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American Collision v. Windsor-Mt. Joy Mutual

September 27, 2012

AMERICAN COLLISION &
AUTOMOTIVE CENTER, INC.,
RONALD B. GALATI AND TIFFANY N. GALATI, PLAINTIFFS
v.
WINDSOR-MT. JOY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Knoll Gardner, United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant, Windsor-Mt.Joy Mutual Insurance Company filed on November 14, 2011. For the reasons expressed below, I grant the motion to dismiss and dismiss plaintiffs' Complaint.

JURISDICTION

This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333, which provides that district courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 because this action was removed from the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs Fleetway Capital Corporation *fn1 , American Collision & Automotive Center, Inc., Ronald B. Galati, and Tiffany N. Galati initiated this civil action on December 3, 2010 by filing a Praecipe to Issue Writ of Summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania against defendant Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Company. Thereafter, following a Rule to File Complaint filed by defendant, plaintiffs filed a five-count Complaint *fn2 in the Lancaster County state action on October 17, 2011.

Defendant timely removed the matter to this court by Notice of Removal filed November 7, 2011. On November 14, 2011 the defendant filed the within motion to dismiss. *fn3

On November 28, 2011 Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss was filed. *fn4 On December 7, 2011 the Reply of Defendant Windsor-Mt.Joy Mutual Insurance Company to Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss was filed ("Defendant's Reply Brief").

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record, including other judicial proceedings. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d. Cir. 2008).

Except as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, a complaint is sufficient if it complies with Rule 8(a)(2), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."

Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) does not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d at 949. *fn5

In determining whether a plaintiff's complaint is sufficient, the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)).

Although "conclusory or bare-bones allegations" will not survive a motion to dismiss, Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210, a complaint may not be dismissed "merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Nonetheless, to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940) (internal quotations omitted).

The court is required to conduct a two-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, the factual matters averred in the complaint, and any attached exhibits, should be separated from legal conclusions asserted therein. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. Any facts pled must be taken as true, and any legal conclusions asserted may be disregarded.

Id. at 210-211.

Second, the court must determine whether those factual matters averred are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884).

Ultimately, this two-part analysis is "context-specific" and requires the court to draw on its "judicial experience and common sense" to determine if the facts pled in the complaint have "nudged [plaintiff's] claims" over the line from "[merely] conceivable [or possible] to plausible." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1950, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884-885. A well-pleaded complaint may not be dismissed simply because "it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940-941.

FACTS Based upon the averments in plaintiffs' Complaint, which I must accept as true under the foregoing standard of review when considering a motion to dismiss, the pertinent facts are as follows.

Plaintiff American Collision and Automotive Center, Inc. ("American Collision") is a Pennsylvania corporation. Plaintiffs Ronald B. Galati and Tiffany N. Galati are individuals who reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ronald B. Galati is an officer and shareholder of American Collision. *fn6

Defendant Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Company ("Windsor") is a Pennsylvania corporation. *fn7

On May 23, 2006 plaintiff American Collision entered into a Lease Agreement, Guaranty, and Security Agreement with former plaintiff Fleetway Capital under which various assets of American Collision were pledged as security for the financing of a thirty-three foot Chaparral boat ("boat"). *fn8

On May 31, 2006 plaintiff Ronald B. Galati's father, Ronald L. Galati *fn9 , executed a purchase agreement for the boat. Ronald B. Galati, Tiffany N. Galati, and American Collision all provided funds for the down payment on the boat.

Also on May 31, 2006 defendant issued its Watercraft Policy ("Policy") to "Ronald Galati" *fn10 , which insured the boat against loss caused by fire. Former plaintiff Fleetway Capital Corporation is listed as a loss payee on the Policy. *fn11

On December 22, 2006 a fire at the Waterfront Marina in Summers Point, New Jersey damaged boats, including the Chapparral boat insured under the Policy issued by defendant. The next day, Ronald L. Galati learned that the boat was damaged and met with investigators from the Summers Point prosecutors office. Ronald L. Galati cooperated with the New Jersey authorities investigating the cause and origin of the fire. *fn12

On January 24, 2007 defendant's investigator, Robert Gibble, sent defendant a letter, which indicated that the New Jersey prosecutor, Chuck DeFebbo, believed that the fire was caused by a vagrant. *fn13

On March 21, 2007 Ronald L. Galati filed a proof of loss with defendant. *fn14 On March 27, 2007 defendant denied Ronald L. Galati's claim for insurance coverage on the boat. On March 28, 2007 Mr. Galati requested all evidence and facts which supported defendant's decision not to honor the claim submitted by him. *fn15

On March 29, 2007 another of defendant's investigators, Michael Walters, sent defendant a letter, indicating that Mr. DeFebbo believed the fire had been set by an unidentified homeless person. *fn16

On April 4, 2007 defendant refused to provide the requested evidence and documents upon which it relied in denying Ronald L. Galati's claim. Defendant contended that Mr. Galati's claim file, which included police reports relied upon by defendant, was proprietary. *fn17

On April 6, 2007 Mr. Galati sent a letter to defendant seeking confirmation that defendant denied his claim because defendant determined that Mr. Galati intentionally set the fire. Mr. Galati also forwarded information to defendant regarding another marina ...


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