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Metropolitan Group Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Hack

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 3, 2017

METROPOLITAN GROUP PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff
v.
WILLIAM HACK, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Metropolitan Group Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Metropolitan") commenced this action for declaratory judgment and fraud against defendant William Hack ("Hack"). (Doc. 1). Hack moves to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. Factual Background & Procedural History

         Metropolitan is an insurance company that maintains its principal place of business in Warwick, Rhode Island and is licensed to issue policies in Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1 ¶ 1). Hack resides in Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 2). Metropolitan issued a personal automobile insurance policy to Hack's sister ("the policy"), and it potentially covers Hack through that policy. (Id. ¶ 5; Doc. 1-2 at 2).

         On December 21, 2014, Pennsylvania State Police officers responded to reports that a motor vehicle had collided with a home in Dublin Township, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 9-10). A driver lost control of his motor vehicle and crashed into the home Hack shared with his sister at approximately 2:15 a.m. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11). The vehicle struck the home on the first floor directly below the second floor bedroom where Hack was sleeping. (Id. ¶ 18). During an interview with Metropolitan, Hack stated that, as a result of the impact, he "flew out [of bed], hit the desk, [and] broke the desk." (Id.) Hack explained that, after the collision, he went downstairs to determine whether anyone was injured. (Id. ¶ 17). He remained downstairs for the rest of the evening. (Id.)

         Hack experienced persistent pain in his right arm and shoulder and noticed numbness in his fingertips after the accident. (Id.) Hack self-treated with ibuprofen for a few months before obtaining treatment. (Id.) His doctor diagnosed C5-C6 disc injuries and a pinched nerve. (Id.) Hack subsequently submitted an insurance claim under the policy wherein he averred that the accident caused these physical injuries. (Id. ¶ 16).

         Metropolitan retained an accident reconstruction expert in the course of investigating Hack's claim. (Id. ¶ 26). The expert's report indicates that the accident likely did not cause Hack's injuries. (Id. ¶ 28). It explicitly provides that the vehicle that hit Hack's home would have had to move the entire house to throw Hack out of his bed and onto his desk. (Id.) The report opines that this scenario is "unequivocally impossible, " concluding that Hack's story "would require the [momentary] suspension of the Laws of Physics." (Id.)

         Metropolitan initiated the instant action with the filing of a complaint on June 30, 2016. (Doc. 1). Therein, Metropolitan asserts a claim for declaratory judgment and a common law fraud claim with a demand for punitive damages. Hack filed a motion (Doc. 6) to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a court may dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Such jurisdictional challenges take one of two forms: (1) parties may levy a "factual" attack, arguing that one or more of the pleading's factual allegations are untrue, removing the action from the court's jurisdictional ken, see Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977); or (2) they may assert a "facial" challenge, which assumes the veracity of the complaint's allegations but nonetheless argues that a claim is not within the court's jurisdiction, see Tolan v. United States, 175 F.R.D. 507, 510 (E.D. Pa. 1998). In either instance, it is the plaintiffs burden to establish jurisdiction. See Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. Courts should grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion only when it appears with certainty that assertion of jurisdiction would be improper. See Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000); see also Tolan, 176 F.R.D. at 510.

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). In addition to reviewing the facts contained in the complaint, the court may also consider "matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

         Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court must 'tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id., at 130 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id. at 131; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the well-pleaded factual allegations, it must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. 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." Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678.

         Courts should grant leave to amend before dismissing a curable pleading in civil rights actions. See Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002). Courts need not grant leave to amend in dismissing non-civil rights claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fletcher-Harlee Corp., 482 ...


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