills. Thereafter, on April 8, 2011, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint alleging breach of the insurance contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, and statutory bad faith. At that time, Plaintiff also added Harry Cummings, Jr., administrator of the Decedent's estate as a plaintiff in this action and included claims for damages for her injury and subsequent death. On April 22, 2011, Allstate removed the case to this Court. On April 28, 2011, Allstate filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' breach of good faith and fair dealing claim and Plaintiffs' claim for compensatory damages under their statutory bad faith claim. We granted Allstate's Motion to Dismiss on July 11, 2011 and ordered Plaintiffs to submit a Second Amended Complaint, which Plaintiffs timely filed .

Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint is comprised of two counts. In Count I, Plaintiffs allege that Allstate breached the contract of insurance by denying benefits due under the Policy without a reasonable basis. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 19.) In Count I, Plaintiffs demand damages for pain and suffering, mental distress anguish, and mental trauma suffered by the Decedent prior to her death pursuant to Pennsylvania's Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8301.*fn1 Plaintiffs also demand compensation for the loss of income and services of the Decedent pursuant to Pennsylvania's Survival Act, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8302.*fn2 In Count II, Plaintiffs assert a statutory bad faith claim pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. § 8371.*fn3 Therein, they allege that Allstate acted in bad faith through its cursory investigation of the claim, its denial of coverage for the claim without a reasonable basis, its delay in paying the claim, its failure to keep them apprised of the claim status, and its myriad false representations regarding the Policy provisions. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Allstate now moves to dismiss Count I (Breach of Contract) for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted. Allstate offers three reasons for finding that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim for breach of contract as a matter of law. First, Allstate argues that Pennsylvania does not recognize a claim for wrongful death and survival benefits stemming from a party's breach of a contractual obligation. Second, Allstate argues that the Policy expressly excludes liability coverage for the Decedent's injuries and death. Third, Allstate argues that it did not breach the contract because it never assumed a duty of care when it inspected the Property to determine coverage. Alternatively, Allstate moves to strike Paragraph 22 of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, wherein Plaintiffs seek damages "for pain and suffering, mental distress anguish, and mental trauma suffered by Decedent prior to her death, together with all expenses and losses suffered by her Estate as a result of her untimely death pursuant to the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act," and the loss of income and services of the Decedent pursuant to Pennsylvania's Survival Act. Allstate argues that we must dismiss Plaintiffs' demand for these consequential damages because Plaintiffs have not shown that it had reason to know of the circumstances responsible for the special damages and to foresee the injury when the contract was formed. Additionally, Allstate moves to strike the Decedent's Estate as a plaintiff in this action because she "was not a party to the insurance contract entered into between Allstate and Barry E. Cummings and covering the property at issue."

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court stated that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Following Twombly, the Third Circuit has explained that the factual allegations in the complaint may not be "so undeveloped that [they do] not provide a defendant the type of notice which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Moreover, "it is no longer sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action; instead 'a complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct.'" Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8). Furthermore, the complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Notwithstanding Twombly, the basic tenets of the Rule 12(b)(6) have not changed. The Knit With v. Knitting Fever, Inc., No. 08-4221, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30230, at *6 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 8, 2009). The general rules of pleading still require only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, not detailed factual allegations. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Moreover, when evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of fact in the plaintiff's complaint, and must view any reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id.; Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).

As a general matter, a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings. In re Burlington Coat Factories Securities Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). "However, an exception to the general rule is that a 'document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the Complaint' may be considered 'without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment." Id. (citing Shaw v. Digital Equip Corp., 82 F.3d 1194, 1220 (1st Cir. 1996)). Furthermore, "a court may consider an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document." In re Donald J. Trump ...


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