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Pivtchev v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 1, 2019

TAMI PIVTCHEV, Plaintiff
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the court for disposition is the motion to dismiss Plaintiff Tami Pivtchev's amended complaint filed by Defendant State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         Background

         Defendant State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company insured plaintiff pursuant to an automobile insurance agreement. (Doc. 5, Amended Compl. ¶ 4). On June 2, 2016, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 8-10). Plaintiff suffered severe personal injuries due to the accident including a cervical herniation causing radiculopathy in the right arm and hand. (Id. ¶ 13). Another driver caused the accident, but that driver's insurance was insufficient to compensate plaintiff for her injuries. (Id. ¶ 20).

         Plaintiff sought underinsured motorist benefits from defendant, which it has not paid. (Id. ¶ 23-24). The underinsured motorists benefit limit on the policy is $25, 000.00. (Id. ¶ 21).

         Based upon these facts plaintiff instituted the instant lawsuit on November 12, 2018 by filing a two-count complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Luzerne County. The two counts are breach of contract and bad faith. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, interest, punitive damages and counsel fees. (Id. ¶ 56).

         On January 25, 2019, defendant filed a “Notice of Removal” of the case to this court. (Doc. 1). Defendant then filed a motion to dismiss the bad faith claim and the demand for attorney's fees in Count I. (Doc. 2). Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint, which raises the same counts as the initial complaint. (Doc. 5). Defendant then filed the instant motion to dismiss the bad faith claim and demand for attorney's fees in the breach of contract count, bringing the case to its present posture.

         Jurisdiction

         The court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff is a citizen of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal ¶ 12). Defendant is a citizen of Illinois. (Id.) Additionally, the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Because complete diversity of citizenship exists among the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the court has jurisdiction over this case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (“district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different states[.]”); 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (A defendant can generally move a state court civil action to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction to address the matter pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute). As a federal court sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tomkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

         Standard of review

         Defendants filed their motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, “‘under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cnty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that “justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a 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) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

         The federal rules require only that plaintiff provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a standard which “does not require detailed factual allegations, ” but a plaintiff must make “a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief that rises above the speculative level.” McTernan v. N.Y.C., 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotations and quotation marks omitted). The “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). Such “facial plausibility” exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8.” Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citation omitted). “Though a complaint ‘does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         The Supreme Court has counseled that a court examining a motion to dismiss should “begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Next, the court should make a context-specific inquiry into the “factual allegations in ...


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