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Peters v. GEICO Advantage Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2019

EUGENE PETERS, Plaintiff,
v.
GEICO ADVANTAGE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before me is the Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 2) filed by Defendant GEICO Advantage Insurance Company (“GEICO”). Specifically, GEICO contends that the Complaint filed by Plaintiff Eugene Peters (“Peters”) 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 Peters fails to state a bad faith cause of action, the motion to dismiss will be granted, but he will be given the opportunity to file an amended complaint to state a plausible bad faith claim.

         I. Background

         The facts as alleged in the Complaint are as follows:

         On June 8, 2017, Peters was operating his Jeep Patriot in an easterly direction on Jackson Street in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (See Compl., ¶ 5). At the same time, Luis Reyes was traveling in a southerly direction on Main Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (See id. at ¶ 6). Reyes failed to stop at a red traffic signal thereby striking Peters' vehicle and causing Peters to strike a parked vehicle. (See id. at ¶ 7). As a result of the accident, Peters suffered severe and permanent injuries, incurred medical expenses, and had his earning capacity impaired. (See id. at ¶¶ 7-8). At the time of the accident, Peters was insured under an automobile policy (the “Policy”) issued by GEICO that included underinsured motorist coverage. (See id. at ¶¶ 11-13).

         In December 2018, Reyes, through his insurer, offered the limits of his policy to Peters. (See id. at ¶ 9). The following month, GEICO gave permission to Peters to accept Reyes' offer, and GEICO also recognized Peters' underinsured motorist claim. (See id. at ¶ 10).

         On January 18, 2019, Peters “made a written demand of underinsurance as supported by a medical report.” (Id. at ¶ 14). The records “establish that the Plaintiff has suffered serious injuries” and “that the Plaintiff followed a course of treatment with a number of medical providers.” (Id. at ¶ 15). Despite Peters fully complying with the terms and conditions of the Policy, GEICO has failed to pay the underinsured motorist claim. (See id. at ¶¶ 18-20).

         Based on the foregoing, Peters filed a two-Count Complaint against GEICO in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County on June 6, 2019. (See Compl., generally). Therein, Peters asserts claims for breach of contract (Count I) and bad faith (Count II). (See id., generally).

         GEICO removed the action to this Court on July 1, 2019. (See Doc. 1, generally). On July 3, 2019, GEICO moved to dismiss the bad faith claim in Count II of the Complaint. (See Doc. 2, generally). The motion to dismiss is now ripe for disposition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “Under the ‘notice pleading' standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         When resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court must consider no more than whether the complaint establishes ‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements' of the cause of action.” Trzaska v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 789 (3d Cir. 2016)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must take three steps: (1) identify the elements of the claim; (2) identify conclusions that are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) assume the veracity of the well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

         III. Discussion

         GEICO seeks dismissal of the bad faith claim in Count II of the Complaint. (See Doc. 2, generally). Pennsylvania law allows an insured party to receive punitive damages and other relief if the insurer acts in bad faith toward ...


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