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Laguerre v. People's Property Adjusters, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 22, 2019

MARIE FLORENCE LAGUERRE
v.
PEOPLE'S PROPERTY ADJUSTERS, LLC, et al.

          MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Marie Florence Laguerre alleges that property insurance adjusters, Defendants People's Property Adjusters, LLC of Pennsylvania (“People's-PA”) and People's Property Adjusters, LLC of New Jersey (“People's-NJ”) (together, “People's Property”), Robert R. Davis (“Davis”), and Darrell A. Jones (“Jones”) (collectively, “Defendants”), violated state law by failing to distribute insurance proceeds due to Plaintiff after a fire damaged Plaintiff's real property in Philadelphia. The Complaint alleges six Counts:

1. Count I: Breach of the parties' Public Adjuster Contract against all Defendants;
2. Count II: Conversion of the insurance proceeds against all Defendants;
3. Count III: Breach of fiduciary duty against all Defendants;
4. Count IV: Participation theory against all Defendants based on the conduct of Defendant Davis;
5. Count V: Violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. § 201-1, et seq. (“UTPCPL”) against all Defendants; and
6. Count VI: Aiding and abetting against Defendant Jones.

         Plaintiff seeks damages in excess of $75, 000. Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss all Counts of the Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).

         For the reasons discussed below, the Motion to Dismiss is held under advisement.

         II. Factual Background

         Taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, the factual background is as follows. Plaintiff is a citizen of the Country of Haiti who resides in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendant People's-PA is a limited liability company registered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 2.) At all times relevant, People's-PA was registered by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department as a resident public adjusting agency. (Id. ¶ 4.) Defendant People's-NJ is a limited liability company registered with the state of New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 3.) At all times relevant, People's-NJ was registered by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance as a domestic public adjusting agency. (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant Davis, a citizen of New Jersey and a managing member of People's Property, was licensed both by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department as a non-resident public adjuster and by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance as a domestic public adjuster. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) Defendant Jones, a citizen of Pennsylvania, was licensed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department as a resident public adjuster but was denied a license by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. (Id. ¶¶ 9-11.)

         On July 29, 2018, Plaintiff's residential real property located at 1123 Fillmore Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was damaged by fire. (Id. ¶ 18.) At the time of the fire, Plaintiff was the named insured pursuant to an insurance policy executed by Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”). (Id. ¶ 19.) On the date of the fire, People's Property, by and through its employees, Jones and Davis, solicited Plaintiff to engage People's Property to provide public adjusting services under the terms and conditions contained in the Public Adjuster Contract. (Id. ¶ 20; id. Ex. A.)

         The Public Adjuster Contract signed by Plaintiff and Jones provides that Plaintiff retained People's Property to assist in the adjustment of the insurance claim. (Id. Ex. A.)[1] Plaintiff agreed to pay People's Property, the “Public Adjuster, ” a contingent fee of 10% from each check issued by Allstate. (Id.) By signing the contract, Plaintiff requested and authorized Allstate to add People's Property as an additional payee on all checks pertaining to the fire loss. (Id.)

         On or about July 31, 2018, Allstate, through its assigned field adjuster, inspected the damages to the Fillmore Street property caused by the fire. (Compl. ¶ 21.) In August 2018, the fire loss claim was settled through the offices of People's Property. (Id. ¶ 22.) Allstate tendered two separate checks payable to “People's Property Adjusters and Marie Florence Laguerre” totaling $66, 738.98 for Plaintiff's insured losses and damages. (Id.) Allstate retained $8, 757.22, which was the sum of recoverable depreciation totaling $6, 822.22 and a $1, 935.00 refundable security deposit. (Id. ¶ 23.) In total, the insurance proceeds paid and/or payable by Allstate to Plaintiff in accordance with the Allstate insurance policy amount to $75, 496.20, exclusive of interest, statutory damages, and costs. (Id. ¶ 24.) Though Defendants knew that the fire loss claim was settled and that the insurance proceeds were tendered by Allstate, Davis and Jones knowingly and deliberately misrepresented the status of the claims adjustment process to deceive Plaintiff into believing that it was ongoing. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         Despite Plaintiff's repeated demands, Defendants refused to pay Plaintiff any of the insurance proceeds. (Id. ¶ 25.) Instead, Defendants endorsed the checks and converted the proceeds for their exclusive use, enjoyment, possession, and control. (Id. ¶ 26.) In so doing, Defendants commingled the proceeds with the monies, accounts, and other funds belonging to Defendants' clients and customers. (Id. ¶ 27.) As a result, Plaintiff and her family were deprived of the use of the Fillmore Street property, as Plaintiff could not use the proceeds paid by Allstate to repair the property. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff was forced to borrow more than $26, 000.00 in October and November 2018 to repair the damage. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff also incurred other losses and expenses, including, but not limited to, the loss of the recoverable portion of the depreciation in the amount of $6, 822.22 and the $1, 9350.00 security deposit, which Allstate retained. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         III. ...


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