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Matthew Schlegel and Jennifer Schlegel, His Wife v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

February 10, 2012

MATTHEW SCHLEGEL AND JENNIFER SCHLEGEL, HIS WIFE,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant State Farm's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 4), and Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. 6). Plaintiffs are seeking to compel underinsured motorist benefits pursuant to their contract with Defendant State Farm, their auto insurance provider. Plaintiffs further allege violations of Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. § 201-1 et seq., and insurer bad faith pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8371. For the reasons below, the Court will deny Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand and grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. To the extent Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is based on a failure to state a claim, Plaintiffs will be given leave to amend their Complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege the following in their Complaint. Plaintiff Matthew Schlegel and his wife, Plaintiff Jennifer Schlegel, insured their motor vehicle at all relevant times with Defendant State Farm. On December 20, 2007, while the Schlegels were traveling on Route 6 in Dalton, Pennsylvania, tortfeasor Doris Ferko, acting recklessly and without right of way, crossed in front of Plaintiffs' vehicle and caused an accident. As a result of this accident, Plaintiff Jennifer Schlegel suffered serious injuries.

Ferko's vehicle was underinsured. As such, on January 11, 2011, the Schlegels initiated an Underinsured Motorist ("UIM") claim with their insurer, Defendant State Farm. State Farm has not yet paid any UIM benefits to the Plaintiffs.

Based on this failure to pay, the Schlegels filed the instant Complaint with the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania on October 12, 2011. In their Complaint, the Schlegels bring claims under theories of: (1) breach of contract; (2) Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. § 201-1 et seq. ("UTPCPL"); and (3) insurer bad faith under pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8371. Defendant State Farm removed the action to this Court on November 23, 2011 and filed a Motion to Dismiss on November 30, 2011. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand on December 14, 2011. Both of these Motions are now ripe for the Court's review.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. Id.

As such, the inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage 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, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937');">129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1950.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or ...


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