Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Michele Stricker v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co

June 13, 2012

MICHELE STRICKER, PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is Defendant State Farm's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Michele Stricker's claim of bad faith denial of insurance coverage. (Doc. No. 4.) The motion is now ripe for disposition, and for the reasons stated more fully herein, the Court will deny the motion.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

At all times relevant to the present litigation, Defendant provided Plaintiff with insurance coverage in the amount of $100,000 for primary underinsured motorist benefits, known as Coverage W3, and $50,000 for excess underinsured motorist benefits, known as Coverage W. (Doc. No. 1-1 ¶¶ 3-4.) Plaintiff contends that she was informed that she would be able to "stack" these coverage amounts. (Id. ¶ 15.) On July 17, 2011, Plaintiff sustained severe injuries while riding as a passenger in a vehicle owned and operated by Darwin Appleby. (Id. ¶ 6.) The injuries sustained by Plaintiff exceed all potentially available liability and underinsured motorist coverage. (Id.) On November 2, 2011, while Plaintiff was not represented by counsel, Defendant provided Plaintiff with a draft in the amount of $50,000 and indicated that this sum represented her "policy limits." (Id. ¶¶8-9.) Plaintiff met with counsel in January 2012, and shortly thereafter Plaintiff's counsel informed Defendant that the maximum amount of coverage to which Plaintiff was entitled under the policies was $150,000. (Id. ¶ 11.) Later in January 2012, Defendant tendered an additional $50,000, maintaining that the maximum amount of coverage to which Plaintiff was entitled under the policies was $100,000. (Id. ¶ 12.) This action followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court may "consider only the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim." Lum, 361 F.3d at 221 n.3. The motion will only be properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences drawn therefrom as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Ne. Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to show that no claim has been stated. Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980). Thus, the moving party must show that Plaintiff has failed to "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that those elements exist." Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (citations omitted). A court, however, "need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906, 908 (3d Cir. 1997). Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that while the 12(b)(6) standard does not require "detailed factual allegations," there must be a "'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion of entitlement to relief. . . . '[F]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231-32 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Put otherwise, a civil complaint must "set out 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009)).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's statutory bad faith denial of coverage claim. Pennsylvania law provides that:

In an action arising under an insurance policy, if the court finds that the insurer has acted in bad faith toward the insured, the court may take all of the following actions:

(1) Award interest on the amount of the claim from the date the claim was made by the insured in an amount equal to the prime rate of interest plus 3%.

(2) Award punitive damages against the insurer.

(3) Assess court costs and attorney fees against the insurer.

42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8371. The term "bad faith" is defined as "any frivolous or unfounded refusal to pay proceeds of a policy." J.C. Penney Life Ins. Co. v. Pilosi, 393 F.3d 356, 367 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Terletsky v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 649 A.2d 680, 688 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1994)).

To state a claim for bad faith, a plaintiff must establish by clear and convincing evidence that: (1) the insurer did not have a reasonable basis for denying benefits under the policy; and (2) the insurer had knowledge of its lack of a reasonable basis in denying the claim or recklessly disregarded the same. Klinger v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 115 F.3d 230, 233 (3d Cir. 1997). Simple negligence or poor judgment, standing alone, is insufficient to establish ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.