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Diane Hyjurick v. Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co. and Fidelity National

April 27, 2012

DIANE HYJURICK,
PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMONWEALTH LAND TITLE INSURANCE CO. AND FIDELITY NATIONAL FINANCIAL, INC., INDIVIDUALLY & T/D/B/A FIDELITY NATIONAL TITLE GROUP,: DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is Defendants Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company and Fidelity National Financial, Inc.'s motion brought pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 3). Defendants move this court to dismiss plaintiff's claims with respect to Defendant Fidelity National Insurance, Inc. and to abstain from proceeding with respect to Defendant Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company. This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

Background

Plaintiff Diane Hyjurick (hereinafter "plaintiff") purchased two adjacent parcels of real property in West Hazleton, Pennsylvania from Marilyn Shenosky (hereinafter "seller") on July 3, 2007. (Doc. 1, Compl. (hereinafter "Compl.") ¶¶ 6-7). Parcel One is described in the deed of transfer as 130' x 40', and Parcel Two is described in the same deed as 150' x 40'. (Id. ¶ 7; Doc. 1, Ex. A, Deed). The deed recording the transaction of Parcels One and Two was filed in the Office of the Luzere County Recorder of Deeds in deed book 3007 at page 174731. (Compl. ¶ 8; Doc. 1, Ex. A, Deed).

Plaintiff applied for a title insurance policy from Defendant Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company (hereinafter "Commonwealth") before the land transaction was completed. (Compl. ¶ 10). Defendant Fidelity Financial, Inc. (hereinafter "Fidelity") is Commonwealth's parent company, and is alleged to have purchased Commonwealth on December 22, 2008. (Id. ¶ 3).

On July 5, 2007, Commonwealth issued a title insurance policy to plaintiff after performing a title search to ensure that title was properly transferred to plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12; Doc. 1, Ex. B, Owner's Policy of Title Ins.) Subject to certain exclusions, the policy plaintiff purchased essentially provided coverage in the event that (1) the title was not properly conveyed to plaintiff as the conveyance is described in the deed, (2) the title contains defects and/or (3) the title is unmarketable. (Doc. 1, Ex. B, Owner's Policy of Title Ins.). After plaintiff purchased the policy, Commonwealth accepted all premiums required under the policy. (Compl. ¶ 15).

Some time after purchasing the land, plaintiff learned that seller only possessed title to one-half of the land described as Parcel One in the deed. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-17). On January 23, 2008, plaintiff sent Commonwealth a written notice of claim asserting that her title insurance policy should protect her interest with respect to the conveyance of Parcel One. (Id. ¶ 19; Doc. 1, Ex. C, Notice of Claim). Commonwealth acknowledged receipt of plaintiff's claim on January 31, 2008, and on February 29, 2008, a Commonwealth claims attorney was assigned to the case. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22; Doc. 1, Ex. D, Letter Dated Jan. 31, 2008; Ex. E, Letter Dated Feb. 29, 2008).

On May 21, 2008, Commonwealth's claims attorney expressed that "it was not clear whether or not this claim would be covered under the title policy." (Compl. ¶ 23; Doc. 1, Ex. F, Letter Dated May 21, 2008). From June 2008 to September 2008, plaintiff sent Commonwealth six letters in an attempt to (1) schedule a conference to give her official statement, and (2) to confirm whether or not the policy will provide coverage. (Compl. ¶ 24; Doc. 1, Ex. G1, Letter Dated June 4, 2008; Ex. G2, Letter Dated June 18, 2008; Ex. G3, Letter Dated July 9, 2008: Ex. G4, Letter Dated Aug. 4, 2008; Ex. G5, Letter Dated Aug. 11, 2008; Ex. G6, Letter Dated Sept. 17, 2008). On December 8, 2008, Commonwealth sent plaintiff a letter stating that it desired to amicably settle the matter. (Compl. ¶¶ 25; Doc. 1, Ex. H, Letter Dated Dec. 8, 2008).

Plaintiff contends that, as of July 2011, Commonwealth has not affirmed or denied coverage, concluded its investigation, or provided updates regarding any aspect of the investigation. (Compl. ¶¶ 27-29). On July 6, 2009, plaintiff initiated an action for declaratory relief (case no. 10040-2009) in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (hereinafter "state court action"), in which plaintiff specifically sought a judicial determination that the policy covered plaintiff's claimed loss. (Doc. 3-3, Ex. 1, State Ct. Compl.).

Plaintiff initiated the instant litigation on July 7, 2011. In her complaint, plaintiff alleges one count containing various bad faith claims and one count alleging a violation under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protections Law. (Id. ¶¶ 44-70). On September 12, 2011, Commonwealth and Fidelity filed the instant Rule 12 motion. (Doc. 3). The matter is fully briefed, and for the following reasons, defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

Jurisdiction

The court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1). Defendant Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company is a Nebraska corporation with a principal place of business in New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 2). Defendant Fidelity National Financial, Inc. is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Florida. (Id. ¶ 3). Because complete diversity of citizenship exists between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00, the court has jurisdiction over the case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlaim v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Standard of Review

Defendants brings this motion pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint are tested. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non- movant to determine whether, "'under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cnty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe "'enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element" of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint the court may also consider "matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

The federal rules require only that plaintiff provide "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,'" a standard which "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,'" but a plaintiff must make "'a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief' that rises 'above the speculative level.'" McTernan v. City of York, 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Such "facial plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citation omitted).

The Supreme Court has counseled that a court examining a motion to dismiss should, "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Next, the court should make a context-specific inquiry into the "factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Id. at 681.

Discussion

Defendants present two arguments in their motion to dismiss. First, they contend that the claims against Fidelity should be dismissed because plaintiff has failed to allege adequate facts to state a claim as a matter of law. Second, defendants argue that the instant action is parallel to an ongoing Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas lawsuit and that, ...


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