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Aaron v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2017

TODD AARON, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         A storm severely damaged Dr. Todd Aaron's home. After a disagreement between Aaron and his insurer, State Farm, over the cost to repair the home, he filed suit in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on April 13, 2017. Aaron asserted claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty and statutory bad faith. State Farm removed the case to federal court and filed a Motion to Dismiss and Strike portions of Aaron's Complaint.

         For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I.

         On July 23, 2016, a severe rain and wind storm damaged multiple trees on Aaron's property. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10, ECF No. 6-4.) A tree in the front yard fell through the roof of Aaron's home, exposing the master bedroom. Aaron's in-ground pool and equipment, air conditioning system and car were also damaged in the storm. (Id. ¶ 11.) The damage forced Aaron to live in a hotel for two months and then later in temporary rental housing. (Id. ¶¶ 12 & 14.)

         On August 5, 2016, State Farm sent its agent, Gary Popolizio, to inspect the home. (Id. ¶ 16.) He estimated the cost of repairs at $119, 11.16 actual cash value and $131, 185.96 replacement cost value. (Id.) Popolizio's estimate did not consider potential structural damage to the home. (Id. ¶ 19.) State Farm paid Aaron $119, 111. 16 which Aaron deposited into an escrow account on October 12, 2016. (Id. ¶ 16.) Aaron obtained three different estimates of repair, but no contractor would agree to repair the home for $119, 11.16. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) One estimator said the necessary repairs would cost $288, 614.29. (Id. ¶ 22.) After Aaron complained to State Farm, Popolizio performed two additional inspections, eventually increasing his estimate to $128, 778.67 actual cash value and $141, 166.41 replacement cost value. (Id. ¶¶ 31 & 35.)

         On December 12, 2016, State Farm told Aaron it would cease paying relocation expenses in March of 2017 because it had determined that the home repairs should be complete within four months of State Farm paying Aaron actual cash value. (Id. ¶ 49.) State Farm wrote Aaron again on March 14, 2017, explaining that the payments would end on April 12, 2017. (Id. ¶ 52.)

         II.

         A.

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough 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).” Id. (citation omitted). While a complaint need not include detailed facts, it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Twombly and Iqbal require the Court to take three steps to determine whether the second amended complaint will survive Defendants' motion to dismiss. See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, it must “take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Next, it must identify the allegations that are no more than legal conclusions and thus “not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Finally, where the complaint includes 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).

         This “presumption of truth attaches only to those allegations for which there is sufficient factual matter to render them plausible on their face.” Schuchardt v. President of the United States, 839 F.3d 336, 347 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation and citation omitted). “Conclusory assertions of fact and legal conclusions are not entitled to the same presumption.” Id. This plausibility determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. (quoting Connelly, 809 F.3d at 786-87).

         This plausibility standard, however, “does not impose a heightened pleading requirement” and does not require a plaintiff to plead specific facts. Id. In other words, “courts cannot inject evidentiary issues into the plausibility determination.” Id. The Third Circuit has also made it clear that “at least for purposes of pleading sufficiency, a complaint need not establish a prima facie case in order to survive a motion to dismiss” because a “prima facie case is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement and hence is not proper measure of whether a complaint fails to state a claim.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at 789 (internal quotations and citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff should plead ...


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