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Machado v. Safeco Insurance Co. of Illinois

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 7, 2017




         Before the court for disposition is defendants' motion to dismiss portions of the plaintiff's complaint regarding mishandling of an insurance claim. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


         Plaintiff Sable Angelcia Machado (hereinafter “plaintiff”) owned a house located at 238 Braiside Avenue, East Stroudsburg, PA. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 6). A homeowner's policy of insurance issued by Defendant Safeco Insurance covered the property. (Id.) On August 14, 2015, fire destroyed the house and plaintiff's personal belongings stored therein. (Id. ¶ 7). Plaintiff made a claim on her homeowner's policy for the loss she experienced.

         Safeco Investigator Defendant David Klitsch contacted plaintiff on August 15, 2015, and demanded that they meet at plaintiff's property on August 18, 2015. (Id. ¶ 10). Plaintiff met the Safeco investigator on August 18, 2015. (Id. ¶ 13). The investigator asked accusatory questions and acted hostilely and aggressively. (Id.) Four times during the meeting, Klitsch accused plaintiff, without any basis, of setting the fire herself. (Id. ¶ 14). Klitsch made other erratic and baseless accusations. (Id. ¶ 15). For example, he accused plaintiff of not being home enough; of not having enough clothes; having another home in New Jersey; and never living in the property. (Id.) He also accused plaintiff's roommates of avoiding him. (Id. ¶ 16). During the meeting, Klitsch implied that Safeco would find a way to deny the claim by indicating, in a threatening manner, that if defendants found plaintiff uncooperative, they would deny her claim. (Id. ¶ 17).

         For approximately three weeks after the meeting, Klitsch investigated the fire each day. (Id. ¶ 18). Safeco never revealed the results of the investigation to plaintiff. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges other abusive treatment during the claims handling procedure. For example, Safeco scheduled to take her statement, which was to last several hours, in a driveway on a very hot, ninety-degree day. (Id. at ¶ 20). During the statement, which eventually took place at an office, the interviewer was aggressive, accusatory and badgering. (Id. ¶ 22). Then a month and a half later, Safeco required a second recorded statement. (Id. ¶ 23).

         Finally, on February 23, 2016, Safeco denied plaintiff's claim indicating that plaintiff had violated the “Concealment or Fraud Condition” contained in the policy. (Id. ¶ 29). Plaintiff concealed no information from Safeco and did not commit fraud. (Id. ¶ 30). The basis of the denial of insurance benefits is false and baseless. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that she suffered personal property loss of $76, 662.69 and that an adjustment company concluded that the cost to rebuild the dwelling would be over $437, 000. (Id. ¶ 33). She also avers that she suffered severe, ongoing emotional distress. (Id. ¶ 34).

         Based upon these facts, plaintiff filed the instant five-count complaint. The complaint's five counts are as follows: 1) Bad faith; 2) Negligence; 3) Violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law; 4) Breach of contract/covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and 5) Breach of fiduciary duty. Defendants have moved to dismiss several of these counts, bringing the case to its present posture.


         Plaintiff asserts this court's jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 1). Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

         Standard of review

         This case is before the court pursuant to defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint is tested. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” or put another way, “nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips ...

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