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Phillips v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 29, 2015

CALVIN PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

Pending before this Court is Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff Calvin Phillips’ amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff’s amended complaint seeks recovery on several bases for the failure of Defendant to pay what he alleges is the entire amount of underinsured motorist benefits (hereinafter “UIM”) due under his insurance policy. He asserts a claim for $225, 000 in additional underinsured motorist benefits (Count I), a claim for statutory bad faith (Count II), and a claim for violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (hereinafter, “UTPCPL”) (Count III). Defendant seeks to dismiss only Count III of Plaintiff’s amended complaint.

The matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition. In accordance with the following reasoning, Defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted. Count III of Plaintiff’s amended complaint is dismissed without prejudice with leave to amend in accordance with the following reasoning.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that on October 18, 2013, he was injured in an automobile accident while riding his newly leased Harley Davidson motorcycle. The accident was caused by Georgine Miller’s failure to observe Plaintiff’s motorcycle before turning left into a parking lot. Unfortunately, Ms. Miller did not have sufficient insurance coverage to compensate Plaintiff for the losses he sustained. Consequently, he made a demand for UIM coverage from his own insurer, Defendant, under two different insurance policies.[1]

Despite Plaintiff’s belief that the total amount of coverage pursuant to each policy was $300, 000, Defendant initially offered to pay only $45, 000 on each policy. After several months of discussions with Plaintiff, Defendant agreed to reform one of the policies and issued a check for $300, 000 on that policy; however, Defendant refused to reform the other policy and issued only $45, 000 to Plaintiff under that policy. The instant lawsuit ensued.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the [factual] allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. See Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000).

A complaint should only be dismissed if, accepting as true all of the allegations in the amended complaint, plaintiff has not pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007). “Determining 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-664.

“In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we must be mindful that federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading.” Hellmann v. Kercher, No. 07-1373, 2008 WL 1969311 at * 3 (W.D. Pa. May 5, 2008) (Lancaster, J.). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 "requires only a ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds on which it rests.'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, even under this lower notice pleading standard, a plaintiff must do more than recite the elements of a cause of action, and then make a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief. See Hellmann, 2008 WL 1969311 at *3. Instead, a plaintiff must make a factual showing of his entitlement to relief by alleging sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561. “[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 “shown” - - “that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) “streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a “dispositive issue of law.” Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed “without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one.” Id. at 327.

III. DISCUSSION

Under Count III for violations of the UTPCPL, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant improperly and inadequately investigated Plaintiff’s claim for $300, 000 under the policies, “failing to either promptly read and/or properly interpret its own underwriting documents, unreasonably delaying payment of the full amount of the policy.” Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “falsely misrepresent[ed] the terms of Plaintiff’s insurance coverage” under the policies.

Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to set forth a valid claim under the UTPCPL because Plaintiff has failed to allege deceptive acts and justifiable reliance which are necessary elements of a UTPCPL claim.[2] Plaintiff responds he has sufficiently pled enough facts ...


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