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Davis v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 9, 2017



          STENGEL, J.


         In this diversity action, an injured driver, plaintiff T. Patrick Davis, brings claims against his automobile insurer, defendant Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. He asserts a breach of contract claim and a bad faith claim under Pennsylvania law. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the bad faith claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). I will deny defendant's motion to dismiss the bad faith claim.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         Over four years ago, T. Patrick Davis was driving his vehicle on Route 422 in Upper Merion Township, Pennsylvania. While stopped at a red light, a pickup truck rear- ended him and took off. Mr. Davis was never able to locate the truck or discover the identity of the driver of the truck.

         As a result of this accident, Mr. Davis suffered serious injuries to his spine, neck, arms, legs, and shoulders. These injuries include severe disc herniations in his back. He received subsequent medical treatment, including physical therapy, laboratory testing, and multiple surgeries. Due to his injuries, Mr. Davis has been completely disabled from employment for over four years.

         Mr. Davis was insured through an automobile insurance policy with defendant Nationwide. The policy provided coverage in the amount of $100, 000 per person and $300, 000 per occurrence. It also provided for stacking of uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits resulting in an aggregate policy limit of $300, 000.[2] Mr. Davis filed a claim with Nationwide seeking payment of UM benefits pursuant to this policy. He has fully complied with Nationwide's investigation of his claim. He regularly made premium payments and his policy was in full force and effect the day the accident occurred.

         It is unclear whether Nationwide has refused to pay plaintiff any UM benefits under the policy. In Davis's complaint, which was filed June 13, 2016, he alleged that Nationwide had failed to “pay plaintiff uninsured motorist benefits.” (Compl. ¶ 15). Nationwide counters that it sent plaintiff's counsel an offer of $7, 500 to settle Davis's UM claim on March 4, 2016 and again on April 28, 2016. (Doc. No. 18 at 2). However, plaintiff's counsel maintains that he never received these alleged offer letters. (Doc. No. 16-1 at 5).[3]


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir.1984).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which she bases her claim. Conley, 355 U.S. at 47. Rather, the Rules require a “short and plain statement” of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Id. The “complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564. Neither “bald assertions” nor “vague and conclusory allegations” are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997); Sterling v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 897 F.Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1995). The claim must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to “raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court defined a two-pronged approach to a court's review of a motion to dismiss. “First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. Thus, while “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79.

         A court “may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.” Brown v. Card Service Center, 464 F.3d 450, 456 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).

         IV. ...

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