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Neri v. State Farm Fire And Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 13, 2019

MARY T. NERI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          Tucker, J.

         Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (“Motion to Remand”) (ECF No. 5), Defendant's Response in Opposition thereto (ECF No. 7), Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike Defendant's Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (“Motion to Strike”) (ECF No. 8), Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b) (“Motion to Dismiss”) (ECF No. 4), and Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition thereto (ECF No. 6). Upon consideration of the foregoing, the Court holds as follows:

         1. Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is DENIED;

         2. Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike is DENIED; and

         3. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART as explained in detail below.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are residents of 3804 Brookview Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154 (“Property”). Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4, ECF No. 1. At some point, the roof over an attached patio (“Patio Roof”) was damaged. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 23(a)-(f). A local roofer who happened to be “familiar with the Property” inspected the Patio Roof and believed that the Patio Roof would have to be torn down completely because it was in danger of collapsing. Compl. ¶¶ 23(a)-(f). Based on this information, Plaintiff Mary T. Neri (“Mary”)-the owner and a resident of the Property-took some “(rudimentary) measures to . . . prevent the Patio Roof from collapsing.” Compl. ¶ 23(e).

         Then, given the damage to the Patio Roof, on July 19, 2018, Plaintiff Mary filed a claim for insurance coverage under a homeowner's insurance policy that she purchased from Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State Farm”). Compl. ¶¶ 2, 16, 19, ECF No. 1.[1] Although State Farm initially explained that it would “promptly send an adjuster to inspect the Property and begin the process of adjusting her claim, ” State Farm did not inspect the Property, but instead, attempted to close Plaintiff Mary's claim as having been “abandoned.” Compl. ¶¶ 24, 26, 27. Ultimately, State Farm neither accepted nor declined coverage for the damage to the Property. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34.

         Meanwhile, around the time that Plaintiff filed her insurance claim, the Philadelphia area experienced extreme whether conditions including historic levels of rainfall, high humidity, and high winds. Compl. ¶ 21. Although Plaintiff does not specifically allege that these weather conditions were the cause of the underlying damage to her Property, [2] Plaintiff suggests that these weather conditions and State Farm's failure to implement any mitigation plan to address the weather resulted in additional damage to the Property. State Farm's failure “to inspect the Property and provide Plaintiff with the funds that were required to rebuild the Patio Roof” resulted in “additional damage . . . to the Property including . . . damage to the main roof of the Property, the patio foundation, the patio slab, the patio footings, the patio windows and door, the furniture and fixtures on the patio and the infestation of mildew and mold underneath the main roof of the Property and in the interior ceiling of the Property.” Compl. ¶ 55, ECF No. 1.

         On December 21, 2018, with no decision from State Farm forthcoming about Plaintiff Mary's insurance claim, and faced with mounting damage to the Property, Plaintiffs Mary and Carol filed an eleven-count civil complaint against State Farm in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking damages and other relief “in an amount in excess of Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50, 000.00).” Notice for Removal of Civil Action from State Ct. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs' Complaint sets forth eleven causes of action:

I. Breach of the homeowner's insurance contract (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
II. Negligence (brought by both Plaintiffs);
III. Negligent Misrepresentation (brought by both Plaintiffs);
IV. Statutory Insurance Bad Faith (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
V. Fraudulent Inducement (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
VI. Fraud and Deceit (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
VII. Breach of the Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
VIII. Violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices Act; (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
IX. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (brought by both Plaintiffs);
X. Unjust Enrichment and Constructive Trust (brought by Plaintiff Mary);
XI. Declaratory Relief and Injunctive Relief (brought by Plaintiff Mary).

Compl. 6-24.

         On January 24, 2019, State Farm petitioned for removal of the case to this Court on grounds of diversity. The following week, State Farm filed its Motion to Dismiss seeking the dismissal of all counts against State Farm except Count I based on a breach of the homeowner's insurance policy. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4. Plaintiffs, meanwhile, filed their Motion to Remand the case to state court arguing that State Farm failed to establish that the case involved an amount in controversy of at least $75, 000-which is the minimum required for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332-and failed to show that Plaintiffs and State Farm were completely diverse. Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 5-1. For these two reasons, Plaintiffs submit that the Court lacks diversity jurisdiction and must, instead, remand the case to the state court. Plaintiffs further filed a Motion to Strike State Farm's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 8.

         II. DISCUSSION

         As Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand implicates the Court's jurisdiction to preside over this case in the first instance, the Court addresses the Motion to Remand before turning to State Farm's Motion to Dismiss.

         A. Motion to Remand

         i. Applicable Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant . . . to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The “defendant bears the burden of establishing that removal jurisdiction is proper.” Hutchinson v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., Civil Action No. 18-cv-2588, 2019 WL 357974, *1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 28, 2019) (citing Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990)). To determine whether the district court would have had original jurisdiction over a removed case, the court looks to the facts alleged “at the time of the petition for removal.” Id. at *2 (quoting Abels v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 770 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985)). For questions regarding the amount in controversy, for example, “[a] district court's determination . . . must be based on the plaintiff's complaint at the time the petition for removal was filed.” Id. (quoting Werwinski v. Ford Motor Co., 286 F.3d 661, 666 (3d Cir. 2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction over cases presenting a federal question and cases involving diversity of citizenship. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), which establishes diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, “[t]he 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. § 1332(a). “Citizenship” for natural persons “is synonymous with domicile, and the domicile of an individual is his true, fixed and permanent home and place of habitation.” Freidrich v. Davis, 767 F.3d 374, 377 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting McCann v. Newman Irrevocable Tr., 458 F.3d 281, 286 (3d Cir. 2014)). A person's domicile is an issue of fact that takes into consideration such factors as whether that person has a driver's license in a certain state, whether that person has paid taxes there, and whether that person has registered to vote. See, e.g., Park v. Tsiavos, 679 Fed.Appx. 120, 125 (3d Cir. 2017) (not precedential) (discussing factors relevant to the domicile determination).

         In this case, Plaintiffs argue first that State Farm has failed to establish that the amount in controversy in this case meets the $75, 000 minimum for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. Second, Plaintiffs argue that the Complaint contains insufficient allegations to establish, on the face of the Complaint, that the Plaintiffs and State Farm are completely diverse. The Court rejects both arguments.

         1. The Amount in ...


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