United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Richard Caputo, United States District Judge.
before me is the Motion to Dismiss and/or Strike (Doc. 6)
filed by Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
(“Defendant” or “State Farm”).
Plaintiff Jennifer Pratts (“Plaintiff” or
“Pratts”) commenced this action asserting claims
for breach of contract, statutory bad faith, negligence, and
vicarious liability as a result of Defendant's conduct
after Plaintiff made a claim under the terms of a homeowners
insurance policy issued by Defendant. Defendant moves to
dismiss the breach of contract, negligence, and vicarious
liability claims and to strike a number of allegations from
the Complaint. Because Plaintiff fails to state negligence or
vicarious liability claims upon which relief can be granted,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part.
However, Plaintiff's breach of contract claim will not be
dismissed because Plaintiff adequately pleads a contract
cause of action. Furthermore, because some, but not all, of
the allegations Defendant seeks to strike are immaterial
and/or impertinent, Defendant's Motion to Strike will be
granted in part and denied in part.
facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint are as follows:
owns residential property located at 303 Players Court, East
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (the “Property”).
(See Doc. 1, Ex. 1, ¶ 4). Defendant issued a
homeowners insurance policy (the “Policy”) to
Plaintiff for the Property. (See id. at ¶ 5).
31, 2014, Plaintiff entered into a listing contract with a
real estate agent for the sale of the Property. (See
id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff relocated to New York in
August 2014. (See id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff
instructed the real estate agent to maintain the thermostat
for the Property between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and
she informed the agent that the Property was heated with
propane. (See id. at ¶ 11). In October 2014,
Plaintiff accepted an offer to sell the Property for $275,
000.00; however, certain modifications had to be completed
prior to closing. (See id. at ¶¶ 12, 15).
March 2015, the real estate agent inspected the Property and
realized the water pipes had burst, causing significant
damage to the home. (See id. at ¶ 17). The real
estate agent noted that the propane tank was not empty, but
the thermostat had been turned off. (See id. at
¶¶ 17-18). The real estate agent immediately
reported the claim to Defendant. (See id. at ¶
claims adjuster sent to the Property by Defendant on March
14, 2015 estimated the damage to exceed $100, 000.00.
(See id. at ¶ 21). A second adjuster sent to
the Property by Defendant approximated the loss to be $80,
000.00. (See id. at ¶ 22). The second adjuster
also suggested that the Property was sabotaged. (See
id.). Plaintiff, though, had no reason to sabotage the
Property because she had purchased the home for $223, 000.00,
$200, 000.00 was left on the mortgage, and the Property was
under contract to be sold for well above these sums. (See
id. at ¶ 23). Despite the damage, the buyer was
willing to proceed with the purchase provided the home was
repaired. (See id. at ¶ 24).
sent correspondence to Plaintiff on March 20, 2015 indicating
that there were questions about Defendant's coverage
obligations under the Policy, and, further, requesting
documentation that heat had been maintained in the Property
prior to the loss. (See id. at ¶ 25). Plaintiff
timely responded with confirmation that propane deliveries
had been made up until the month the damage was discovered
and that the tank contained propane at the time of the loss.
(See id. at ¶ 26). Plaintiff also provided
documentation from the water company demonstrating that there
was an excessive amount of water used at the Property in
February 2015 which compelled the water company to
unilaterally shut off water service. (See id. at
¶ 27). Plaintiff received additional correspondence from
Defendant in April 2015 indicating that Defendant referred
the claim to its fraud unit. (See id. at
provided information to Defendant's fraud unit adjuster
in a recorded statement on May 8, 2015. (See id. at
¶¶ 29-33). A few days later, the fraud unit
adjuster contacted Plaintiff requesting additional
information, including, inter alia, cell phone
records and water company records. (See id. at
¶ 34). The fraud unit adjuster renewed this request
numerous times over the next several months. (See
id. at ¶¶ 35, 42). Defendant also scheduled an
examination of Plaintiff under oath, which resulted in
Plaintiff retaining counsel. (See id. at
¶¶ 37-40). During this time, the sale of the
Property fell through and the home went into foreclosure
proceedings. (See id. at ¶ 41).
February and March 2016, Plaintiff's counsel requested
numerous documents and materials from Defendant. (See
id. at ¶¶ 43-44). Defendant, however, failed
to provide much of the information requested. (See
id. at ¶¶ 45-46). Defendant also continued its
efforts to obtain information regarding Plaintiff's cell
phone records, water company records, and financial
information. (See id. at ¶¶ 47-48).
gave a second statement under oath on April 25, 2016.
(See id. at ¶ 49). The information provided in
that statement was the same as that given by Plaintiff on May
8, 2015. (See id.). Thereafter, Plaintiff's
counsel requested appraisals from the two inspections
Defendant had conducted of the Property, but Defendant
refused. (See id. at ¶¶ 50-51).
13, 2016, Defendant's fraud unit adjuster informed
Plaintiff's counsel that the coverage questions had been
resolved. (See id. at ¶ 52). Shortly
thereafter, Defendant forwarded Plaintiff's counsel
payment in the amount of $93, 049.95, which Defendant
contended represented the “net actual cash value”
for the damage. (Id. at ¶ 54). Plaintiff
responded by providing Defendant with a copy of a public
adjuster's estimation of damages to be $155, 785.00.
(See id. at ¶ 55). Defendant then made an
additional $17, 460.25 payment to Plaintiff. (See
id. at ¶ 56).
on the foregoing, Plaintiff commenced this action by way of
the Complaint filed in the Lackawanna County Court of Common
Pleas. (See Doc. 1, Ex. 1, generally). The
Complaint asserts claims for breach of contract (Count I),
statutory bad faith (Count II), negligence (Count III), and
vicarious liability (Count IV). (See id.). Defendant
removed the action to this Court. (See Doc. 1,
December 15, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion seeking
dismissal of Plaintiff's breach of contract, negligence,
and vicarious liability claims. (See Doc. 6,
generally). Defendant also seeks to have various
allegations struck from Plaintiff's Complaint. (See
id., generally; see also Doc. 18,
generally). The Motion to Dismiss and/or Strike is
fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
stated, Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims in
Counts I, III, and IV of the Complaint and to strike numerous
allegations from the Complaint. (See Doc. 6,
generally). The motion to dismiss will be addressed
Rule 12(b)(6) ...