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Cicon v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 4, 2015

Joseph Cicon and Sandra Cicon Plaintiffs,
v.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

We consider here Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6) four counts of the complaint filed by Plaintiffs Joseph and Sandra Cicon. State Farm's motion is made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, State Farm seeks to dismiss Count III (breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing), Count IV (breach of contract), Count VI (negligence), and Count VII (vicarious liability). State Farm's motion has been fully briefed (Docs. 7, 9 and 11) by the parties and is ripe for disposition. We shall consider the various aspects of State Farm's motion in turn.

I. Background:

This case arises from an automobile accident on September 1, 2012. Plaintiff Joseph Cicon suffered physical injuries when the vehicle he was operating collided with an uninsured vehicle operated by one Kaleb Ebert. Mr. Ebert's negligence was the proximate cause of the accident. (Complaint at ¶¶'s 5-8).[1]

Plaintiffs' vehicle was insured by Defendant State Farm on the date of the accident. Under the terms of that insurance policy, Plaintiff's made a claim for uninsured motorist ("UIM") benefits. After Plaintiff Joseph Cicon submitted to an independent medical examination by Dr. Anthony DePietro at Defendant's request, the parties attempted to settle the UIM claim for a period of approximately seven months. After the settlement discussions failed to produce an accord, Plaintiffs retained counsel on February 18, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 26-28).

Plaintiffs' counsel made a demand of $100, 000.00 - the policy limits - and supplied Defendant with Plaintiffs' tax returns for the preceding five years to demonstrate his wage loss due to the accident. Defendant responded by offering $30, 000.00 in settlement of Plaintiffs' UIM claim on June 2, 2014. Plaintiffs, regarding this offer as unreasonable and inconsistent with the medical documentation and wage loss records in Defendant's possession, filed suit in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas on October 14, 2014. Defendant removed this matter to our Court on November 14, 2014 on diversity grounds. (Id. ¶¶ 29-42 and Doc. 6, ¶ 1).

II. Standard of Review:

In McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir. 2009), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals set out the standard applicable to a motion to dismiss in light of the United States Supreme Court's decisions Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 433 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009).

"[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true to state a claim that relief is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 1950. Moreover, it continued, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. (citation omitted).

McTernan, 577 F.3d at 530. The Circuit Court discussed the effects of Twombly and Iqbal in detail and provided a road map for district courts presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in a case filed just a week before McTernan, Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009).

[D]istrict courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. [ Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.] Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 1950. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts. See Philips [ v. Co. of Alleghany ], 515 F.3d [224, ] 234-35 [(3d Cir. 2008)]. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. This "plausibility" determination will be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11.

The Circuit Court's guidance makes clear that legal conclusions are not entitled to the same deference as well-pled facts. In other words, "the court is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Guirguis v. Movers Specialty Services, Inc., No. 09-1104, 2009 WL 3041992, at ...


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