United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil action, Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to his
insurance policy with Defendant for underinsured motorist
coverage and bad faith resulting from an accident with a
third-party tortfeasor, Carol Hopkins. Before the court is
Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted in
part and denied in part.
to the complaint, on September 6, 2015, Plaintiff Anthony
Vella was operating his 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe in the eastbound
direction on Ocean Road, Lower Township, New Jersey, at the
same time Carol Hopkins (“Ms. Hopkins”) was
driving a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe in the westbound direction.
(Id. ¶¶ 9-11.) Ms. Hopkins left her lane
of travel in an attempt to make an illegal U-turn into
oncoming traffic. (Id. ¶ 12.) Unable to avoid a
collision, Plaintiff struck the passenger side of Ms. Hopkins
vehicle and subsequently traveled across the westbound land
and off the roadway. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff
alleges that he sustained significant injuries as a result of
the accident. (Id. ¶ 14.)
Plaintiff and Ms. Hopkins were insured by Defendant State
Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State
Farm” or “Defendant”) at the time of the
accident. (Id. ¶ 21.) In September 2015,
Plaintiff provided notice to State Farm regarding claims for
liability under Ms. Hopkins' policy and underinsured
motorist coverage (“UIM”) pursuant to his
personal policy. (Id. ¶ 23.) Subsequently,
Plaintiff began receiving communications regarding his first
and third-party claims from State Farm representative, Andrea
Shaver (“Ms. Shaver”). (Id. ¶ 24.)
In May 2017, Plaintiff provided State Farm with a demand
seeking liability limits for the third-party claim, as well
as for the first-party UIM claim. (Id. ¶¶
28-29.) Ms. Shaver again responded to Plaintiffs demands,
denying both, and providing no counteroffer. (Id.
¶30.) Plaintiff thereafter communicated additional
demands to which State Farm offered an amount under the
policy limits for the third-party liability claim, but at no
time made an offer for the first-party UIM claim.
(Id. ¶¶ 34, 37-40.) In sum, Plaintiffs
allegations stem from State Farm's handling, through Ms.
Shaver, of Plaintiffs third-party liability claim against Ms.
Hopkins while simultaneously managing Plaintiffs first-party
UIM claim (See Id. ¶¶ 28-41.)
initiated this lawsuit by filing a complaint on October 17,
2017. (Doc. 1.) On January 16, 2018, Defendant filed the
instant motion to dismiss (Doc. 4) and corresponding brief
arguing that certain paragraphs of Plaintiff s complaint
should be stricken because “they are contrary to
well-settled Pennsylvania law that a third-party claimant
cannot maintain a direct action against an alleged
torfeasor's liability insurer” (Doc. 5, p. 3).
Plaintiff responded to Defendant's motion on January 30,
2018. (Docs. 6-7.)
have moved to dismiss certain paragraphs of the complaint for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading
requirements of Rule 8(a), which requires that a complaint
set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). For a complaint to survive dismissal it
“must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Thus, 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.” United States v.
Pennsylvania, 110 F.Supp.3d 544, 548 (M.D. Pa. 2015)
(quoting Fleisher v. Standard Ins. Co., 679 F.3d
116, 120 (3d Cir. 2012)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs complaint
attempts to assert a claim for bad faith arising out of State
Farm's handling of Plaintiffs third-party liability claim
against Ms. Hopkins, who is separately insured by State Farm,
which is contrary to Pennsylvania law. (Doc. 5, pp. 4-6.)
Defendant requests that specific paragraphs in the complaint
as well as a portion of Plaintiff s demand be
stricken. (Id. at 6.) In opposing the
motion, Plaintiff contends that through Defendant's own
efforts, the third-party and first-party liability claims
were intermingled causing a significant conflict of interest,
and thereby exhibiting bad faith. (Doc. 7.)
Pennsylvania, it is well-settled law that a third-party
claimant cannot bring a cause of action for bad faith against
an alleged tortfeasor's liability insurer. Strutz v.
State Farm Mutual Ins. Co., 609 A.2d 569, 570-71 (Pa.
Super. Ct. 1992); Brown v. Candelora, 708 A.2d 104,
108 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998). The duty to act in good faith
“arises from the insurance policy and is owed to the
insured, not to a third-party claimant.”
Strutz, 609 A.2d at 571; see also Seasor v.
Liberty Mut. Ins.Co., 941 F.Supp. 488, 491 (1996)
(following Strutz and holding that “[i]t would
require a great stretch of judicial imagination to conclude
that Plaintiffs who brought a negligence action against
Bessie Covington, the ‘insured' under the Policy,
should also be considered ‘insureds' under the
liability coverage section of the policy”); Leboon
v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 2016 WL 156011, *3 (E.D. Pa.
Apr. 18, 2016), affd, 673 Fed.Appx. 173 (3d Cir.
2016) (“[Plaintiff] was a ‘stranger to the
relationship between the insured and the insurer' and
Zurich owed no duties to him to settle.”).
Plaintiff has sufficiently pled claims against State Farm
under his own policy demanding UIM coverage and claiming bad
faith. Throughout the factual background of the complaint,
Plaintiff discusses the interplay between the first-party and
third-party coverage, such as State Farm assigning the same
adjuster to work on both claims. (See Doc. 1,
¶¶ 5-41.) As this sets the scene for Plaintiffs
first-party claims, the court will not strike paragraphs
21-23, 26-28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37-39, and 41 of Plaintiff s
complaint. However, in “Claim II” of the
complaint, Plaintiff goes a step too far and attempts to
assert a bad faith claim against State Farm for its actions
regarding Plaintiffs third-party claim against Ms. Hopkins.
Because Pennsylvania law is clear on this issue - i.e. that
Plaintiff, as a third-party claimant, ...