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Rhoades v. Mid-Century Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2018

GEORGE RHOADES and JENNIFER RHOADES, Plaintiffs,
v.
MID-CENTURY INSURANCE COMPANY, and FARMERS INSURANCE GROUP, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          DuBois, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This insurance dispute arises out of a motor vehicle accident involving plaintiff George Rhoades ("plaintiff")[1] and a third-party tortfeasor. Plaintiffs seek damages from defendants Mid-Century Insurance Company ("Mid-Century") and Farmers Insurance Group, Inc. ("Farmers") stemming from their refusal to pay underinsured motorist benefits to plaintiffs. Presently before the Court is Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The facts as alleged in Plaintiffs‘ Complaint are as follows. On May 6, 2014, plaintiff was employed as a captain in the Upper Darby Policy Department. Compl. ¶ 8. While in the scope of his employment, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident at the intersection of Lansdowne and Huey Avenues in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 9. At that time, a third-party tortfeasor drove into the intersection, ignoring a red traffic light, and struck plaintiff‘s police vehicle. Compl. ¶ 10. As a result of the accident, plaintiff suffered injuries including, but not limited to, traumatic brain injury, severe spinal injuries, and chronic cognitive dysfunction, and will never work again as a police officer. Compl. ¶¶ 19, 28.

         On February 23, 2014, plaintiff obtained automobile insurance from Mid-Century and/or Farmers. Compl. ¶ 33. Plaintiff selected an insurance policy that included uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Compl. ¶ 34. The policy limit for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage was $200, 000. Compl. ¶ 35, Ex. A. Despite multiple attempts by plaintiff, the parties have been unable to agree on the amount of underinsured motorist benefits that plaintiff is entitled to recover. Compl. ¶¶ 41, 50.

         Plaintiffs filed the Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County on January 31, 2018, asserting the following claims: Count I) violation of Pennsylvania Unfair Insurance Practices Act, 40 Pa. Stat. § 1171.1, et seq. ("UIPA"); Count II) bad faith; Count III) breach of contract/breach of fiduciary duty; Count IV) underinsured motorist claim; Count V) violation of Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 Pa. Stat. § 201.1, et seq. ("UTPCPL"); and Count VI) loss of consortium.

         Defendants filed a Notice of Removal on February 20, 2018, and a Motion to Dismiss on February 22, 2018. Plaintiffs responded on March 8, 2018. The Motion is thus ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, Defendants‘ Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

         III. APPLICABLE LAW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, in response to a pleading, a defense of "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" may be raised by motion to dismiss. To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must allege facts that "'raise a right to relief above the speculative level.‘" Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A complaint 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) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A district court first identifies those factual allegations that constitute nothing more than "legal conclusions" or "naked assertions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are "not entitled to the assumption of truth" and must be disregarded. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The court then assesses the remaining "'nub‘ of the plaintiff[‘s] complaint-the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]"-to determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Defendants present two arguments in support of their Motion to Dismiss: (1) the Court should dismiss Counts I and V of the Complaint because plaintiffs fail to allege that defendants made a fraudulent representation; and (2) the Court should dismiss all claims against Farmers because it did not issue the insurance policy and because it is a federally registered service mark and not a legal entity that can be sued. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         A. Count I and V of the Complaint

         Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss Counts I and V of the Complaint because an insurance company can be liable under the UTPCPL only if a plaintiff shows that the insurance company made a fraudulent representation and plaintiff relied on such representation. On this issue, plaintiffs no not aver in the Complaint that ...


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