United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
BOBBY FUENTES, Administrator of the Estate of Alejandro Santos, decedent, Plaintiff,
USAA GENERAL INDEMNITY COMPANY, Defendant.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge.
before me is the Motion to Dismiss Count Three of
Plaintiff's Complaint - Bad Faith (Doc. 3) filed by
Defendant USAA General Indemnity Company
(“USAA”). Specifically, USAA contends that the
Complaint fails to set forth sufficient facts to support a
claim for an alleged violation of Pennsylvania's bad
faith statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8371. Because the facts
as alleged in the Complaint state a plausible bad faith cause
of action, USAA's motion to dismiss will be denied.
facts as alleged in the Complaint are as follows:
December 25, 2015, Plaintiff Bobby Fuentes'
(“Fuentes”) son, Alejandro Santos
(“Santos”), was a passenger in an automobile
operated by Alaysia English (“English”).
(See Doc. 1, Ex. “5”, ¶¶ 10,
25). The automobile was owned by Santos and insured by USAA.
(See id.). As English and Santos traveled southbound
on Long Pond Road, Tobyhanna Township, Pennsylvania, their
vehicle collided with an automobile operated by Frank May
(“May.”). (See id. at ¶¶
11-12). Santos suffered fatal injuries as a result of the
accident. (See id. at ¶ 13; see also
id. at ¶¶ 28-32).
time of the accident, USAA provided a policy of insurance to
Fuentes numbered GIC 02660 5391 7102 7 (the
“Policy”). (See id. at ¶ 17). The
Policy insured a 2005 Saturn Vue, a 2013 Ford Explorer, and a
2014 Mercedes E Class, and provided for underinsured motorist
coverage with limits of $100, 000.00 per person and $300,
000.00 per accident. (See id. at ¶ 19). The
Policy states: “[w]e will pay compensatory damages
which a covered person is legally entitled to recover from
the owner or operator of an underinsured motor vehicle
because of BI sustained by a covered person and caused by an
auto accident.” (Id. at Ex. “A”,
17). “Covered person” is defined as: “1.
You or any family member. 2. Any other person occupying your
covered auto. 3. Any person for damages that person is
entitled to recover because of BI to which this coverage
applies sustained by a person described in 1. or 2.
above.” (Id. at Ex. “A”, 15-16).
“Family member, ” for purposes of the Policy, is
“a person related to you by blood, marriage, or
adoption who resides primarily in your household.”
(Id. at Ex. “A”, 3). The address listed
for Fuentes on the Policy was 1057 Delaware Lane,
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. (See id. at Ex.
“A”, 1). At the time of the accident, Santos was
living at Fuentes' household. (See id. at ¶
not insured on the day of the accident, while the vehicle
English was driving had $15, 000.00 in liability coverage.
(See id. at ¶ 27). The $15, 000.00 limit was
tendered on May 30, 2017. (See id.).
about December 22, 2017, Fuentes filed a Praecipe for Writ of
Summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County,
Pennsylvania. (See id. at ¶ 34). The following
month, Fuentes' counsel sent a letter of representation
to USAA. (See id. at ¶ 35). On March 22, 2018,
Fuentes contacted USAA's counsel concerning whether any
additional policies were in effect at the time of the
accident besides the policy covering the vehicle in the
collision. (See id. at ¶ 36). By letter dated
October 5, 2018, Fuentes made a demand for policy limits on
the Policy issued to Fuentes. (See id. at ¶
November 6, 2018, USAA confirmed that it had offered policy
limits on the policy issued to Santos. (See id. at
¶ 38). USAA also indicated at that time that it did not
have sufficient information to confirm that Santos was
covered by the Policy issued to Fuentes, so it requested
information supporting the fact that Santos was covered by
that Policy. (See id. at ¶ 39). In other words,
USAA was questioning Santos' residency status at the time
of the accident. (See id.).
February 19, 2019, Fuentes, in response to USAA's
November 6, 2018 correspondence, sent USAA the following
proofs of Santos' residency: driver's license; local
tax form; 2015 W2 form; 2016 W2 form; signed and notarized
authorizations from Fuentes and his wife; and a bill for
ambulance services from the day of Santos' death.
(See id. at ¶ 40). These documents all
reflected Santos' address as 1057 Delaware Lane,
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. (See id. at ¶ 43).
letter dated March 11, 2019, USAA advised Fuentes that it
needed to “engage in discovery to develop the facts,
” so it requested that Fuentes file a Complaint.
(See id. at ¶ 41). Two days later, USAA filed a
Praecipe for Rule to File Complaint in the Lackawanna County
Court of Common Pleas. (See Doc. 1, ¶ 2).
three-Count Complaint was filed by Fuentes on May 30, 2019 in
the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County. (See
Doc. 1, Ex. “5”). Count One of the Complaint
asserts an underinsured motorist claim, Count Two alleges
breach of contract, and Count Three sets forth a statutory
bad faith cause of action. (See id.,
removed the action to this Court on June 28, 2019.
(See Doc. 1, generally). On July 2, 2019,
USAA moved to dismiss the bad faith claim in Count Three of
the Complaint. (See Doc. 3, generally). The
motion to dismiss has now been fully briefed and is ripe for