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Mittman v. Nationwide Affinity Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 10, 2017

JEREMY Z. MITTMAN, individually and as parent and natural guardian of JACOB MITTMAN, a minor, Plaintiffs,


          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Plaintiff Jeremy Mittman sued Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company on August 26, 2016, alleging breach of contract and bad faith. On October 30, 2016, Nationwide filed a motion to dismiss Mittman's bad faith claim. (ECF No. 6.) The Court grants the motion for the reasons below.


         Mittman alleges that on February 22, 2015, his car was rear-ended by someone who then fled the scene. (Pls.' Compl., at ¶¶ 8, 10-11, ECF No. 1.) As a result, Mittman contends that both he and his minor son sustained significant physical injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 12-18.) Mittman's Nationwide insurance policy provides, among other things, coverage for losses sustained in accidents caused by the negligent operation of a vehicle by third persons, when that vehicle is uninsured or underinsured at the time of the accident. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 19.)

         Mittman's Complaint does not allege facts regarding when Mittman submitted a claim to Nationwide, the investigation Nationwide performed, when Nationwide denied his claim or the basis on which it purported to do so. Mittman nonetheless contends that Nationwide acted in bad faith by, inter alia, failing to pay for covered losses, failing to objectively, fairly and adequately investigate and evaluate his claim, engaging in dilatory claims handling, acting unreasonably and unfairly in response to his claim, failing to effectuate an equitable settlement once its liability became reasonably clear and compelling him to litigate this claim to recover payments due under the policy. (ECF No. 1, at 7-8.)


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The “mere possibility of misconduct” is not enough. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 790 (3d Cir. 2016) (citations omitted). However, a court need not accept as true inferences drawn by the plaintiff that are unsupported by facts. See Cal. Pub. Emps.' Ret. Sys. v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004).

         “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and alterations omitted); see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). A court should “consider only the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim.” Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 221 n.3 (3d Cir. 2004). Whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted).

         Under Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. See Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787. First, it must “tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Second, it should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Finally, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).



         As an initial matter, it is unclear whether Mittman's bad faith claim is premised on an alleged violation of the Pennsylvania bad faith statute, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8371, or on an alleged breach of the common law duty of good faith and fair dealing. Mittman contends that “[t]he actions of Defendant, Nationwide, in the handling of Plaintiff's uninsured motorist claims constitute bad faith, as defined under 42 Pa. C.S.A. Section 8371.” (ECF No. 1, at 7.) He later asserts, however, that Nationwide owes both a “contractual and statutory obligation to investigate, evaluate and negotiate Plaintiff's underinsured motorist claim in good faith and to arrive at a prompt, fair and equitable settlement.” (Id. at 8.) Finally, in his reply to Nationwide's motion, Mittman states that “Pennsylvania law clearly recognizes the cause of action alleged in Count III” since Nationwide's “contractual obligation under the insurance contract to act in good faith in protecting the interests of the insured” is “wholly independent from the statutory bad faith action, 42 Pa. C.S.A. 8371.” (ECF No. 7.) It is therefore unclear whether Mittman is attempting to bring a single statutory claim based in tort law, a single common law contract claim or two claims of bad faith (one of each kind).



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