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Vankirk v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 11, 2015

MARSHA LAUTERBACH VANKIRK, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. Summation

For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9), in this automobile insurance coverage case filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on January 14, 2015 and removed by Defendant to this Court on February 12, 2015, will be denied. Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("Defendant" or "State Farm") is unentitled to either (a) Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of Plaintiff's Count II bad faith claim at this juncture or (b) striking of paragraphs regarding the underlying third-party litigation.

II. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff attests, in the Amended Complaint filed on March 12, 2015 (ECF No. 7) that on September 28, 2009, she was struck, while stopped at a red traffic light, by another State Farm insured motorist, Kimberly Saylor ("Saylor"). The extent of her injuries necessitated bilateral hip replacement and two surgeries.

During litigation against Saylor for her State Farm insurance policy limits, Plaintiff provided her medical records, and both Plaintiff and her treating physician, Dr. Dana Mears, were deposed in July, 2012. Dr. Mears also provided his pre-trial Expert Report. Demands for payment were repeatedly ignored by State Farm, the insurer made no request that Plaintiff be independently examined, and there is no evidence it obtained any medical opinions disputing those of Dr. Mears. Ultimately, the case was listed for trial in March, 2013 and only then, in January, 2013, did State Farm offer Saylor's coverage limit of $25, 000. Plaintiff accepted this offer with the right to proceed with an under-insured motorist ("UIM") claim against State Farm under her own policy, which provides for $500, 000 in UIM benefits.

A demand package for the policy limits, including updated medical records, was provided to State Farm in June, 2013. In the ensuing ten (10) months - until April 9, 2014, State Farm requested and was provided a Statement under Oath, additional deposition of Plaintiff, updated medical records and documentation, another Report from Dr. Mears concerning ongoing treatment and a second surgery, and additional imaging studies. Six months thereafter, in October, 2014, State Farm submitted a report from a physician disputing (on the basis of the records) Dr. Mears' conclusions and the extent of Plaintiff's injuries. State Farm offered $5, 000.

Plaintiff filed this action for underinsured motorist benefits on March 28, 2014 seeking her full policy benefits and, in Count II, damages for bad faith under 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 8371. Plaintiff filed, in response to Defendant's first Motion to Dismiss, and Amended Complaint containing additional factual averments and maintaining that State Farm's conduct was, e.g., (a) unreasonable and reckless in investigation/evaluation/settlement offer, (b) dilatory and abusive, (c) motivated by self-interest, and that it (d) prolonged the litigation and unreasonably delayed the handling of her claim for more than five (5) years.

III. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). A complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.1937, 1949 (May 18, 2009) ("A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."). The Supreme Court further explained:

The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'"

Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit aptly summarized the standard to be applied in deciding motions to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6):

Under the "notice pleading" standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As explicated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), a claimant must state a "plausible" claim for relief, and "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Although "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a plaintiff "need only put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal ...

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