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Aldsworth v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2015

SUZANN and HENRY ALDSWORTH, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Here we consider State Farm Fire and Casualty Company's Motion for Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Court Orders (Doc. 34). Defendant filed the motion and supporting brief (Doc. 35) on February 15, 2015. Plaintiffs have not filed an opposition brief and the time for doing so has passed. With this motion, Defendant requests that the Court dismiss this action and grant Defendant reasonable attorney fees associated with the filing of the motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. (Doc. 34 at 4.)

I. Background

The factual background of this case was set out in the Court's February 14, 2014, Memorandum concerning State Farm Fire and Casualty Company's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. 11.)

Plaintiffs insured their house in Barnesville, Pennsylvania, with Defendant. (Doc. 1-2 ¶¶ 1-3.) On September 5, 2012, the house suffered damage as a result of a wind and rain storm. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 4.) Wind damaged the roof causing water infiltration into the interior of the home. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs assert this is a covered loss under the terms of the policy as the policy specifically includes wind storm. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs immediately reported the loss to Defendant, and Defendant sent an adjuster to inspect the loss. (Doc. 1-2 ¶¶ 8-9.) The adjuster advised Plaintiffs to obtain an estimate. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 10.)
Plaintiffs had a local contractor put a tarp on the roof. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 10.) The tarp was ripped off due to Hurricane Sandy. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 10.)
On October 10, 2012, an engineer retained by Defendant inspected Plaintiffs' house. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 11.) The engineer concluded that the cause of the loss was a construction defect on the part of a roofing contractor who had performed work on Plaintiffs' roof in 2002. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 12.)
Plaintiffs had retained a public adjuster who inspected the property and prepared an estimate in the amount of $12, 175.17. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 14.) The public adjuster amended the claim to being a claim for collapse based on Defendant's engineer's report. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 15.) Defendant's engineer had concluded that it was snow loads that exceeded the load capacity of the roof that caused the collapse. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 17.) The collapse caused by weight of ice, snow or sleet is a covered loss under the policy. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 16.) On November 9, 2012, Defendant sent Plaintiffs correspondence denying the claim. (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 13.)
Plaintiffs filed a two-count Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County containing a claim for Breach of Contract (Count I) and a claim for Breach of Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing in Violation of 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8371 (Count II). (Doc. 1-2.) Defendant removed the action to this Court on December 6, 2013. (Doc. 1.)

(Doc. 11 at 1-3.) The Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. (Doc. 12 at 1.) The motion was granted insofar as Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees in Count I was stricken; the motion was denied insofar as Plaintiff's claim for bad faith, Count II, went forward. (Id.)

On June 24, 2014, Defendant filed Defendant State Farm Fire & Casualty Company's Motion to Compel Discovery Disclosures. (Doc. 18.) On August 4, 2014, the Court granted the motion after deeming the motion unopposed based on Plaintiffs' failure to timely file a brief in opposition to the motion pursuant to Local Rule 7.6 of the Local Rules of Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 22 at 1.) With the Order Plaintiffs were directed to serve their Rule 26(a) initial disclosures within ten (10) days of the date of the Order and provide full and complete responses to Defendant's Request to Production of Documents and Interrogatories within ten (10) days of the date of the Order. (Id.)

On September 30, 2014, Defendant filed Defendant State Farm Fire & Casualty Company's Motion for Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Court Discovery Order. (Doc. 25.) Plaintiffs again failed to file an opposition brief and, deeming the motion unopposed pursuant to Local Rule 7.6, the Court granted Defendant's motion by Order of October 20, 2014. (Doc. 27 at 1.) In the Order the Court stated that "[s]pecific sanctions to be imposed will be determined following Defendant's submission of reasonable expenses and attorney's fees associated with Defendant State Farm Fire & Casualty Company's Motion to Compel Discovery Disclosures and Responses and Request for Sanctions (Doc. 18) and the current motion (Doc. 25)." (Doc. 27 at 1.) Following Defendant's submission of the required documentation (Doc. 30), the Court awarded Defendant sanctions in the amount of $806.00 (Doc. 32).

With the filing of the motion under consideration here, Defendant states the following: "To date, Plaintiffs have not paid State Farm the $806.00 in sanctions, have not served written responses to State Farm's request for production of documents and only sent 3 pages of documents, and have not served their Rule 26(a) disclosures." (Doc. 35 at 3.) As ...


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