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Roman v. Unigroup Worldwide, Inc.

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

April 14, 2014

GREGG ROMAN, Plaintiff,

Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge

I. Recommendation

For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that Atlas Insurances, LTD’s motion to dismiss the claims against it in Counts IV, V and VI of the complaint be denied.

II. Report

A. The State Court Complaint

The Parties. On October 25, 2013, Greg Roman, an individual residing in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, alleging breach of service contracts, breach of insurance contract and related causes of action arising out of property loss caused by Hurricane Sandy on or about October 29, 2012. Plaintiff’s furniture and family household goods had been shipped from Israel to Pittsburgh, under service and insurance contracts with Defendants, and was in the Port of New York when Hurricane Sandy made landfall. Notice of Removal, Complaint, Exhibit A (ECF No. 1-2).

The Defendants are as follows: UniGroup Worldwide, Inc., d/b/a UniGroup Worldwide UTS (“UniGroup”), a global transportation company with its principle place of business in Missouri; Sonigo International Shipping Packing & Moving, LTD (“Sonigo”), an international shipping company specializing in household and commercial packing and shipping services with its principle place of business in Israel, and a member and partner of UniGroup; BestGuy Moving Services (“BestGuy”), a local, interstate, and international moving services company with its principle place of business in New Jersey; and Atlas Insurances, LTD (“Atlas”), an insurance company specializing in marine insurance with its principle place of business in Israel. Id. at ¶¶ 2-5.

The Facts Averred. After the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh hired Mr. Roman in 2012, he contracted with Sonigo to relocate his family’s household property from Israel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sonigo was to provide transportation of the property, obtain international shipping coverage, assist with custom clearance, assist in completing necessary paperwork prior to departure, deliver and unload the property, and remove all debris and unwanted materials after delivery. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 21, 24, 43.

Plaintiff and Sonigo communicated and transmitted a number of forms and documents through Mr. Roman’s private e-mail account. These included Sonigo’s proposal, documents required by customs, an invoice, and Atlas’ Application and Inventory form. Plaintiff alleges that he completed and returned that form to Sonigo by e-mail, on the same day that he received them, October 2, 2012.[1] Sonigo, however, claims that it did not receive the form at that time, but it did not attempt to notify Plaintiff directly. Instead Sonigo sent e-mails for Mr. Roman to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Mr. Roman avers he did not learn until October 21 that Sonigo had not received the insurance application forms. On October 24, Plaintiff received an invoice that did not contain a charge for shipping insurance, and on October 29, received a corrected invoice containing the insurance charge. On that day, October 29, Mr. Roman sent a payment of $9, 645 to Sonigo, along with Atlas’ Application and Inventory form he alleges he previously submitted on October 2. Id. at ¶¶ 32-36, 38-41.

Plaintiff alleges that BestGuy, an agent for Sonigo in the United States who was authorized to take delivery at the port and transport the property to Pittsburgh, further damaged the property by opening the container boxes at the Port of New York and delaying the United States Cargo Terminal Surveyor’s inspection of the materials. Plaintiff also claims BestGuy recklessly unloaded the property in Pittsburgh, damaged the family property and home, and did not clean up the debris and unwanted materials, as required by the contract. Id. at ¶¶ 44-50, 52.

Mr. Roman discovered the damage after delivery of the household furniture and goods, and notified Sonigo who notified Atlas. Atlas sent an adjuster to inspect the damage, who determined that Mr. Roman’s claim amounted to $53, 643.07. Id. at ¶¶ 53, 55-56.

Atlas ultimately denied the claim and accused Mr. Roman of attempting to procure the insurance in bad faith because he had submitted the application knowing Hurricane Sandy’s landfall was imminent. Id. at ¶¶ 58-66.

The Claims. Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff states the following claims.

Count I: Breach of Contract against Sonigo/UniGroup UTS.

Plaintiff alleges Sonigo breached its obligations under the contract by failing to notify him that any necessary paperwork needed to secure insurance was incomplete. The contract obligated Sonigo to assist Plaintiff in completing all necessary paperwork prior to shipping, provide international shipping insurance coverage, and provide paperwork to secure the insurance. Mr. Roman maintains that he satisfied all conditions precedent to the contract, but Sonigo failed to uphold its end of the contract, resulting in harm to Plaintiff including Atlas’ denial of his insurance claim. Id. at ¶¶ 75-83.

Count II: Breach of Implied Duty of Good Faith against Sonigo/UniGroup UTS.

Plaintiff alleges Sonigo breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by failing to properly assist Plaintiff with the insurance application, resulting in harm when Atlas denied his claim. Id. at ¶¶ 84-87.

Count III: Breach of Contract - Improper Delivery against Sonigo/UniGroup UTS/BestGuy.

Plaintiff alleges Sonigo and its agent, BestGuy, breached the contract by failing to properly deliver the property and by refusing to remove the debris and unwanted materials when unloading the property at the final destination. Plaintiff alleges damages in the ...

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