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Donna Purcell and Shawn Purcell v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

February 10, 2012

DONNA PURCELL AND SHAWN PURCELL,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Count Two and Count Three of Plaintiffs' Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm" or "Defendant"), and the Answer to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss by Plaintiffs, Donna Purcell and Shawn Purcell (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). For the reasons set forth below, we will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

I. FACTS

This case stems from Defendant's alleged bad faith handling of Underinsured Motorist ("UIM") claims by the Purcells. On August 28, 2007, Donna Purcell, who is insured by Defendant, was a guest passenger in a vehicle driven by Defendant's insured, Jack Christensen ("Christensen"), when they were involved in an accident with another vehicle driven by Defendant's insured, Brian Metz ("Metz"). (Compl. ¶ 8.) Donna Purcell sustained injuries in the accident. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiffs claim that the motor vehicles operated by Christensen and Metz were "underinsured." (Id. ¶ 16.)

On September 14, 2010, Metz tendered his full liability policy benefits limits in the amount of $50,000 to Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to underinsured motorist benefits based upon the following three State Farm automobile insurance policies: (1) one issued to Shawn and Donna Purcell (Policy No. 825 4218-A12-38J); (2) one policy issued to Shawn Purcell (Policy No. 110 5767-C 16-38); and (3) one policy issued to Christensen (Policy No. 094 0164-A25-38C), because Donna Purcell was a guest passenger in his vehicle at the time of the August 28, 2007 accident. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8.) Plaintiffs' two policies provide coverage for three vehicles with stacking benefits for a total available underinsured motorist benefit of $150,000. (Id. ¶ 17.) Christensen's policy provides a benefit of up to $100,000 for an underinsured motorist. (Id.)

Defendant offered and paid $17,500 of underinsured motorist benefits to Plaintiffs without prejudice to their rights to establish their current claims. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs are demanding the remainder of the underinsured motorist benefits. (Id.) On October 12, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint with the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania (No. 2011-09794-CT), asserting the following three counts against Defendant: (1) Count I -Breach of Contract; (2) Count II - Breach of Statute - Bad Faith (which includes claims of violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (hereinafter "UTPCPL"), 75 Pa. Stat. § 201-1 et seq.); and (3) Count III - Breach of Statute - Bad Faith (alleging violations of the duty to act in good faith pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8731). (Def.'s Not. Removal at 1, Ex. A (Compl.)) Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages for their breach of contract claim. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Regarding their allegations of bad faith, Plaintiffs seek punitive damages, interest and attorney's fees. (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiffs seek treble damages for Defendant's alleged violations of the UTPCPL. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Defendant removed this case to this court on November 9, 2011. (Doc. No. 1.) The court has jurisdiction over this case based upon the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because Plaintiffs are citizens of Pennsylvania, Defendant is an Illinois corporation with its principle place of business in Illinois, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (Not. Removal ¶¶ 4-9.) On November 15, 2011, Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss Counts Two and Three of the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Count Two and Three of Pl.'s Compl.) Defendant did not move to dismiss Count One for Breach of Contract and, it, therefore, is a viable claim as the case now stands. (Id.) Plaintiffs filed their Answer to Defendant's Motion on December 5, 2011. (Pls.' Answer Def.'s Mot. Dismiss at 1.) Plaintiffs assert that Defendant's Motion should be dismissed as untimely. (Id. at 1.) They also argue that their claims are sufficient to survive dismissal, but, if not, request that they be permitted to amend their Complaint to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id. ¶ 13.)

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 Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, the Supreme Court of the United States 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 United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has explained that the factual allegations in the complaint may not be "so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (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).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court applied the Twombly standard, stating that "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The Supreme Court explained that deciding 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." Id. at 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. 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. "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." Id.

After Iqbal, a two-part analysis is required when a district court evaluates a motion to dismiss for failure to state claim. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). The Third Circuit has set forth this two-part analysis as follows:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show such an entitlement with its facts.

Id. (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). After completing this analysis, if "'the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but has not show[n] - that the pleader is ...


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